Spice Encyclopedia

What are spices – Spices are the aromatic parts of tropical plants traditionally used to flavor food, or the dried seeds or fruit of temperate plants used in the same way. Some of the substances we call spices come from the bark or roots of certain plants, but the majority are berries, seeds, or dried fruits.

Spice Age – The history of spice is almost as old as human civilization. It is a history of lands discovered, empires built and brought down, wars won and lost, treaties signed and flouted, flavors sought and offered, and the rise and fall of different religious practices and beliefs. Spices were among the most valuable items of trade in ancient and medieval times. As long ago as 3500 BC the ancient Egyptians were using various spices for flavoring food, in cosmetics, and for embalming their dead. The use of spices spread through the Middle East to the eastern Mediterranean and Europe. Spices from China, Indonesia, India, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) were originally transported overland by donkey or camel caravans. For almost 5000 years, Arab middlemen controlled the spice trade, until European explorers discovered a sea route to India and other spice producing countries in the East. The Indian spice history is over 700 decades old & today every home across the universe spices from India. For almost half of the universe spice demand, it is met by the Indian subcontinent

How to use Spices – Complex flavors can be created by using mixtures of spices that complement each other. Some spices are used for their taste while others are used for their aroma. The stage at which spices are added to a dish can make a big difference. Typically they will impart flavor if added at the beginning of the cooking process, but if they are added at the end it is their aromas that will be most noticeable. The aroma and flavor of spices come from essential oils. The oils in most spices contain a dozen or more constituent chemical compounds. Many of these chemicals are present in more than one spice (which is why cinnamon and cloves have a similar flavor), although typically these chemicals are in different proportions. To release the essential oils in spices, the cell walls must be ruptured. This can be done by: grinding, pounding, grating, cooking, the essential oils in spices are volatile and they begin to evaporate once exposed through processing. This is why spices are best (in terms of their aroma and flavor) when they are freshly processed. In their whole form though, some spices can keep for years.