Many spices have antimicrobial properties. This may explain why spices are more commonly used in warmer climates, which have more infectious disease, and why use of spices is especially prominent in meat, which is particularly susceptible to spoiling.
A spice may have other uses, including medicinal, religious ritual, cosmetics or perfume production, or as a vegetable. For example, turmeric roots are consumed as a vegetable and garlic as an antibiotic.
Classification and types
Culinary herbs and spices
Common spice mixtures
- Advieh (Iran)
- Baharat (Arab world, and the Middle East in general)
- Berbere (Ethiopia and Eritrea)
- Chaat masala (India and Pakistan)
- Chili powder
- Curry powder
- Five-spice powder (China)
- Garam masala (South Asia)
- Harissa (North Africa)
- Hawaij (Yemen)
- Jerk spice (Jamaica)
- Khmeli suneli (Georgia, former U.S.S.R.)
- Masala (a generic name for any blend of spices used in South Asia)
- Mixed spice (United Kingdom)
- Old Bay Seasoning (United States)
- Panch phoron (India and Bangladesh)
- Pumpkin pie spice (United States)
- Quatre épices (France)
- Ras el hanout (North Africa)
- Shichimi togarashi (Japan)
- Vegeta (Croatia)
- Za'atar (Middle East)
- Sharena sol (literally "colourful salt", Bulgaria) - contains summer savory, paprika, fenugreek and salt.
The spice trade developed throughout South Asia and Middle East in around 2000 BCE with cinnamon and pepper, and in East Asia with herbs and pepper. The Egyptians used herbs for embalming and their demand for exotic herbs helped stimulate world trade. The word spice comes from the Old French word espice, which became epice, and which came from the Latin root spec, the noun referring to "appearance, sort, kind": species has the same root. By 1000 BCE, medical systems based upon herbs could be found in China, Korea, and India. Early uses were connected with magic, medicine, religion, tradition, and preservation.
Archaeological excavations have uncovered clove burnt onto the floor of a kitchen, dated to 1700 BCE, at the Mesopotamian site of Terqa, in modern-day Syria. The ancient Indian epic Ramayana mentions cloves. The Romans had cloves in the 1st century CE, as Pliny the Elder wrote about them.
In the story of Genesis, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers to spice merchants. In the biblical poem Song of Solomon, the male speaker compares his beloved to many forms of spices. Generally, early Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, and Mesopotamian sources do not refer to known spices.
In South Asia, nutmeg, which originates from the Banda Islands in the Molukas, has a Sanskrit name.[clarification needed] Sanskrit is the ancient language of India, showing how old the usage of this spice is in this region.[original research?] Historians believe that nutmeg was introduced to Europe in the 6th century BCE.
Indonesian merchants traveled around China, India, the Middle East, and the east coast of Africa. Arab merchants facilitated the routes through the Middle East and India. This resulted in the Egyptian port city of Alexandria being the main trading center for spices. The most important discovery prior to the European spice trade were the monsoon winds (40 CE). Sailing from Eastern spice growers to Western European consumers gradually replaced the land-locked spice routes once facilitated by the Middle East Arab caravans.
Spices were among the most demanded and expensive products available in Europe in the Middle Ages, the most common being black pepper, cinnamon (and the cheaper alternative cassia), cumin, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Given medieval medicine's main theory of humorism, spices and herbs were indispensable to balance "humors" in food, a daily basis for good health at a time of recurrent pandemics.
Spices were all imported from plantations in Asia and Africa, which made them expensive. From the 8th until the 15th century, the Republic of Venice had the monopoly on spice trade with the Middle East, and along with it the neighboring Italian city-states. The trade made the region rich. It has been estimated that around 1,000 tons of pepper and 1,000 tons of the other common spices were imported into Western Europe each year during the Late Middle Ages. The value of these goods was the equivalent of a yearly supply of grain for 1.5 million people. The most exclusive was saffron, used as much for its vivid yellow-red color as for its flavor. Spices that have now fallen into obscurity in European cuisine include grains of paradise, a relative of cardamom which most replaced pepper in late medieval north French cooking, long pepper, mace, spikenard, galangal and cubeb.
Early modern period
The control of trade routes and the spice-producing regions were the main reasons that Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama sailed to India in 1499. Spain and Portugal were not happy to pay the high price that Venice demanded for spices. At around the same time, Christopher Columbus returned from the New World, he described to investors new spices available there.
The military prowess of Afonso de Albuquerque (1453–1515) allowed the Portuguese to take control of the sea routes to India. In 1506, he took the island of Socotra in the mouth of the Red Sea and, in 1507, Ormuz in the Persian Gulf. Since becoming the viceroy of the Indies, he took Goa in India in 1510, and Malacca on the Malay peninsula in 1511. The Portuguese could now trade directly with Siam, China, and the Moluccas. The Silk Road complemented the Portuguese sea routes, and brought the treasures of the Orient to Europe via Lisbon, including many spices.
With the discovery of the New World came new spices, including allspice, bell and chili peppers, vanilla, and chocolate. This development kept the spice trade, with America as a late comer with its new seasonings, profitable well into the 19th century.
In the Caribbean, the island of Grenada is well known[clarification needed] for growing and exporting a number of spices, including the nutmeg, which was introduced to Grenada by the settlers.
A spice may be available in several forms: fresh, whole dried, or pre-ground dried. Generally, spices are dried. A whole dried spice has the longest shelf life, so it can be purchased and stored in larger amounts, making it cheaper on a per-serving basis. Some spices are rarely available either fresh or whole, for example turmeric, and must be purchased in ground form. Small seeds, such as fennel and mustard seeds, are used both whole and in powder form.
The flavor of a spice is derived in part from compounds that oxidize or evaporate when exposed to air. Grinding a spice greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation. Thus, flavor is maximized by storing a spice whole and grinding when needed. The shelf life of a whole spice is roughly two years; of a ground spice roughly six months. The "flavor life" of a ground spice can be much shorter. Ground spices are better stored away from light.
To grind a whole spice, the classic tool is mortar and pestle. Less labor-intensive tools are more common now: a microplane or fine grater can be used to grind small amounts; a coffee grinder is useful for larger amounts. A frequently used spice such as black pepper may merit storage in its own hand grinder or mill.
Some flavor elements in spices are soluble in water; many are soluble in oil or fat. As a general rule, the flavors from a spice take time to infuse into the food so spices are added early in preparation.
Because they tend to have strong flavors and are used in small quantities, spices tend to add few calories to food, even though many spices, especially those made from seeds, contain high portions of fat, protein, and carbohydrate by weight. Many spices, however, can contribute significant portions of micronutrients to the diet. For example, a teaspoon of paprika contains about 1133 IU of Vitamin A, which is over 20% of the recommended daily allowance specified by the US FDA. When used in larger quantity, spices can also contribute a substantial amount of minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium, and many others, to the diet.
Most herbs and spices have substantial antioxidant activity, owing primarily to phenolic compounds, especially flavonoids, which influence nutrition through many pathways, including affecting the absorption of other nutrients. One study found cumin and fresh ginger to be highest in antioxidant activity. These antioxidants also can act as natural preservatives, preventing or slowing the spoilage of food, leading to a higher nutritional content in stored food.
India produces 70% of global spice production.
|Top 10 spices producers in 2010|
|* = Unofficial figure | [ ] = Official data | A = May include official, semi-official or estimated data
F = FAO estimate | Im = FAO data based on imputation methodology | M = Data not available
The Indian Institute of Spices Research in Kozhikode, Kerala, is devoted exclusively to researching all aspects of spice crops: black pepper, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, garcinia, vanilla, etc.
- Scully, pp. 84-86.
- Thomas, Frédéric; Daoust, Simon P.; Raymond, Michel (2012). "Can we understand modern humans without considering pathogens?". Evolutionary Applications 5 (4): 368–379. doi:10.1111/j.1752-4571.2011.00231.x. ISSN 17524571.
- "Garlic: A natural antibiotic". ACM Modern Drug Discovery April 2002 Vol. 5, No. 4, p 12. 2002-04-01. Retrieved 2010-08-23.
- A Busy Cook's Guide to Spices by Linda Murdock (p.14)[full citation needed]
- Buccellati et Buccellati (1983)[full citation needed]
- Burkill (1966)[full citation needed]
- Adamson, p. 65
- Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, page 453, Gil Marks, John Wiley & Sons, 2010. ISBN 9780470391303
- A fresh spice, such as ginger, is usually more flavorful than its dried form, but fresh spices are more expensive and have a much shorter shelf life.
- Spice Capades
- Nutmeg, in particular, suffers from grinding and the flavor will degrade noticeably in a matter of days.
- Light aids oxidation processes.
- Other types of coffee grinders, such as a burr mill, can grind spices just as well as coffee beans.
- Spice Capades This contrasts to herbs which are usually added late in preparation.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient data for 02028, Spices, paprika, Retrieved Aug. 26, 2012
- Ninfali, Paolino; Mea, Gloria; Giorgini, Samantha; Rocchi, Marco; Bacchiocca, Mara (2007). "Antioxidant capacity of vegetables, spices and dressings relevant to nutrition". British Journal of Nutrition 93 (02): 257–66. doi:10.1079/BJN20041327. ISSN 0007-1145. PMID 15788119.
- "Major Food And Agricultural Commodities And Producers - Countries By Commodity". Fao.org. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
- International Organization for Standardization
- International Organization for Standardization (2009). "67.220: Spices and condiments. Food additives". Retrieved 2009-04-23. More than one of
- Linda Civitello (2007). Cuisine and culture: a history of food and people. John Wiley and Sons. ISBN 0-471-74172-8.
- Adamson, Melitta Weiss (2004). Food in Medieval Times. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-32147-7.
- Scully, Terence (1995). The art of cookery in the Middle Ages. Ipswich: Boydell Press. ISBN 0-85115-611-8.
- Host: Alton Brown (14 January 2004). "Spice Capades". Good Eats. Season 7. Episode 14. Food Network.
- Corn, Charles. Scents of Eden: A History of the Spice Trade. New York: Kodansha, 1999.
- Czarra, Fred (2009). Spices: A Global History. Reaktion Books. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-86189-426-7.
- "Spices: Fred Czarra". Press.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2011-02-18.
- Dalby, Andrew. Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
- Freedman, Paul. Out of the East: Spices and the Medieval Imagination. New Haven: Yale UP, 2008.
- Keay, John. The Spice Route: A History. Berkeley: U of California P, 2006.
- Krondl, Michael. The Taste of Conquest: The Rise and Fall of the Three Great Cities of Spice. New York: Ballantine Books, 2007.
- Miller, J. Innes. The Spice Trade of the Roman Empire. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1969.
- Morton, Timothy. Poetics of Spice: Romantic Consumerism and the Exotic. Cambridge UP, 2000.
- Turner, Jack (2004). Spice: The History of a Temptation. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40721-9.
- "Food Bacteria-Spice Survey Shows Why Some Cultures Like It Hot". ScienceDaily. March 5, 1998. Retrieved 2008-12-20. "...Garlic, onion, allspice and oregano, for example, were found to be the best all-around bacteria killers (they kill everything)"
- Sallam, Kh.I.; Ishioroshi, M; Samejimab, K. (December 2004). "Antioxidant and antimicrobial effects of garlic in chicken sausage". Lebensm. Wiss. Technol. 37 (8): 849–855. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2004.04.001. PMC 1805705. PMID 17330154.
- Billing, Jennifer; Sherman, Paul W. (March 1998). "Antimicrobial Functions of Spices: Why Some Like it Hot". The Quarterly Review of Biology 73 (1): 3–49. doi:10.1086/420058. PMID 9586227.
- "Common Kitchen Spices Kill E. Coli O157:H7". 18 August 1998. "...The study is the first in the United States that looks at the effect of common spices on E. coli O157:H7. Previous studies have concluded spices kill other foodborne pathogens. 'In the first part of our study, we tested 23 spices against E. coli O157:H7 in the laboratory', Fung said. 'We found that several spices are good at killing this strain of E. coli.'"
- "The Lure and Lore of Spices". "If the appearance of spices were to reflect their real importance in the history of the world, the bottles of spices would be filled with bright glittery substances, diamonds, rubies, emeralds or gold would be appropriate. When you opened the bottle, a poof of vibrantly colored, mystically fragrant, magical smoke would slowly billow softly throughout the room."
- "Spice". Encyclopedia of Spices, Spice Blends by Region, The Spice Trade. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
- International Organization for Standardization (2009). "67.220: Spices and condiments. Food additives". Retrieved 2009-04-23.
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