Spice

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Spices
Spices at a central market in Agadir, Morocco
A group of Indian spices and herbs in bowls
An assortment of spices used in Indian cuisine
Spice market, Marakesh
Spices and herbs at a shop in Goa, India
Spices of Saúde flea market, São Paulo, Brazil

A spice is a seed, fruit, root, bark, or other plant substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Spices are distinguished from herbs, which are the leaves, flowers, or stems from plants used for flavoring or as a garnish. Sometimes, spices may be ground into a powder for convenience. Many spices have antimicrobial properties. This may explain why spices are more commonly used in warmer climates, which have more infectious diseases, and why the use of spices is prominent in meat, which is particularly susceptible to spoiling.[1] Spices are sometimes used in medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics or perfume production, or as a vegetable.

History

Early history

The spice trade developed throughout South Asia and Middle East by at least 2000 BCE with cinnamon and black pepper, and in East Asia with herbs and pepper. The Egyptians used herbs for mummification and their demand for exotic spices and 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.[2]

Cloves were used in Mesopotamia by 1700 BCE.[note 1] The ancient Indian epic Ramayana mentions cloves. The Romans had cloves in the 1st century CE, as Pliny the Elder wrote about them.[4]

The earliest written records of spices come from ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Indian cultures. The Ebers Papyrus from Early Egyptians that dates from 1550 B.C.E. describes some eight hundred different medicinal remedies and numerous medicinal procedures.[5]

Historians believe that nutmeg, which originates from the Banda Islands in Southeast Asia, was introduced to Europe in the 6th century BCE.[6]

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 cultivators to Western European consumers gradually replaced the land-locked spice routes once facilitated by the Middle East Arab caravans.[2]

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.

Middle Ages

"The Mullus" Harvesting pepper. Illustration from a French edition of The Travels of Marco Polo.

Spices were among the most demanded and expensive products available in Europe in the Middle Ages,[5] 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,[6] a daily basis for good health at a time of recurrent pandemics. In addition to being desired by those using medieval medicine, the European elite also craved spices in the Middle Ages. An example of the European aristocracy's demand for spice comes from the King of Aragon, who invested substantial resources into bringing back spices to Spain in the 12th century. He was specifically looking for spices to put in wine, and was not alone among European monarchs at the time to have such a desire for spice.[7]

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 maritime republics and 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.[8] 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 mostly replaced pepper in late medieval north French cooking, long pepper, mace, spikenard, galangal and cubeb.

Early Modern Period

Spain and Portugal were not happy to pay the high price that Venice demanded for spices. 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.[8] When Gama discovered the pepper market in India, he was able to secure peppers for a much cheaper price than the ones demanded by Venice.[7] At around the same time, Christopher Columbus returned from the New World, he described to investors new spices available there.[citation needed]

Another source of competition in the spice trade during the 15th and 16th century was the Ragusans from the maritime republic of Dubrovnik in southern Croatia.[9]

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 Maluku Islands. The Silk Road complemented the Portuguese sea routes, and brought the treasures of the Orient to Europe via Lisbon, including many spices.[citation needed]

With the discovery of the New World came new spices, including allspice, 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.[citation needed]

Contemporary history

One issue with spices today is dilution, where spices are blended to make inferior quality powdered spices, by including roots, skins and other admixture in production of spice powder.[10]

Classification and types

The Gato Negro café and spice shop (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
A spice shop selling a variety of spices in Iran

Culinary herbs and spices

Botanical basis

Common spice mixtures

Night spice shop in Casablanca, Morocco.

Handling spices

A typical home's kitchen shelf of spices in the United States or Canada.

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. 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. Some spices are not always available either fresh or whole, for example turmeric, and often must be purchased in ground form. Small seeds, such as fennel and mustard seeds, are often used both whole and in powder form.

Pepper mill

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[note 2] is useful for larger amounts. A frequently used spice such as black pepper may merit storage in its own hand grinder or mill.

The flavor of a spice is derived in part from compounds (volatile oils) 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 dry spice is roughly two years; of a ground spice roughly six months.[11] The "flavor life" of a ground spice can be much shorter.[note 3] Ground spices are better stored away from light.[note 4]

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. This contrasts to herbs which are usually added late in preparation.[11]

Salmonella contamination

A study by the Food and Drug Administration of shipments of spices to the United States during fiscal years 2007-2009 showed about 7% of the shipments were contaminated by Salmonella bacteria, some of it antibiotic-resistant.[12] As most spices are cooked before being served salmonella contamination often has no effect, but some spices, particularly pepper, are often eaten raw and present at table for convenient use. Shipments from Mexico and India, a major producer, were the most frequently contaminated.[13] However, with newly developed radiation sterilization methods, the risk of Salmonella contamination is now lower.[citation needed]

Nutrition

Spicy Food

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.[14] 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.[15] These antioxidants can also act as natural preservatives, preventing or slowing the spoilage of food, leading to a higher nutritional content in stored food.

Production

India contributes 75% of global spice production.

Top Spice Producing Countries
(in metric tonnes)
Rank Country 2010 2011
1  India 1,474,900 1,525,000
2  Bangladesh 128,517 139,775
3  Turkey 107,000 113,783
4  China 90,000 95,890
5  Pakistan 53,647 53,620
6  Iran 18,028 21,307
7    Nepal 20,360 20,905
8  Colombia 16,998 19,378
9  Ethiopia 27,122 17,905
10  Sri Lanka 8,293 8,438
World 1,995,523 2,063,472
Source: UN Food & Agriculture Organization[16]
A spice shop in Taliparamba, India
Spices sold in Taliparamba, India

Standardization

The International Organization for Standardization addresses spices and condiments, along with related food additives, as part of the International Classification for Standards 67.220 series.[17]

Research

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.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ A team of archaeologists led by Giorgio Buccellati excavating the ruins of a burned-down house at the site of Terqa, in modern-day Syria, found a ceramic pot containing a handful of cloves. The house had burned down around 1720 BC and this was the first evidence of cloves being used in the west before Roman times.[3]
  2. ^ Other types of coffee grinders, such as a burr mill, can grind spices just as well as coffee beans.
  3. ^ Nutmeg, in particular, suffers from grinding and the flavor will degrade noticeably in a matter of days.
  4. ^ Light contributes to oxidation processes.

References

  1. ^ Thomas, Frédéric; Daoust, Simon P.; Raymond, Michel (2012). "Can we understand modern humans without considering pathogens?". Evolutionary Applications. 5 (4): 368–379. ISSN 1752-4571. doi:10.1111/j.1752-4571.2011.00231.x. 
  2. ^ a b Murdock, Linda (2001). A Busy Cook's Guide to Spices: How to Introduce New Flavors to Everyday Meals. Bellwether Books. p. 14. ISBN 9780970428509. 
  3. ^ O'Connell, John (2016). The Book of Spice: From Anise to Zedoary. Pegasus Books. ISBN 978-1-68177-152-6. 
  4. ^ Duke, J.A. (2002). CRC Handbook of Medicinal Spices. CRC Press. p. 7. ISBN 978-1-4200-4048-7. Retrieved 2017-05-09. 
  5. ^ Woodward, Penny (2003). "Herbs and Spices". In Katz. Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. 2. Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 187–195 – via Gale Virtual Reference Library. 
  6. ^ Burkill, I.H. (1966). A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula. Kuala Lumpur: Ministry of Agriculture and Co-Operatives. 
  7. ^ a b Freedman, Paul (2015-06-05). "Health, wellness and the allure of spices in the Middle Ages". Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Potent Substances: On the Boundaries of Food and Medicine. 167: 47–53. PMID 25450779. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.10.065. 
  8. ^ Adamson, Melitta Weiss (2004). Food in Medieval Times. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. p. 65. ISBN 0-313-32147-7. 
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, page 453, Gil Marks, John Wiley & Sons, 2010. ISBN 9780470391303
  10. ^ "The Dark Truth Behind Powdered Spices: Garlic". Regency Spices for China Business Limited. 
  11. ^ a b Host: Alton Brown (January 14, 2004). "Spice Capades". Good Eats. Season 7. Episode 14. Food Network. 
  12. ^ Van Dorena, Jane M.; Daria Kleinmeiera; Thomas S. Hammacka; Ann Westerman (June 2013). "Prevalence, serotype diversity, and antimicrobial resistance of Salmonella in imported shipments of spice offered for entry to the United States, FY2007–FY2009". Food Microbiology. Elsevier. 34 (2): 239–251. doi:10.1016/j.fm.2012.10.002. Retrieved August 28, 2013. Shipments of imported spices offered for entry to the United States were sampled during the fiscal years 2007–2009. The mean shipment prevalence for Salmonella was 0.066 (95% CI 0.057–0.076) 
  13. ^ Gardiner Harris (August 27, 2013). "Salmonella in Spices Prompts Changes in Farming". The New York Times. Retrieved August 28, 2013. 
  14. ^ USDA National Nutrient Database: Nutrient data for 02028, Spices, paprika, Retrieved August 26, 2012
  15. ^ 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. ISSN 0007-1145. PMID 15788119. doi:10.1079/BJN20041327. 
  16. ^ "Production of Spice by countries". UN Food & Agriculture Organization. 2011. Archived from the original on July 13, 2011. Retrieved December 20, 2013. 
  17. ^ "67.220: Spices and condiments. Food additives". International Organization for Standardization. 2009. Retrieved April 23, 2009. 

Further reading

Books

Articles

  • "Food Bacteria-Spice Survey Shows Why Some Cultures Like It Hot". ScienceDaily. March 5, 1998. Retrieved December 20, 2008. ...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. PMC 1805705Freely accessible. PMID 17330154. doi:10.1016/j.lwt.2004.04.001. 
  • 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. PMID 9586227. doi:10.1086/420058. 
  • "Common Kitchen Spices Kill E. Coli O157:H7". August 18, 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.' 
  • "Spice". Encyclopedia of Spices, Spice Blends by Region, The Spice Trade. Retrieved December 20, 2008. 
  • International Organization for Standardization (2009). "67.220: Spices and condiments. Food additives". Retrieved April 23, 2009. 

External links

  • The dictionary definition of spice at Wiktionary
  • Media related to Spice at Wikimedia Commons
  • Spices in the 16th century Tudor time on YouTube
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