SpiceA spice is a seed, fruit, root, bark, or other plant substance primarily used for flavoring or coloring food. Spices are distinguished from herbs, which are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants used for flavoring or as a garnish. Generally, spices are dried. Spices may be ground into powder for convenience.
The art of using spices as food is as old as recorded history. The spice trade was already flourishing more than 3000 years ago. By 1000 BC, medical systems based upon herbs could be found in China, Korea, and India. Early uses were connected with magic, medicine, religion, tradition, and preservation (liquids used as preservatives, for example, vinegar and brandy were sometimes used).
In the Indian system of ayurvedic medicine, most spices have a heating effect. It is believed that this is because many spices are rich in carotenoids which trigger the production of a chemical known as “agni” in the body, a type of digestive enzyme that helps in the proper absorption of food.
In history, spices have been used to disguise the flavor of badly preserved foods and to improve nutrition. Poorly sealed containers let light and moisture penetrate and lead to spoilage, while a spoiling agent inside can make a healthy product harmful. In addition, the handling of spices is said to contaminate foods with microorganisms that may cause serious health problems.
Spices are best stored in airtight containers away from sunlight, heat sources, or moisture. They will freeze and lose flavor if placed near a window, refrigerator, pipe elbow, or other equipment generating cold drafts. If refrigerated, spices should be put back at room temperature before use because the flavor loss is irreversible.
Spices are obtained from plants by drying (most commonly in the sun), such as with bay leaves, coriander seeds, and paprika; or by steaming like cauliflower and mustard seed pods. The earliest known use of spice comes from Southwestern Asia. By 2000 BC both culinary and medicinal uses were found in Mesopotamia. By 500 BC, the inhabitants of the Ganges plain had started to cultivate several spices for food and preservative purposes.
According to Roman mythology, spice use dates back to at least 753 B . C . when Coroebus, son of Seleucus, King of Asia, offered his crown to anyone who would invent a new pleasure for him. A contest was held among the chefs of his realm, and one succeeded in flavoring roasted meats with aromatic spices.
Spices are used to treat various diseases like indigestion, cramps, gas, diarrhea, stomach aches, coughs, asthma, bronchitis, etc. It is also used as a mouth freshener and breath freshener. It works as a herbal agent against some diseases like cold, fever, diarrhea, malaria, etc.
It is good for the health as it regulates blood pressure and blood circulation in the body which helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Spices are of great help in conditions such as migraine headaches and heartburn. It plays a crucial role in the treatment of the common cold and asthma. Spices like pepper, garlic, ginger, onion, and cinnamon are known to possess anti-bacterial properties which help in fighting against bacterial infections.
Global spice production
In 2016, global production of spices totaled 5.1 million metric tons. The top five producing countries - India, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Turkey - accounted for nearly 75% of the world's spice output.
India is the world's largest producer and exporter of spices, accounting for more than 50% of global production and nearly 60% of global exports. The country's main spice crops include chili peppers, cardamom, turmeric, ginger, and coriander. China is the second largest producer of spices in the world, accounting for around 10% of global output. The country's major spice crops include chili peppers, star anise, ginger, and cloves. Vietnam is the third largest producer of spices, accounting for around 5% of global output. The country's major spice crops include chili peppers, ginger, and cinnamon. Indonesia is the fourth largest producer of spices, accounting for around 4% of global output. The country's major spice crops include cloves, nutmeg, and pepper. Turkey is the fifth largest producer of spices, accounting for around 3% of global output. The country's major spice crops include chili peppers, paprika, and oregano.