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The History of Spices and Their Origin

The History of Spices and Their Origin

Pepper, paprika, cumin, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon are some of the most consumed spices in the world, while the most expensive ones are saffron, cardamom and vanilla.

Where do spices come from?

Spices are substances of plant origin that are used to season and preserve food. They have a great flavouring capacity, so they are usually used in small quantities and mixed to achieve different combinations. Most the spices come from North Africa, the Mediterranean countries and Asia, although there are also some native to be American. Pepper, paprika, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon are some of the most consumed spices globally, while the most expensive ones are saffron, cardamom and vanilla.

Basil originated in India and Persia but is now grown in the Mediterranean, France, and the United States. The Greeks didn’t like basil, but the Romans loved it and made basil a symbol of love and fertility.

Spices have been at the forefront of history since the beginning of time. Even before recorded history, ancient Egyptians preserved their mummies with herbs and spices. There are also several references to herbs and spices throughout the Bible; they were thought to grow in the Garden of Eden and were therefore especially prized. In 500 BC, Chinese and Korean ships traded spices; Not long after, the Spice Route spread from Europe to Asia and eventually to the Americas. As Europe languished during the Dark Ages, Indonesian, Arab, Chinese, and Indian merchants were profiting from its trading empire.

Do spices have any health benefits?

Spices promote digestion, enhance the flavour of food and give a different touch to ordinary dishes. All it takes is a pinch of these ‘magic powders’, and our table becomes a carpet, also magic, that transports us to distant horizons. For millennia, some aromatic plants have been sought and cultivated for their flavour and aroma properties. As preservatives, these are the herbs and plants traditionally used in our kitchen to give the best possible flavour to everyday dishes.

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Bay leaves are the leaves of the bay tree. These are the same laurel leaves that became decorative wreaths for the crown’s victors in ancient Greece and Rome. Laurel wreaths were also used to honour scholars and poets. Across Europe, bay leaves were thought to bring good luck and ward off evil.

What about the herbs?

The origin of spices and the use of certain herbs such as basil or mint is linked to the Orient of the 3rd millennium BC. From China to Egypt to Sri Lanka, there are several countries where the various types of spices and aromatic plants originated. Thus, in Ancient Egypt, they were used to flavour food, like cosmetics and even in lotions related to embalming.

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