ABOUT Spices

The spice trade developed throughout the Indian subcontinent and Middle East by at earliest 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.
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ferula assafoetida

This spice is used as a digestive aid, in food as a condiment, and in pickling. It plays a critical flavoring role in Indian vegetarian cuisine by acting as a savory enhancer. Used along with turmeric, it is a standard component of lentil curries, such as dal, chickpea curries, and vegetable dishes, especially those based on potato and cauliflower. Asafoetida is used in vegetarian Punjabi cuisine where it enhances the flavor of numerous dishes, where it is quickly heated in hot oil before sprinkling on the food. Kashmiri cuisine also uses it in lamb/mutton dishes such as Rogan Josh. It is sometimes used to harmonise sweet, sour, salty, and spicy components in food. The spice is added to the food at the time of tempering. Sometimes dried and ground asafoetida (in small quantities) can be mixed with salt and eaten with raw salad.

Seasonlity: may-jun

Powdered chili pepper

Whether you call these dried chiles, dried peppers, or dried chili peppers, these are the stuff of magic. From the exclusivity of being a chilehead and torturing yourself with the hottest of hot chiles to the joy of watching someone eat a chile for the first time, you are engulfed in a new, hotter world once you have got a hankering for these. Chiles are believed to be indigenous to the Andean region of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru dating back more than 10,000 years. They were a key ingredient in the diets of the Mayans and the Aztecs and have since become a staple in diets from around the world.

Seasonlity: jun-nov


The word “saffron” comes from the Arabic azafran (Arabic: Zaʻfarān), which can be translated as “yellow leafed”. However, the Akkadian designation of saffron (azupiranu) indicates that the Arabic word was interacting from some ancient Middle Eastern language.

Saffron played a large role in the life of the Minoan civilization. The oldest written records are found in the text of the times of Ashurbanipal from the Nineveh library. Oriental priests used saffron when performing rituals, its threads were woven into fabrics.

Harvesting saffron. Illustration from the medical treatise Tacuinum sanitatis. XV century
The ancient Greeks and Romans prepared saffron from the saffron, in which they sprayed rooms, halls, clothes. In classical antiquity, saffron had a reputation for an aphrodisiac. When they were added for aroma in the bath.

Seasonlity: oct-nov


The historic origin of sesame was favored by its ability to grow in areas that do not support the growth of other crops. It is also a robust crop that needs little farming support—it grows in drought conditions, in high heat, with residual moisture in soil after monsoons are gone or even when rains fail or when rains are excessive. It was a crop that could be grown by subsistence farmers at the edge of deserts, where no other crops grow. Sesame has been called a survivor crop.

Seasonlity: sep-oct


They consider Central Asia to be their homeland. In India, the local population grows zira in the gardens. In Arabic, it is called “kammun.” This plant is cultivated in Southeast Asia, Iran and Afghanistan, in North Africa and Latin America. In Europe, it is less common (with the exception of the Mediterranean countries), being pushed into the background by caraway seeds.

Seasonlity: jul-aug