Chillies fall within the Capsicum family, in the same genus as red peppers, cayenne, and paprika, and are usually sold in the form of the ripe fruit, dried fruit or powder. Chillies are native to South America, now widely distributed across all tropical countries, including India where it was introduced towards the end of the 15th century by the Portuguese. Chilli is extensively used in curries, as an ingredient in curry powder, and in many other seasonings, as well as to make hot sauces like Tobasco. Many of the high colour, less pungent types are used to create natural dyes. Chilli also has medical uses and is used to help with lumbago, neuralgia and several rheumatic disorders. Its oleoresin is also used in pain balms and vaporubs!
Ginger is a refreshingly aromatic underground rhizome, valued as a spice in both raw and processed forms. A herbaceous, tropical annual plant, its centre of origin lies in India and Malaysia. Fresh ginger and dry ginger powder as well as ginger oleoresins and oils are used in food processing, the manufacture of confectionary, curry powders, meats, sauces, pickles, ginger ales and curry powders, and cocktails, carbonated drinks and liquors. It is also used as a carminative and stimulant in medicines, with a larger role in indigenous medicines.
The dried, mature berry of a climbing, perennial shrub called Piper nigrum, black pepper is mostly found in the hot, moist areas of South India and is thought to have originated in the Southern Western Ghats. It is now grown in hot, humid areas across the world. Pepper is valued for its preservative nature as well as its flavouring, and is largely used by meat packers as well as for canning, pickling and baking, and is also used in spice mixes and as a seasoning on its own. Black pepper is an essential component of Ayurvedic medicine, and Piperine is also used in pharmaceuticals. Pepper is an analgesic, anti-pyretic, anti-oxidant and anti-microbial.
Vanilla is a member of the orchid family, and is a native of the Atlantic Coast. Major producers of vanilla are Madagascar, Mexico, Tahiti, Malagasy Republic, Comoro, Reunion, Indonesia, Seychelles and India. It does well in hot, moist, tropical climates. Mainly used as a flavouring, vanilla is used to flavour ice-creams, milk, other beverages, candies, confectionaries and baking items, and is also used in the making of perfumes. It is also critical to many pharmeceutical products.
‘True Cinnamon’ or Sri Lankan Cinnamon is the dried inner stem bark of a bush called Cinnamomum Verum. It finds its origins in the central hills of Sri Lanka, and in India is grown sparingly in Kerala. Cinnamon bark is a very popular spice with a warm, pleasant taste and a delicate aroma, and is used as powder or small pieces of bark. It is found in many Indian spice mixes, most notably Garam Masala, used in many dishes across North India, and is used across the world to flavour dessert items. It is also used often to flavour liquors, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and confectionary. Medically, it can be used to treat nausea and vomiting, and helps diabetics to properly digest sugar. Cassia is also the dried bark of a small, bushy evergreen, and comes mainly from South China, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. It is rarely grown in India. It is used as a spice similarly to cinnamon, and it is a well-known medicine in China for its analgesic and anti-pyretic properties.
Clove as a spice consists of the air-dried, unopened flower bud obtained from an evergreen tree. It is indigenous to Indonesia, and also grown in Malaysia, Madagascar, Zanzibar, India and Sri Lanka. It is used in its whole or ground form, largely for culinary and flavouring purposes, as its flavour suits both sweet and savoury items. Its antiseptic and antibiotic properties are well-known in both traditional and modern medicine, especially in dentistry and pharyngeal treatment, and in many toothpastes and mouthwashes.
Nutmeg and mace are distinctly different spices that come from the fruit of the same evergreen tree. Nutmeg is the dried seed kernel of the fruit, while made is the dried reticulated ‘aril’. The nutmeg tree is indigenous to Moluccas, and Indonesia and Granada are also major growing areas. Both nutmeg and mace are used as a condiment, especially in sweet foods. In ground form, the spice is used widely in the food processing industry, especially in Dutch dishes. Nutmeg oleoresins are used to prepare meat products, soups, baked foods, sauces, confectionaries, meat seasonings, and so on. Mace is used primarily in savoury dishes.
Known as the ‘Queen of Spices’ for its extremely pleasant aroma and taste, cardamom is one of the most sought-after spices in the international spice market. Indigenous to the forests of the Western Ghats in South India, cardamom grows well in shade. India has always been known as the home of this spice, and was its main producer and exporter until very recently. It is used as a flavouring agent in both whole and ground form, and derivatives of the dried fruit are used in processed foods, cordials, liquors, perfumes and Ayurvedic medicines. Indian cardamom is most in demand in the Middle East, Japan and Russia.
Turmeric is the rhizome of a plant called Curcuma longa, a native to India where it is cultivated in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala. It is used both as a colouring and a flavouring in foods, and is the principal ingredient in curry powder. Its oleoresin is also used in pickles, mayonnaise, relish, beverages and similar, and its colour derivant, curcumin, is used as a colourant. In the textile industry, it is a prominent natural dye, and is also used in medicinal oils, poultices and so on. It is well-known to have antiseptic and blood-purifying properties.
Sambar, a delicious variant on the traditional ‘dal’, is an integral part of Tamil cuisine and is consumed with idli, dosai, oothappam, or white rice.
Omelette curry is exactly what it sounds like – an omelette, cut into pieces, cooked in a tangy, spicy tomato and tamarind gravy. It makes
Rustle up your favourite Indian curries, or give continental and international cuisine that magical touch. This unique, proprietary blend is made
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