(Last Updated on : 23/02/2009)
Fruits type spices are certain fruits that are also used as spices in dried form. Some famous fruits type spices include cardamoms, kokam, nutmeg, kababchini and many more.
Cardamoms are the dried fruits (capsules) used as fruits type spices. It is derived from a medium-sized herbaceous perennial, 2 to 5 meters tall and native of Western Ghats in South West India. Its real stem is underground rhizome, and the aerial shoot is a pseudostem formed by the encircling leaf sheaths. The leaves are long and lanceolate in shape. Cardamoms of are the dried capsules of a small group of species or plants belonging to the family Zingiberaceae, which contains seeds possessing a pleasant characteristic aroma. Broadly there are two types of Cardamoms, such as Small or Lesser Cardamom and Greater or Large Cardamom.
Juniper fruits are one of the fruits type spices that have a spirit like aroma and a sweet taste with a somewhat bitter after taste. The juniper berries of commerce are obtained by drying the ripe fruits. Oil of juniper is obtained by steam distillation of those berries. Kokam is better known for its edible fruits; this fruits type spice is consumed as fruit and vegetable and when dry used as popular spice in the west coast of India. The tree is also known as `Kokam butter tree` and `Brindonia tallow tree`.
Nutmeg and Mace are two distinctly different fruits type spices produced from a single fruit. Mace is the dried reticulated aril of nutmeg. When the peach or apricot like nutmeg bursts open, the mace is seen as an attractive bright scarlet cage closely enveloping the hard, thin, black shining shell of the seed called nutmeg. Kababchini is one amongst the well-known fruits type spices in India. Fruits are tiny and round like black pepper. It is harvested when green but fully grown. By drying under sun it turns black with uneven shrunk surface. These dry fruits are sold in the market as Kababchini.
Star Anise is a fruits type spices and has an agreeable, aromatic, sweet taste and a pleasant odor resembling anise. It is used as a condiment for flavoring curries, confectioneries and spirits, and for pickling. It is also used in perfumery. This fruit type spice is chewed to sweeten the bad breath and help in digestion. The pulp of ripe fruit of Tamarind is commonly used as condiment, or more precisely as acidulant, in many Indian dishes particularly South Indian dishes. The plant has dubious distinction being inauspicious for which it is known as `Yamadutika` in Sanskrit. It is believed that by staying under the shade of the plant for longer period it affects health and even death can happen. For which it is known as Yamadutica meaning the messenger of Yama, the god of death.
The vanilla pods or sticks of commerce are the cured fruits or beans of the plant, which is a climbing orchid. Vanilla was traditionally not known to Indians. Europeans introduced it in this country for flavoring dishes of western origin like puddings, ice creams, cakes, and pastries. Later when this fruits type spice was popularised Indian started flavoring their traditional sweets like kheer, sandesh and many others.