(Last Updated on : 07/03/2014)
exhibit a great variety which adds different flavours and aroma to the food making them more luscious and in certain cases healthy. There is a popular belief that spicy foods are bad for health. This belief is not only far from the truth but also that; spices in fact have medicinal properties and are good for health. Spices are well known as appetizers and digestives and are considered essential in the culinary art all over the world. Some of them have anti-oxidant properties, while others have preservative properties and are used in some foods like pickles and chutneys etc. Some spices also possess strong anti-microbial and antibiotic activities. Many of them possess medicinal properties and have a profound effect on human health. They cleanse the oral cavity from food adhesion and bacteria; they may help to check infection, and to protect the mucous membrane against thermic, mechanical and chemical irritation. Spices possibly activate the adrenal-cortical function and fortify resistance and physical capacity. Stroke volume, blood pressure and stroke frequency can be markedly diminished or augmented by means of spices. Spices inhibit thrombus formation and accelerate thrombolysis.
Production of Different Types of Spices
During World War I, and a few years after, India was principal supplier of essential oils like thymol, produced both with the help of traditional distillation methods as well as modern steam distillation methods. But the market was lost forever due to invention of synthetic essential oils. Plethora of benefits is catered by the spices of different types which are obtained from different sources. In fact their categorization also depends on the part of the plant from which they are acquired. Many of them are consumed in their original form whereas some of them need vigorous processing before consumption.
Fruit Type Spices
Many fruits are used as spices in dried form. They are known for augmenting the taste and aroma of the food. Common fruit type spices include Cardamoms, Juniper, Nutmeg
, Star Anise
Seed Type Spices
Seed type spices are the fertilized and ripened ovule having a protective covering. Some of these are used in their original form while some are powdered before use. Many of these are in fact the fruit of the plant but a categorized under seed type spices owing to their tiny size. Common members of this type of spices are Caraway
, Ajowan, Celery
etc. They do not possess much nutritional value, however their use in medicinal purpose, perfumery and making flavouring agent have been well established.
Bark Type Spices
Bark type spices are obtained from the bark of the trees. These are known to be highly flavoured imparting great taste to the food when added. The bark of the trees growing at higher altitudes produces better quality bark and high content of essential oils. Common bark type spices are Cinnamon
Leaf Type Spices
Leaves of many plants are used as flavouring agents and are categorized under leaf type spices. They impart a distinct flavour to the food. These are extensively used for various culinary and medicinal purposes. They are either eaten fresh or are processed before use. Prominent examples of leaf type spices include chervil
leaves, laurel leaves
Flower Type Spices
Flowers of certain plants also serve as spices used for adding aroma and flavour to the food. These are processed in various ways before using them as spices. Sometimes, essential oils are extracted from them which are then used for culinary purposes. Rhododendron
, saffron and rose
are enlisted among flower type spices.
Root type Spices
Root type spices are known to render a sharp taste to the food making the predominant flavour of the food. They are mainly obtained from the root portion of the plant. Apart from serving as significant condiments for food, they also possess medicinal value and are helpful in curing several ailments. Turmeric
are the common root type spices.
Apart from these, many other spices are used in various food preparations which impart distinct taste and essence to them. Apart from culinary they also find their utility in other purposes such as medicinal, beauty etc. This miscellaneous group of spices include Clove
and Musk Mallow