One of my favorite cooking show is MasterChef Australia and it is in this show where I was introduced to different spices. From them on, I researched and bought a few of the spices and experimented with different dishes. I also bought "The Food Book " which describe the different aroma and uses of spices and how it provide extra flavor, color and variety of flavors in any dish.
Spices are still harvested mainly by hand, just as they have been for thousand of years. Spices are generally dried and may include the plants buds, seeds, bark, roots, berries or flowers . They are usually added to a dish during cooking. The range of spices available today has increased dramatically over the years.
Spices can be roughly grouped into five categories.
- Amalgamating : mild spices such as coriander seed, which unify other flavors in a spice blend.
- Hot: fiery spices such as chili and pepper, which give a dish a kick.
- Pungent: strong spices such as cloves, ginger and lemon myrtle, which add distinctive flavors.
- Sweet: warm, aromatic spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, it is often used in sweet dishes.
- Tangy: spices such as sumac and tamarind that give dishes an acidic flavor.
List of spices used around the world:
- ALL SPICE –fragrant, sweet brown berries also called pimento, which taste like cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. Used in pickles, curies and casseroles as well as cakes and desserts.
- CARAWAY – small brown fruits with a strong anise-like flavor, often used to flavor bread, cheese and cabbage dishes.
- CARDAMON- small green or large brown pods filled with small aromatic seeds. Used to flavor sweet and savoury dishes and drinks
- CHILLI – There are hundreds of different chillies ranging from mild to tongue-numbing which can be sued powdered, flaked and fresh. Generally, the smaller the chili, the hotter it is.
- CAYENNE- seeds of this large dried red chili are ground to make cayenne powder . The flesh is also dried and flaked.
- CINNAMON- the inner bark of a tropical tree. The sweet aromatic quills (rolls of bark) are used whole or ground in sweet dishes such as apple pie and doughnuts as well as chicken and lamb dishes
- CORIANDER- seeds small brown with a warm nutty, citrus-like flavor quite unlike the leaves. Used whole or ground in curries, meat dishes, pickles and drinks.
- CLOVES – Nail shaped dried flowers buds with an intense perfumed flavor. They can be used ground or whole in pickles , casseroles, cakes, desserts and drinks.
- CUMIN – small brown seeds that can be used ground or whole and give a warm, nutty pungent flavor to curries, stews and other dishes.
- FENNEL SEEDS -small green brown leaves with a strong anise flavor that goes well with meat, fish, egg and potato dishes.
- FENUGREEK SEEDS – small bitter-sweet yellow seeds used in stews, breads and desserts.
- GALANGAL– tough brown rhizome (underground stem) with a citrusy aroma and a hot, pine and soap flavor. Used in South-East Asian curries, satays and soups.
- GINGER – brown fibrous rhizome with a sweet peppery flavor. Used in curries, stir-fries and soups and in powdered form to flavor cakes, biscuit and drinks.
- HORSERADISH – pungent, peppery root traditionally grated and served with egg, fish and red meat, often mixed with cream or vinegar.
- JUNIPER – berry like fruit with a medicinal, pine aroma, used to flavor gin and often served in as sauce for meat.
- MACE – the lacy red covering of the nutmeg seed . It has a more delicate, savory flavor than nutmeg.
- NUTMEG– the pungent sweet seed of an apricot-like fruit, nutmeg is used in milk and cheese based dishes such as béchamel sauce, custard and moussaka and in cakes, biscuit and desserts.
- MUSTARD SEEDS – tiny yellow or black-brown seeds often pungent and peppery, used in curries, pickles and vegetables dishes. Whole or ground seeds are also mixed with vinegar to make mustard paste.
- PAPRIKA- ranging from mild and sweet to smoky and hot, paprika is made from dried chillies and is widely used in European cooking.
- PEPPERCORN – the piquant dried berries of a tropical vine are used whole and ground. Black pepper is the dried unripe berry while white pepper is the ripe berry with the outer skin removed.
- SAFFRON – the world’s most expensive spice, saffron is the dried stigma of the crocus flower. It lends a rich golden hue and bitter honeyed flavor to egg, rice and fish dishes.
- STAR ANISE – star-shaped seed pods that can be used whole or ground to add flavor to slow-cooked meat dishes and pickles.
- SUMAC – a small purple-red berry with a bright lemony flavor, mostly used in the Middle East to flavor bread, vegetable and meat dishes.
- TAMARIND – the sweet sour fruit of a tropical shrub, it adds tang to chutneys, sauces, soups and drinks.
- TUMERIC – a yellow rhizome in the ginger family, it adds golden color and mild peppery flavor to rice soup and curry dishes.
- VANILLA – one of the world most popular spices, vanilla is an orchid seed pod with a complex floral aroma and rich, warm flavor.
- WASABI – like horseradish, wasabi has a pungent mustard flavor. It is traditionally served in paste form with sushi.
Around the world, cooks blend spices and herbs together to add interest to their dishes. These are some well-known blends.
- CURRY POWDER: Spices commonly found in curry blends include turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek and chili. Other additions include ginger, garlic, fennel seed, cinnamon, clove, mustard seed, green cardamon, black cardamon, mace, nutmeg and black pepper.
- GARAM MASALAM: Literally hot mixture, in Hindi the flavour is more pungent than fiery. Recipes vary but black and white peppercorns, bay leaves, cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, coriander seds, cumin and star anise are often used. Usually added towards the end of cooking.
- MIXED SPICE:A blend of aromatic sweet spices such as nutmeg, coriander, cumin, ginger, caraway, allspice and cinnamon and used in cakes and puddings or when poaching fruit.
Reference: Compton, L., Fordyce-Voorham, S. Prescott, A. , The Food Book, Oxford University Press, 2010.
What spices are in your pantry?
Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on May 12, 2020:
Very informative. I do prepare the spice mixes on my own for my recipes mixing some of these varieties.
IslandBites from Puerto Rico on May 10, 2013:
carol stanley from Arizona on October 03, 2012:
Enjoyed your hub on spices. Thanks for sharing all the great information and super photographs. Voted UP.
Jilltravel from Indiana on February 04, 2012:
What a great hub! I really enjoyed the way you explained the properties of such a large variety of spices. Thanks so much for sharing this! I love to cook and am always eager to try a new spice in my kitchen. I'm new to HubPages. It's been so much fun reading articles about topics I'm interested in-like this one! :)
i love u someone named connor on December 21, 2011:
this iz great 4 my project THX
filipinofoods from Philippines on November 18, 2011:
informative post! my favorite spices are cardamom and saffron!
Samantha on September 21, 2011:
This was really helpful for one of my projects =)
Kashish on August 29, 2011:
I love ands always add spices in my food. After seeing so many more spices i will make more dishes using these spices.
Ingenira on February 05, 2011:
I love to add spices in my cooking. Love to see them listed there, and you presented them so well.
chspublish from Ireland on January 30, 2011:
I like the way you list the spices. It makes it easier to appreciate them. Good idea.
Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on January 26, 2011:
I love spices, and I really love how you classified them. GALANGAL is the only one I haven't used yet which will change in the near future as I put it onto my shopping list.
Fabulous hub, voted up and useful
hope you're well
ftclick on January 26, 2011:
cinnamon from a tree bark. I never knew. And you just got me into the mood for some curry rice.
eatlikenoone from Saline, MI on January 25, 2011:
I haven't seen spices broke down into those categories before. I like it! Great job with this hub!