They made ancient India, the richest nation in the world,
Ancient Romans bartered slaves for them,
Arabs risked their lives trading them,
Columbus discovered America while searching for them,
The Dutch and English Empires fought over India for them,
The British ruled India for centuries & made a business of them,
It was not for Gold, Pearls or Diamonds...history was created with the magic of Indian Spices!
India is known the world over as 'the Home of Spices'. No country in the world produces the amount of spices that India does - close to 3 million tones of spices valued at more than US$ 4 billion a year. Today, India is one of the largest exporting nations of spices in the world.
The climate of India is ideal for the growth of almost all spices. Garlic, ginger and caraway seeds come from North India, while fenugreek, red chillies and fennel originate in West India. East India is abundant with ginger, turmeric and large cardamoms. South India is known for cardamom, mace, cinnamon, clove, pepper and even vanilla.
There is a popular belief that spicy foods are bad for health. Contrary to this belief, Indian history supports the medicinal properties of spices and considers them good for health. Spices are well known as appetizers and digestives and are considered essential in 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. Some spices also possess strong anti-microbial and antibiotic capabilities. Many of them possess medicinal properties that have a profound effect on human health, since they affect many functional processes. For example ginger is believed to prevent dyspepsia, garlic reduces cholesterol and hypertension, pepper serves as an antihistamine, and turmeric acts as a natural cosmetic and an antiseptic for internal and external injuries.
Although every state in India uses spices in their daily cooking, some spices are more posh than others and come at a higher price. From the north Indian state of Kashmir comes the world's most expensive spice - 'saffron'. Saffron appears like orange strands, which are the stigmata of the Crocus Sativus. One gram of saffron requires the stigmata of 1500 flowers and the spice is so dear to Indians that its vibrant orange colour is represented in the Indian flag!
The various Indian spices together create that typical Indian aroma and the delicious Indian flavour loved worldwide. Indian celebrity chefs seldom talk about their secret ingredient, 'the garam masala', which adds a special zest to any Indian dish. Simply spoken, garam masala is the magic created by the combination of cardamom ('ilaichi'), cinnamon ('dal chini), cloves ('laung'), dry coriander powder ('dhania'), black pepper ('kali mirch'), and cumin ('jeera'). Indians believe that garam masala is the key ingredient in any special Indian dish. So next time you try your hand on Indian cooking, don't forget this magical spice powder, called 'garam masala'!