Wednesday, July 17, 2024


Spices - An Introduction


Spices have been used in almost all countries in the world for many years either in ethnic cuisines or for their medicinal values. At least in the East and Asia, spices were extensively used for their medicinal values. Now of course Western medicine has replaced all these, although spices are still used, at least in some countries, in their indigenous medical practices.

A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root or bark used as a food additive to enhance the flavour, sometimes as a preservative by preventing growth of harmful organism or by killing them. Many of these substances can be used as medicine, in religious rituals, cosmetics or eaten as a vegetable in salads etc.

Spices differ from herbs which are of leafy nature or green parts of the plant used for flavouring and are chopped in small pieces to enhance flavour. Spices are dried and commonly ground into powder, sometimes small seeds are used as they are and in powder form.

Trading in spices had continued ever since they were discovered by local people where these were grown and the trade was no doubt a lucrative international business so much so people in all countries know these spices and their culinary uses.

Spices are available in most Asian groceries specialising in Sri Lankan and Indian produce in Australia, Europe, United States, Canada and most other major cities. We also see these appearing in Western Supermarket shelves where these were never seen before.

We have divided this section of ‘Introduction to Spices 'into three major categories -

Basic Spices -

Here we give a description of spices commonly used in Asia and their culinary and medicinal uses in some detail. We searched the internet for evidence and information and we extend our sincere thanks to all the sites we have looked at and collected useful information.

Please note that use of these items for medicinal purposes should not be attempted without consulting a doctor or physician.

These include;

Asafoetida, Cardamom, Chillies, Cinnamon, Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Curry Leaves, Fenugreek, Ginger,

Garlic, Mustard, Nutmeg, Omam, Pepper, Saffron, Tamarind, Turmeric

Non Spices -

There are many non spicy items that are used in cooking in Yarlpanam and other places and we give you a description of these items under this category.

These include;

Onion, Banana, Coconut, Honey, Lemon/Lime, Athimathuram, Ghee, Curd, Yoghurt, Paneer

Blended Spices -

This category includes various blended spices that are easy to use in cooking. These include

Curry Powder, Charakku Powder, Chilli powder, Garam Masala, Sambar Powder, and Buriyani Powder.