Every month, The Spice of Life Blog, will feature a new “Spice of the Month” in an attempt to familiarize everyone with these wonderful substances, and in their usage relative to food. Spices have other uses; however, we will only concentrate on the use of spices as it relates to food on this Chef Marshall.com website.
A spice is a dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or plant primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Spices are different from herbs, which are parts of leafy green plants, & also used for flavoring or as a garnish. Other uses for spices include but are not limited to medicinal, cosmetics, perfume, & religious. Many spices have antimicrobial properties and therefore are more commonly used the closer you get to the Earth’s equator where we have more infectious disease. Spices are widely used with meat all over the world, which is especially susceptible to spoiling. So now you have a quick overview of Spices.
For over 4,000 years spices such as cinnamon, cloves, pepper & herbs have been traded by early merchants and helped develop World Trade. Alexandria, Egypt was the early main trading center for spices. In the Middle Ages spices were among the most expensive and demanded products available in Europe and the trading capital for these spices moved from Alexandria, Egypt to Venice, Italy.
India is responsible for the production of 69% of known spices throughout the World and when coupled with China, Bangladesh, Turkey, & Pakistan they account for 93% of the World production. And you thought OPEC had a monopoly with oil. Spices are produced & controlled by far fewer countries than OPEC and therefore have a much greater monopoly on their products.