Ajwain Ajwain is a member of the Umbelliferae family this is a large family which has some 2700 members including dill caraway and cumin. It is mainly used in Indian cooking where it is also known as bishop’s weed or carom. The small fruit pods are pale brown and have an oval shape resembling caraway and cumin. It has a bitter and pungent taste with a flavor similar to anise and oregano. They smell almost exactly like thyme because it also contains thymol but it is more aromatic and a bit less subtle in taste. Even a small amount of fruit pods tend to dominate the flavor of a dish so use carefully.
Allspice Allspice has many other names such as Jamaica pepper kurundu myrtle pepper pimenta and newspice. It is a spice of the dried unripe fruit of Pimenta dioica a mid-canopy tree native to the Greater Antilles southern Mexico and Central America. The fruit is picked when green and unripe and are then traditionally dried in the sun. When dry they are brown and resemble large brown peppercorns. The whole fruit have a longer shelf life than the powdered product and produce a more aromatic product when freshly ground before use. Fresh leaves are used where available. They are similar in texture to bay leaves and are thus infused during cooking and then removed before serving.
Anise Anise is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae and is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. It is renowned for its flavor which resembles liquorice. Anise is sweet and very aromatic distinguished by its characteristic flavour. The seeds whole or ground are used in a wide variety of regional and ethnic confectioneries including black jelly beans British aniseed balls and much more. It is also a key ingredient in Mexican atole de anís or champurrado which is similar to hot chocolate and it is taken as a digestive after meals in India.
Asafoetida This is an extremely pungent spice extracted from a plant of the giant fennel family. Asafoetida is often used in Indian and Middle Eastern cooking.
Black cardamom Black cardamom is a plant in the family Zingiberaceae. Its seed pods have a strong camphor-like flavor with a smoky character derived from the method of drying. Black cardamom is often described as an inferior substitute for green cardamom. It is just not as well suited for the sweet/hot dishes which typically include green cardamom. Black cardamom is better for stews and similar dishes.
Black Mustard Black mustard is an annual weedy plant cultivated for its seeds which are commonly used as a spice. The plant is believed to be native to the southern Mediterranean region of Europe and has been cultivated for thousands of years. Since the 1950s black mustard has become less popular as compared to India mustard because some cultivars of India mustard have seeds that can be mechanically harvested in a more efficient manner.
Brown Mustard Brown Mustard is also known as mustard greens Indian mustard and leaf mustard. It is a species of mustard plant.
Cinnamon Cinnamon has a long history both as a spice and as a medicine. It is the brown bark of the cinnamon tree which is available in its dried tubular form known as a quill or as ground powder. The two varieties of cinnamon Chinese and Ceylon have similar flavor however the cinnamon from Ceylon is slightly sweeter more refined and more difficult to find in local markets. Although available throughout the year the fragrant sweet and warm taste of cinnamon is a perfect spice to use during the winter months.
Clove Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae Syzygium aromaticum. They are native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia and are commonly used as a spice. The clove tree is an evergreen that grows up to 8–12 m tall with large leaves and sanguine flowers grouped in terminal clusters. Cloves are harvested at 1.5–2.0 cm long and consist of a long calyx that terminates in four spreading sepals and four unopened petals that form a small central ball. Like other spices cloves are available throughout the year. They are renowned for providing their uniquely warm sweet and aromatic taste to ginger bread and pumpkin pie but they can also make a wonderful addition to split pea and bean soups baked beans and chili.
Coriander Coriander is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is also known as Chinese parsley and cilantro. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. All parts of the plant are edible but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which when dried are the portions used as the dried spice. When ripe the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. Coriander seeds are available whole or in ground powder form.
Cumin Cumin is the second most popular spice in the world after black pepper. Cumin seeds are used as a spice for their distinctive aroma. Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum a member of the parsley family. Cumin seeds resemble caraway seeds being oblong in shape longitudinally ridged and yellow-brown in colour.
Fennel Fennel is a flowering plant species in the celery family Apiaceae or Umbelliferae. It is the sole species in the genus Foeniculum. It is a hardy perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks. It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses. Florence fennel or finocchio is a selection with a swollen bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable.
Fenugreek Fenugreek is used as an herb spice and vegetable. Cuboid-shaped yellow- to amber-colored fenugreek seeds are frequently encountered in the cuisines of the Indian Subcontinent used both whole and powdered in the preparation of pickles vegetable dishes daals and spice mixes. They are often roasted to reduce bitterness and enhance flavor.
Ginger Ginger is the underground rhizome of the ginger plant with a firm striated texture. The flesh of the ginger rhizome can be yellow white or red in color depending upon the variety. It is covered with a brownish skin that may either be thick or thin depending upon whether the plant was harvested when it was mature or young. Ginger is indigenous to southern China spreading eventually to the Spice Islands other parts of Asia and subsequently to West Africa and the Caribbean. Ginger was exported to Europe via India in the first century AD as a result of the lucrative spice trade. India remains the largest producer of ginger.
Green Cardamom The Green Cardamom has a unique flavour and aroma that is either loved or hated. It is a compellingly strong yet delicate and sweet yet powerful combination that can bring any dish to life. The Green Cardamom is used in different ways by different cultures: in the Middle East it is used to flavour coffee while in Scandinavian communities as a dessert baking spice. In India it is a savoury spice for curry dishes. Elsewhere it is used for poached fish meat loaf fish stews and sweet potatoes and a host of other foods.
Nigella sativa Nigella sativa is an annual flowering plant in the family Ranunculaceae native to south and southwest Asia. It grows to 20–30 cm tall with finely divided leaves. The flowers are delicate and usually coloured pale blue and white with five to ten petals. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule composed of three to seven united follicles each containing numerous seeds. The seed is used as a spice sometimes as a replacement for original black cumin.
Nutmeg Nutmeg is one of the two spices the other being mace derived from several species of tree in the genus Myristica.The most important commercial species is Myristica fragrans an evergreen tree indigenous to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia. Nutmeg is the seed of the tree roughly egg-shaped and about 20 to 30 mm long and 15 to 18 mm wide. This is the only tropical fruit that is the source of two different spices. Several other commercial products are also produced from the trees including essential oils extracted oleoresins and nutmeg butter. A very versatile plant indeed.
Paprika Paprika is a spice made from the grinding of dried fruits of Capsicum annuum (e.g. bell peppers or chili peppers). In many European languages the word paprika also refers to bell peppers themselves. It is used as an ingredient in a broad variety of dishes throughout the world. It is principally used to season and color rices stews and soups such as goulash and in the preparation of sausages as an ingredient mixed with meats and other spices. In the United States paprika is frequently sprinkled on foods as a garnish but the flavor is more effectively produced by heating it gently in oil.
Saffron Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of the saffron crocus and has a deep auburn colour and sweet flavour. Its recorded history is attested in a 7th-century BC Assyrian botanical treatise compiled under Ashurbanipal and it has been traded and used for over four millennia. Iran now accounts for approximately 90% of the world production of saffron. Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. The stigmas can only be picked by hand and it takes 250000 stigmas to make just half a kilo of saffron hence its high price. Fortunately a little saffron goes a long way so use with care.
Star Anise Star Anise is a spice that closely resembles anise in flavor. It is widely used in Chinese and Indian cuisine where it is a major component of garam masala. It is widely grown for commercial use in China India and most other countries in Asia. Star anise is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking.
Tarragon Tarragon is often used in French cooking this herb has long soft green leaves and a distinctive aniseed flavour. Dried tarragon retains much of the flavour of fresh so it is fine to use if you can’t find fresh.
Turmeric Turmeric grows wild in the forests of Southeast Asia. Turmeric has a peppery warm and bitter flavour and a mild fragrance slightly reminiscent of orange and ginger it is best known as one of the ingredients used to make curry but has many other uses. Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and has a tough brown skin and a deep orange flesh. Turmeric has long been used as a powerful anti-inflammatory in both the Chinese and Indian systems of medicine. Turmeric has been used throughout history as a condiment healing remedy and textile dye. If you do not have this spice in your kitchen then you are not a cook.
White Mustard White mustard is an annual plant of the family Cruciferae. The plant is grown for its seeds mustard as fodder crop or as a green manure. It is now wide spread worldwide although it probably originated in the Mediterranean region.