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Spices: Definition, History, Uses, And Ways Of Storage


Spices are flavored or strong-tasting sides of plants that are used in small amounts in food as preservatives or flavors in cooking. Spices are generally distinguished from other plants used for similar purposes, such as medicinal plants, flavored vegetables, and dried fruits.

Spices as the most valuable merchandise of the precolonial era. Many spices used to be used in healing, but are now shrinking.

Spices are the argument for why Portuguese tracker Vasco Da Gama reached India and the Moluccas in Indonesia. This spice also caused the Dutch to continue to the Moluccas, in that time, the Spaniards under the leadership of Magellan had first looked for a way to the East via another road, namely through the Pacific ocean and in the end landed on the island of Luzon, Philippines.

Many of the most important spice producing regions in the world are India, Zanzibar, and the Maluku Islands. But generally countries in the world import spices from India because India is the largest spice center in the world.

The initial history of spices

The spice trade in the Indian subcontinent began at least in 2000 Bc by trading cinnamon and black pepper, while East Asians traded herbs and pepper. The practice of mummification and other necessities of the Ancient Egyptians stirred up interstate trade. Until 1000 BC, herb-based clinical healing began to be used in China, Korea, and India. In addition, the spice prefix is used for the needs of rites, religions, and customs.

Cloves had been worn by the Mesopotamians in 1700 BC. The Ancient Romans wore cloves in the first era AD, indicated by the writings of Old Pilinius about the spice. The Ebers Papyrus is dated to 1550 BC. from Ancient Egypt describes eight hundred clinical healing processes using herbs.

Traders from Indonesia traded spices, including nutmeg, to China, India, the Middle East, to the east coast of Africa, while Arab traders brought spices from the east to Europe to be traded. This resulted in the City of Alexandria (Alexandria) in Egypt becoming a necessary dock city in the world spice trade at that time. It was found that monsoon winds caused the trade route to move from the previous one by land to the sea lane.

Middle Era

Spices were one of the most expensive and preferred products of the Middle Ages, with common commodities being black pepper, cinnamon (and its alternative, cassia), white cumin, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. Related to specific theories in the middle-era clinical world, humoralism, spices and herbs are seen as important in equating "comedy" to food. In addition to being used in middle-age medicine, the European elite favored spices. One of them for example was the King of Aragon who overflowed some resources to bring spices to Spain in the twelfth era. He was not one of the European monarchies looking for spices with a direction to be added to wine.

Read more: 10 Indian Spices That Make the Tongue Shake

The majority of spices are imported from Asia and Africa until the price is quite expensive. From the eighth to the 15th era, the Republic of Venice established a monopoly on the spice trade with the Middle East,[10] alongside the maritime republic and several other cities in Italy. The trade made the venetian area and its surroundings rich. It is predicted that about 1,000 tons of pepper and another 1,000 tons of spices were imported towards Western Europe throughout the Late Middle Era. This commodity has the same value as some grains for 1.five million people. The most limited spice at that time was saffron which was used as a flavoring and a yellowish-red material for food.


The special role of spices is as a food flavoring. Spices are used as raw materials for cosmetic fragrant oil and incense. Since its inception, spices have become one of the main points in clinical healing. Its expensive, very rare, and exotic character is often associated as a symbol of wealth and social class.

Food color ingredients

In addition to giving fragrance, taste, and structure to food, spices act as natural dyes that do not have an effect on humans. Some spices that have a role as natural color ingredients are saffron flowers, peppers, turmeric, and rivet. In saffron flowers there is an active compound content, namely crocin and crocetin which can produce a natural yellow-orange color. The yellow-orange color is made from turmeric which contains curcuminoid color pigments with curcumin compounds. Rivets can give a brick-red color because the seeds contain color pigments, namely bixin compounds. In America, peppers are used as ingredients for food colors, such as orange juice, cheese, sauce, to egg yolks. However, the use of saffron as a dye is really limited because of the high price of the spice. Until in a number of countries exchange the use of saffron for safflower flowers as a dye.

Food preservation claims

There is a well-known claim that spices can be used to preserve food or hide the taste of rotten meat. This claim dates back to the early 1500s, when there was no technology for ice cupboards to preserve food. In a number of countries such as Greece, they use garlic to resist rottenness in food. Likewise in India, it uses ginger, garlic, turmeric and cloves to preserve meat and fish. The mummification process in ancient Egypt used spices such as srilangka cinnamon, white bottom, and sarui cumin.

In fact, spices are less efficient enough to preserve food, compared to salting, acidifying, fumigating, and drying, and are inefficient in hiding the taste of stale meat. In addition, the price of spices is expensive. In the 15th era in Oxford, the price of one pig was equal to 1 pound of pepper, the cheapest spice at that time. Michael Krondl in his book writes that "old cookbooks clearly show that spices are not used as preservatives. Some of those books generally recommend adding spices at the end of the cooking process, which are not intended as preservatives." In the 16th era, Cristoforo di Messisbugo saw the addition of pepper as being able to speed up the decay.

However, the use of spices as food preservatives is more efficient when combined with other types of spices. This is because the various microorganisms in each food make not all bacteria fit 1 type of spice.

Barriers to bacterial development

Spices act as natural antimicrobial substances that can suppress the development of bacteria. In initial research, it was found that garlic solution can challenge bacteria such as Escherichia Coli, Salmonella, Aeromonas hydrophila. This applies to ginger concentrate which can kill Escherichia Coli bacteria. In addition, spices such as cloves, oregano, thyme leaves, cinnamon, and cumin can block the development of several kinds of bacteria. Starting from rotten bacteria in food such as Bacillus subtilis and Pseudomonas fluorescens, disease-triggering bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus, to disease-triggering saprophytic fungi in plants such as Aspergillus flavu. The strength of each type of spice is different in suppressing the development of bacteria, because some kinds of spices are only able to work on certain bacteria. In research that has been carried out by the Cornell Campus, it was found that only garlic, oregano and onions can kill all bacteria, and thyme leaves, cinnamon, tarragon and cumin can only kill 80% of bacteria, chilies are only 75%, and for black and white pepper, ginger, anise and celery only up to 25%. Therefore, the use of spices as antimicrobial substances is even more efficient when combined between the two.

Read more: 20 Types of Indonesian Spices, Make Your Cooking Delicious


Spices can be used by the body to challenge free radicals and cancer. In spices there are compounds that can act as anti-oxidants, such as rosmanol content in rosemari and sage, polyphenols in ginger, eugenol in cloves and so on. That content can slow down the oxidation process and make cell protection from exposure to free radiation. In initial research, it was found that the use of fundamental oils with rosemari-based ingredients was able to clean free radicals on the body and had a therapeutic impact. There are several kinds of spices that have high anti-oxidant compounds, namely sage, rosemari, oregano, coriander, thyme and marjoram.

Hatching and storage

The simplest tool for processing spices is to tear and knead. Nowadays, there are more energy-efficient tools, namely a steamer (for small quantities) or a grinder (for large scale). Some spices can be ground by hand using the contribution of a special grinding tool. But to optimally remove the taste character of each spice, therefore the same control measures are needed accordingly, such as cut, grilled, cooked, baked and so on. As in european and North American cultures, they process cinnamon and coriander by boiling to bring out the characteristic taste of this spice. In contrast to Indian culture, they use other techniques to bring out the taste of each spice. Such as processing mustard seeds with a tempering system, where processing with cooking oil is heated until it is completely hot and then the mustard seeds are augmented and cooked. There is also a sautéed technique to take care of jalapeno. The inequality of the processing system is based on the inequality of the character of each spice. Because not all spices can be processed at high temperatures, there are also those that need to be added when feeding food, such as sesame seeds.

The taste of some spices comes from compounds (essential oils) that oxidize or evaporate when attacked by air. Ground spices can increase their upper surface area to increase the movement of oxidation and evaporation. That way, the taste of the spices is optimized by storing the spices intact and then grinding when it will be needed. Whole dried spices can be placed for approximately 2 years, while spices in the form of powder and some grains can last approximately 6 months. In addition, it can get stale faster, the taste of powdered spices is less durable.

Spices should be placed in a closed place, free from sunlight and high temperatures. This has the purpose that the taste and fragrance of spices do not disappear as a result due to the high temperature and radiance of sunlight. In addition, too low temperatures spur a shift in the character of spices, such as color, fragrance, and taste. Too low humidity can spur the emergence of bacteria in spices. Therefore, the best temperature for storing spices is between 10°C to 15°C with a relative humidity of around 55% to 60%.

Some flavor components of spices are easily dissolved in water, while some other flavor components are easily dissolved in oil or fat. Usually, spices take time for the taste to absorb into the food until they have to be augmented during the initial processing process. This is in contrast to the herbs that are added at the end of the process.

Salmonella Contamination

A study conducted by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the transportation of spices to the United States in the 2007-2009 tax year found that about 7% of transportation was contaminated by Salmonella bacteria, some of which were resistant to antibiotics. [38] Polluted spices that are processed before consumption do not cause problems. Even so, some spices, such as pepper, are not processed and can give rise to diseases. Spices shipped from Mexico and India are often found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

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Spices usually have a strong taste and are only used in small amounts to provide only a small amount of nutrients, although some spices in the form of some grains have a lot of fat, protein, and carbohydrate content with a large division. If used in large quantities, spices can provide several other minerals and micronutrients, such as iron, magnesium, calcium, and so on. For example, a teaspoon of paprika contains about 1130 IU of Vitamin A, about 20% of the daily content recommended by the FDA.

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