Spice Journey

Ginger stands out as a spice due to its impressive versatility, poignantly biting flavor, and numerous health benefits. Nothing is quite like it, and we would be remiss not to at least scratch the surface of this spicy root. 

Oregano is another member of the mint family, just like Basil, the herb we explored last time. Though it’s native to the Mediterranean region, it is commonly found in other temperate climates in the Northern Hemisphere. Dried oregano is most popular since it will not wilt and its flavor is more intense than when it’s fresh. You will find it beneficial to have in your kitchen as it pairs well with other members of the mint family: basil, lavender, mint, marjoram, and many more. That makes it a staple! 
Earlier, we went to the Levant region to learn about thyme. Now, we can circle back to Italy, where basil is a principle herb in cooking. Basil and thyme are actually both part of the mint family, along with rosemary, sage, and lavender. That’s why you’ll often find them together in the same recipes. But particularly, Ocimum basilicum, has a fascinating past and a delicious present that can be used to improve your future cooking.

I enjoyed our walk along the Mediterranean to see some rosemary shrubs. If we walk away from the beach and go a little more inland, towards the Levant region east of the Mediterranean, it has bountiful amounts of thyme. This is another aromatic perennial evergreen herb that comes from the mint family. Thymus vulgaris is the kind that is generally used in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes. There are many varieties you can use and it’s a great herb to get familiar with.

For this spice journey, I want to bring you on a walk along the Mediterranean coast. Near the coastline, where you can feel the salty spray of the sea and smell the fragrant shrubs and plants growing. Salvia rosmarinus grows along this coastline and is a very popular herb. Despite it being an herb, my sensors indicate it is a good culinary ingredient to report on due to its distinctive flavor. It has a very pleasing aroma and is popular for its aesthetics and medicinal properties as well as its extensive usage in cooking.

This spice is another all-time favorite among humans. While a lot of spices are used to heat up or add a complex, savory taste to their dishes, this spice is most often seen in desserts. Cinnamon is often paired with sugar to create delicious cookies, pies, ciders, and other baked goods. While it can also be used in savory dishes, it is most often used in sweets. It has had an illustrious reputation since antiquity and continues to be widely used today.

For my next spice exploration, I chose to dive deeper into a more controversial plant. Corriander comes from the Coriandrum sativum plant. The spice comes from the dried seeds of the plant while the leaves go by a different name: cilantro. My receptors have picked up a lot of buzz about the differing opinions of this plant.

For the next spice on my list, I’ll be taking a trip back to India and the Middle East to explore the origins and characteristics of cumin. Cumin is another warm and earthy spice that comes from the seeds of Cuminum cyminum. It is sold both ground and as whole seeds.

After exploring the bold flavors and bright coloring associated with paprika and saffron, now would be an optimal time to introduce a more subtle but versatile spice. For the first time, we’ll travel to the islands of Indonesia. In this stunning, tropical archipelago, the Myristica fragrans grows. This dark evergreen tree produces a seed that is ground into nutmeg.

For this spice journey, we will take a brief stop in Mexico and examine one of its native plants, the Capsicum annuum. The thin maroon-colored peppers hanging from the shrub are dried and ground into the spice you know as paprika. This spice can be mild, hot, or smoky depending on the way it is processed. Though indigenous to Central Mexico, the spice migrated to Hungary and became central to this country’s cuisine, as well.

For this spice journey, I invite you to the semi-arid valleys of Iran, into a field of lilac and mauve-colored flowers basking in the sun. Beautiful, isn’t it? If you look closely at this flower, the Crocus sativus, you’ll see three brilliant red stigmata. These stigmata are hand-picked and dried to be sold as the most expensive spice in the world, saffron. This valuable spice has an interesting flavor and brilliant color that has afforded it a long history and an irreplaceable spot in cuisine around the world.

For this spice journey, I invite you to set down the black pepper shaker and step outside your kitchen to where turmeric originally came from, India. Turmeric is ground from the root of the flowering plant, Curcuma longa, which belongs to the ginger family. Turmeric is known for its earthy flavor, radiant color, and healthful properties. It has also been given special attention by nutritionists, physicians, and foodies alike given its recent rise to superfood stardom. Let’s explore the roots of this root!

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