Spices: Where did they come from?
The supermarket shelves, you might say. It is true that it is now easier than ever to get your hands on great herbs and spices from around the world. But some of the origins of popular food enhancers have a varied history as rich as the flavour they impart.
Some of the stories behind the most popular spices may be surprising to many, let’s take a look…
You can find it on every table across the UK and around the world alongside the salt, pepper has become one of the most popular spices used in dishes from the cold north of Scandinavia to the depths of India and east across Asia. We can trace the use of pepper all the way back to ancient China where they used it for medicine; after all, anyone who has eaten too much pepper before can attest to the fact that it can really make you sweat. For this reason the Chinese used it to treat malaria, cholera and even dysentery.
During the spice trade, pepper become so popular and so valuable that it was even used as a form of currency in certain parts of the world. In parts of Europe you could even use pepper to pay rent and even taxes!
Ginger, for a long, long time, was considered a luxury that few could afford. Many famous names throughout history are associated with ginger; Queen Elizabeth was a ginger enthusiast who may or may not have created the gingerbread man; Marco Polo may or may not have brought back pasta from his trip to china, but he did bring back ginger.
Just like pepper, cinnamon was first used as medicine by medieval physicians, treating coughs, hoarseness and sore throats which are all ailments that people still use cinnamon based home remedies to soothe.
From a medicine it also became a valued preservative for meat due to the phenols which inhibit the bacteria responsible for spoilage.
Cinnamon has been a global phenomenon for millennia, but we can trace its origins to Ceylon, a secluded island of Sri Lanka. Cinnamon has been used by everyone from ancient Egyptians in embalming, to The Romans who recorded that cinnamon is worth fifteen times its weight in silver.
Today you can find great spices at affordable prices, and here at Royal Nawaab restaurant in London we use the finest spices in all of our dishes to create the best flavours for all our guests.