Since the beginning of written history, spices and herbs are often sought after for medicinal and culinary purposes. Spices are typically dried fruit parts of a plant. They could also be seed or kernel. Other spices are dried bark and roots of a plant. On the other hand, herbs are usually associated with dried plant leaves. Many spices come from distant places like South Asia, South East Asia and the Caribbean. Centuries ago, these rare spices brought huge fortunes. In reality, there are dozens of other rare spices that are not widely available to people.
- Saffron: It’s among the most expensive spices in the world. It’s essentially the stigma section of crocus sativus plant, or blue flowering crocus. The stigma of saffron must be handpicked. To make 1 gram of usable saffron, it takes about 400 of stigmas. That’s the reason why saffron can be quite expensive. However, just a small amount of saffron could impart beautiful flavour and color to your food. Saffron is often used in seafood dishes, sauces and rice.
- Grains of Paradise: Also known as Guinea grains or Melegueta pepper, it is taken from the Amomum melegueta tree, which is native to Western Africa. The plant is related to cardamom and ginger. It’s used as substitute to pepper. This spice is often used in various African and Caribbean cooking.
- Sumac: Sumac is dried berries of the Sicilian Sumac or Rhus coriaria. There are various Sumac plant varieties and some of them are poisonous. When pulverized, dried Sumac berries can be used as the souring agent. With its lemony flavour, sumac should complement red meat and fish nicely. This spice is quite common in various Southern Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and North African cuisines.
- Amchur powder: This spice is made from sliced and sun dried unripe mangos. It’s pulverized into a fine powder. In north Indian area, amchur powder is often used as a souring agent.
- Ajwain: It is taken from the Bishop weed with flavour nearly similar to caraway seeds or thyme, but somewhat stronger. Before used, Ajwain is usually fried in ghee oil or dry roasted. The plant is included in the Apiacead family, along with cumin and coriander. Ajwain is quite common in Pakistani and Indian cuisines.
- Machalepi: It’s taken from St. Lucie Cherry plant or Cerasus mahaleb, which is a relative to common rose. This spice gives cherry and rose accents to our dishes. It’s used in Greek and various other Mediterranean cuisines, for baking and desserts.
- Anardana: It’s the dried seed of wild pomegranate plants with slightly fruity and sour flavour. It’s a good seasoning for venison and seafood. You can use anardana to make chutney as well.
- Juniper berries: These berries are taken from the small juniper shrub, which is quite common in the Northern hemisphere. It may take three years for juniper berries to mature on true and turn blue. In European cuisines, juniper berries are praised for their sweet accent and aromatic flavour.