India finds its unity in its diversity and all this diversity brings alot of different people, cultures, heritage and flavorful foods together. Our taste palates are developed so well since a very young age due to the amazing kind of food we have. These lip-smacking flavors come from the amazing spices that our country has to offer.
Today it is so easy to sprinkle a little pepper over your salad or add cinnamon to make cinnamon rolls but once these spices were used to pay rent.
In ancient India, silk route was the only way to trade spices and was very restrictive and more monopolized. Spice trade was subject to constant robberies, storms and shipwrecks, and piracy. Despite the setbacks, however, spices were in such great demand that the profits outweighed the risks. Pepper, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg were such a hot commodity five centuries ago that they drove nations to sail across vast oceans. These spices tipped the balance of the world by not just making merchants rich but also established vast empires.
Christopher Columbus was funded by Kings and Queens of Europe to search a quicker route to India to explore the spice trade but ended up in America. In the so called “Age of Discovery” 1498, Vasco da Gama landed in Calicut. He was the first European to link Europe and India by ocean route. His discovery of India marked the beginning of Portuguese dominion over Indian spice trade. Over 16th century, half of Indian state revenue came from West African gold and Indian pepper while the proportion of pepper greatly outweighed the gold. Later Dutch overcame the Portuguese and England overthrew both being a great power at sea. In 1600, the British East India Company was chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, and its major objective was obtaining spice cargoes. The British rule that lasted over 200 years was the darkest period of Indian history. While they exploited alot of our resources, one of the significant things they took were our spices namely black pepper, turmeric, cumin, coriander and cinnamon.
In Ancient India, Ayurveda was the way of life and sages knew about the medicinal properties of these spices and used them in ayurvedic medicines and remedies to cure many diseases and illness and even in the modern times, we still use these spices as home remedies for treating cold, cough and other ailments.
So let’s know more about our spices which India is popular world over.
Pepper originated in Kerala and is now used world over. It was the most expensive spice and was used as currency. Despite its spicyness, black pepper’s unique flavor is loved by all. Be it any cuisine, you will always find a dash of black pepper in it. It has a powerful high flavor note that no other spice can replicate. It is a great antioxidant.
Turmeric is known as the golden spice and is a core part of Ayurveda. Ayurveda recommends it over any other medicines to cure ailments. A golden latte made with milk and turmeric is a go-to at every home from older generation to the the new. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
India is one of the largest producers of cumin. Today we produce around 70% of the world supply. It has an amazing flavor and any food tempering is incomplete without it. It is an antioxidant and an antiseptic.
These are the seeds of the cilantro plant also known as coriander leaves. Its one of the main spices in the south India and used in coconut curries and other dishes. The concept of using powdered coriander seeds stemmed in India. It has anti-inflammatory properties.
The British East India Company established the Anjarakandy Cinnamon Estate in Kerala, which currently is Asia’s largest cinnamon estate. They were so fond of it that they took this spice to flavor up their cakes and breads. After Independence, the spice found its way to Europe, where it is used widely in hot chocolate and to make dishes like cinnamon rolls. It has antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties.
These are just 5 of the many spices that India has to offer. With their rich and unique taste, these spices have made India and Indian food popular world over. Chicken Tikka is now a very popular dish served in United States and other parts of the world and thanks to these spices our cuisine is being loved and favored world over.