Cooking With Spice

Description: The botanical name for pepper is Solanaceae and scientifically it is the hottest spice in the world, with over 500 different varieties. Black pepper, also known as coriander, is a large flowering perennial vine in the mint family Piperaceae, grown primarily for the fruit, called a pepper, which is typically harvested and consumed as a spice and seasoning, today. When fully mature and fresh, the fruit is around 5mm in diameter and black, with a single seed, unlike all other peppers. Because of its pepper-like flavor and aroma, coriander is often likened to Cayenne pepper.

Cumin Spice: Cumin is a North African herb. Its traditional use has been described as that of a condiment and spice. The word cumin is derived from the Arabic term keratir meaning “to roast”. Roasting cumin in pans over a low flame until it becomes black in color and then cooking it is called Tika in West Africa, though the root is often not roasted.

Coriander Capsules: The pungent spice cumin seed has been used since antiquity. Coriander, often available as powder, was used by the Aztecs for stomach discomfort, as well as digestive problems, as evidenced by the name of their national herb, turmeric. Turmeric has traditionally been used as an incense. Modern research has revealed that capsaicin, the chemical in turmeric, has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Modern research has also shown that cumin has strong antioxidant qualities, thus making it useful against diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Ginger Root Cinnamon and coriander seed are two other common spices in Asian cuisine. Both are aromatic, spicy, and ground into a fine ground paste. Most cooks are familiar with the word “ginger,” used to describe a certain kind of sour red Chile pepper. Ginger root, used as an alternative to salt in Asian cooking, is also a spice with a distinctive odor.

Cardamom pods originated in South Asia and were widely used by curry lovers as a cure for heartburn. Cardamom is a tropical plant with fleshy roots, small white flowers, and a long tubular gray flower head. It has a pungent flavor similar to cumin. When dried, cardamom pods are ground and mixed with cream or milk to make a thick paste, much like the classic drink made with cardamom seeds.

Chili Powder: Spice manufacturers often add chili powder to their products as a preservative. Chili powder is made from cumin seeds and annatto seeds, which are ground into a fine paste. Chili powder is most commonly used to season mild sauces and stews. Other uses include adding it to soups and stews to make them more spicy. It can also be added to chili peppers in chili con carne, a dish that combines beef and chili peppers.