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Spice, and all that's nice

Filed on August 27, 2020 | Last updated on August 31, 2020 at 03.35 pm
Pepper is known as the king of spices

Kerala is the spice garden of the world. Earlier, traders from far flung lands reached Kerala in search of the spices. Later, European powers followed this spice route to reach India

The spices of Kerala date back to thousands of years in the history of the state. In the ancient times, Kerala rose to fame all around the world solely on the basis of the riches brought into the state, because of its monopoly over spices.

Musiri, the ancient port of Kerala became the base of world spice trade, almost ages ago. It is sometimes said the Western colonisation in India, was the attempt of the West to control the spice trade from the state. The arrival of Vasco Da Gama in India and its spice trade was the result of the same.In the last 10 years, international spice trade has grown to around 500,000 tonnes of spices and also of herbs of over $1,500 million. It is no exaggeration that a major chunk of this trade is still from Kerala. Let's look at some of the most world-famous spices from Kerala.

Pepper: Pepper is known as the King of Spices because of its excellent medicinal value and popularity. It is also known as Black Gold. It is one of the earliest known spices.  It is the world's favourite spice.  It was the demand of pepper that finally led to colonial conquests, war and eventually suppression. Europeans came to know about pepper through Arab traders and when they discovered Kerala's huge potential in pepper they started their trade here. This spice is grown in both low lands and high ranges of the state. Widely used in food, soups, beverages, and medicines. Peppercorns are used as whole or ground and added to dishes or fries. Stimulates digestion, relieves constipation and improves blood circulation.

Cloves: Clove is yet another popular spice that is primarily cultivated in Kerala. Numerous types of oils are being produced by cloves and usually used in all meat dishes which enriches the flavour even more. Apart from its uses in dishes, it is usually being used in maintaining dental health also. Many toothpaste, soap and perfumes use cloves for its medicinal values. Apart from helping in maintaining dental health it also helps in improving liver health if taken on a regular basis. It also helps in maintaining the bone density. It can often be used as antioxidants. It can help in curing stomach ulcer as well.

Cardamom: The aroma and flavour of cardamom are very distinct from other spices, this distinct feature resulted in increasing the demand for cardamom. Due to its popularity, Europeans have started to use it and started cultivating it in their local areas. It is used as prime ingredients for the production of many breath fresheners also. Apart from Europe, African and Arabian people have also used it. It is called "Queen of Spices". It is having numerous health benefits like other spices have. Some of the health benefits are lowering blood pressure, it helps in protecting from chronic diseases as it helps in anti-inflammatory.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon is basically the inner bark of trees with the scientific name 'Cinnamomum'. It generally came up as rolls because it comes from trees. The compound you take in by consuming cinnamon has great health benefits. Cinnamon is also a natural food preservative as well as a brilliant antioxidant. Due to its anti-inflammatory benefits, it is very beneficial for repairing of body tissues and also help in fighting against many infections.

Ginger: The versatility of ginger is responsible for the popularity of ginger across the world. Kerala is also known for the high-quality production of ginger. It helps in increasing the fighting capacity of white blood cells of the body against any external infection or microbes. Ginger also adds a unique flavour in every dish. Nowadays, people are using ginger extensively in cake baking, biscuits, cookies and many more sweet dishes.

Turmeric: Turmeric is a very auspicious spice in ingredients. In almost every dish in India, turmeric enhances the taste as well as the dish's colour. Not only a spice, but it is also a natural antiseptic as well as a natural body cleanser. Thousands of years back, people would use turmeric to beautify Indian beauties. It is also a natural acid indicator that can help in determining the acidity of any substance. Sometimes, people use turmeric in ice cream, baked products, yoghurt, biscuits, orange juice, dairy products, etc. Turmeric is put in hot milk to make 'turmeric latte', which is very beneficial to increase the metabolism of the body.

Nutmeg: This is a mild spice growing primarily in Kerala and along with its use in spices, people use it in baking many desserts such as muffins, fruit pies, sweet bread, soups, cookie, puddings, etc. That is because of its distinct flavour and aroma. Many essential oils come from nutmeg which acts as industrial lubricants. If you consume nutmeg in large quantity, it can result in hallucination and can ultimately lead to death. During pregnancy, you can take it only in a small amount because in large amounts it can affect the foetus as well as the mother.

Tamarind: Tamarind is basically a fruit having edible pulp. It grows in Asia and North Africa. These trees generally grow in tropical areas and Kerala is famous for its tropical weather. In South India, people use tamarind in sambhar. Due to its sweet and sour taste, it has become a flavouring agent in many Indian chutneys, pickles, curries and some summer drinks.

Star Anise: Star anise is in the shape of a star. It is a product of pericarp of fruit, which they remove just before the ripening of fruit. Many use it in biryani for adding an aromatic flavour. They also use it in mouthwashes, soaps, toothpaste and skin creams. Along with its use in many culinary dishes, it helps in solving many health issues such as constipation. It is a blood builder, and can help you get restful sleep. It has anti-fungal properties and can also act as a mosquito repellent.

Curry Leaves: It's a herb but it is also an excellent spice that grows in the lands of Kerala. South Indians add it in almost every dish such as lemon rice, sambhar, different types of chutneys and rasam as well. People generally grow curry leaves in a small area in the home. It then enriches the whole dish by its alluring fragrance.

Cambodge: It is a very sour tasting fruit that becomes a spice after a very long procedure of processing, drying, and cleaning. It is generally termed as "Malabar tamarind". This tree grows only in coastal areas. The fruit of Cambodge when dry, takes a shape of a ring. It is a great flavour for fish curries or meat curries. People use it in Ayurveda as well. Cambodge is an antioxidant and a great catalyst which help in weight loss. It helps in easy digestion after a heavy lunch and it can cure severe ulcer if you take it regularly.

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