Do you know the difference between A Herb and A Spice?
With a single dash of herbs & spices, these natural and aromatic flavour enhancers you could satisfy your palate and, at the same time, add remarkable nutritious value to your dishes.
What are spices?
Many people often use the words herbs and spices interchangeably. This is because they do not exactly know what are spices and how to differentiate them from herbs. Both the herbs and spices originate from a tree or plant. But there is a prime difference that separates one from the other. Spices usually belong to the barks, buds, fruit, seeds, stems or roots of the plant. They are utilized primarily to give unique flavours and aromatic properties to your food. Most spices are used in dried form and are stored in air-tight containers to prevent heat and air from affecting their strength and potency.
On the other hand, Herbs are primarily derived from the leafy parts of the plant, and they can be used both in fresh or dried form. Like spices, dried herbs impart a solid flavour to your food as they are more concentrated.
History of spices
Now that you already know what are spices let us take you back in time to introduce you to the remarkable history of spices that is almost as old as human civilization. These spices have been part and parcel of our lives since human beings have started cooking. And more importantly, spices used to be one of the essential trade items back when the communities first started to exchange valuable goods with the neighbouring communities. The spices, which were at one point considered to be one of the most expensive items and were a cause of great fortune for the ones who used to grow, harvest and sell them, are now seemingly affordable whatsoever.
The origin of spices (Early History)
The history of spices and their use to treat various health problems during the primitive age have been documented for a long time. Early documentations suggest that human beings of ancient times must have used the leaves to warp and cook meat. From there, they must have found that wrapping meat in leaves of certain plants adds flavour to it. These people gradually learned to use herbs and spices to get rid of the unpleasant odours of food and keep it fresh.
- Middle Ages
The origin of spices leads us to its importance during the middle ages. During that time, many around the world recognized the importance of spices. In Europe, they were deemed as valuable as gems and gold to the point where the spices were also a strong force to drive the world's economy. Many nations tried to control the spice trade, which led to the colonization of Asian lands and the Indian sub-continent. Due to the lack of refrigeration, spices were used to preserve the food. Moreover, Egyptians also used to embalm their dead ones using various spices.
Modern usage of Spice
Modern practices of the usage of spices have been derived from the traditional methods adopted by people of the older generations, including using spices as colouring agents, preservatives, flavouring agents, medicine and food additives. In addition to the sole purpose of spices to make our food more flavourful and aromatic, spices and herbs have earned an excellent reputation in the field of medicine as well.
Where does saffron come from?
Let us dig deep into the world of the renowned Spice, Saffron and know where does saffron come from and what is its importance. Saffron is a valuable spice obtained by diligently separating the delicate vivid crimson Saffron threads from the flowers of Crocus sativus, commonly known as "saffron crocus."
Although researchers are still dubious about its origin, some believe that this Spice was first cultivated and originated in Greece, while others say that the Spice has a Persian (Iran) heritage. Today, in addition to Iran and Greece, the Spice is native to Morocco and India. In today's Saffron market, most of the saffron that is found throughout the world, particularly in the United States, is imported from the above mentioned prime saffron producing countries.
Saffron is deemed important as it possesses an excessive variety of necessary plant compounds that contain antioxidants. These compounds can prevent cell oxidation (a process that neutralizes free radicals that can damage the cells in our body). In addition, the Crocin and crocetin present in saffron have remarkable antidepressant properties and can protect brain cells, aid weight loss by reducing appetite and improve inflammation.
What are the benefits of spicy food?
You might have heard that you should not add spices as they are not a healthy addition to your food. However, the reality is entirely contrary to this. For example, most of us use chilli pepper to add the perfect amount of Spice even to our blandest dishes but what we do not know is that these fiery little veggies can be highly beneficial to our health. Some of the wide-ranging benefits of spicy food are also listed below.
- A compound called capsaicin may help to boost your metabolism, thus enabling you to lose weight quickly and burn unnecessary fat.
- Capsaicin may also work as an endorphin produced by the body that helps make you feel better by boosting pleasure, thus alleviating depression or stress.
- Research from the University of Vermont says that people who like to eat spicy food are less likely to die of cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, chilli peppers may help reduce the damaging effect of bad cholesterol in the human body.
- In addition to all these benefits of spicy food, capsaicin also works as a powerful antioxidant and may improve cell health.