Sunday, 24 March 2019

A Go-Through of Indian Spices & Trade

When one thinks of Indian food, it is the spices that stand out as one of the most distinctive features & infinite variations available from varying the spices bring incredible variety to the Indian cuisine.
Many spices have originated in India, sourcing different varieties of spices.  It was both difficult and risky for India as it was embarking its spices on long and difficult sea voyages - as well as withstanding intense competition from other powerful empires eager to dominate spice trade.
Susruta, was an ancient Indian physician known as the main author of the treatise The Compendium of SuĊ›ruta (around 4th century BC) used white mustard and other aromatic plants in bed sheets to ward off malignant spirits & also applied a poultice from sesame to post operation wounds which may have acted as an antiseptic those days.  Spices are used & cultivated throughout India, but each region has its own characteristic spices and spice mixtures that define its cuisine. Spices like cardamom and turmeric were cultivated as early as the 8th century BC in the gardens of Babylon (Sinha, 2003; Tapsell, 2006). Spices such as cardamom, ginger, black pepper, cumin, and mustard seed were included in ancient herbal medicines for health benefits. In Ayurveda medicine, cloves and cardamom were wrapped in betel-nut leaves and chewed after meals to increase the flow of saliva and aid digestion.

Indian Spices epic tales

Spices have been a key component of India's external trade with outlands of Mesopotamia, China, Sumeria, Egypt and Arabia , along with perfumes and textiles - as far back as 7000 years ago - much before the Greek and the Roman civilizations came into play.
The clove itself finds a mention in the Ramayana - as well as in the writings dating back to the Roman Empire in the 1stcentury AD. Caravans of camels(a series of camels carrying passengers and/or goods) moved regularly from Calicut, Goa and the Orient in ancient times to transport these spices to distant destinations such as Carthage, Alexandria and Rome & many more.Writings and stone age carvings from early neolithic age obtained indicates that India's southwest coastal port Muziris, located in Kerala, had established itself as a major spice trade center from as early as 3000 BC, which has marked the beginning of the spice trade. Kerala, which is referred to as the land of spices or as the "Spice Garden of India", was the place traders and explorers wanted to reach at any cost, including Christopher Columbus, Vasco DA Gama, and many more. The world of Greece-Roman followed trading along the Incense route and the Roman-India routes. Ethiopians used to  have a complete control over the sea routes to Sri-Lanka (the Roman – Taprobane) and India during the first millennium, who became the maritime trading power of the Red Sea and the Indians. While these spices are readily available today at your doorstep, there was a time when people literally  risked their lives just to gain access to Indian spices. From the Indian perspective, it brought in both traders and invaders alike - century after century.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Spices-From the beginning

What is a spice? A spice can be a seed, fruit, root, bark, or any plant substance which can be primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Spices can be distinguished from herbs, which are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants used for flavoring or as a garnish to the food.
So where did it all began? Spices have been closely connected to magic, cultural traditions, preservation, medicine and embalming since early human history & Archaeologists have also estimated that from as far back as 50,000 B.C. humans have used the special qualities of aromatic plants to help flavor their food. The primitive human would have utilized the sweet-smelling spices in order to make food taste more better. They would have offered all  aromatic herbs to their primitive gods and used the spices for healing properties. From that moment on, spices played an very important & crucial role in human existence. .The spice trade was developed throughout South Asia and Middle East by at earliest 2000 BCE with cinnamon and black pepper, and in the East Asia with herbs and pepper. The Egyptians used herbs for mummification and their demand for exotic spices and herbs helped to stimulate the world trade of spices. The word spice comes from French word "espice", which became "epice", and which came from the Latin root spec, the noun referring to "appearance, sort, kind": species has the same root. By 1000 BCE, medical systems which were based upon herbs could be found in China, Korea, and India. Spices have been traded since historical civilizations in Asia, Northeast Africa and Europe. Spices such as cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, pepper, and turmeric were well-known and used in antiquity for commerce in the Eastern World. Spices found their way into the Middle East before the beginning of the Christian era, where the true sources of  spices were withheld by the traders and associated with fantastic tales.

A Go-Through of Indian Spices & Trade

When one thinks of Indian food, it is the spices that stand out as one of the most distinctive features & infinite variations available...