Spices have panache. They have a degree of sophistication associated with their exotic nature. They have been used for thousands of years in many ways. The ancient Egyptians needed a blend for their process of mummification.
They come from hot countries which are difficult to get to. Bringing them to market in medieval Europe meant they carried a premium and had a cachet of being for the rich only.
Spices have long had an association with luxury. 90% of the world’s saffron came from Iran for example, and when it took months to get there and back, saffron was in short supply and very expensive. To this day it is sold in very small amounts and even at a retail value can cost as much as $5,000 per pound.
South America and wider production
Not all production is from the east though. Vanilla initially started life in Mexico, although today the bulk of growth comes from Madagascar. Incidentally, vanilla extract can be at least 35% alcohol.
Spice comes of age
Greater production and easier accessibility mean spices are no longer the preserve of the rich and famous. Now specialist companies are coming into existence like spice companies in Florida who see their role as both a provider and educator.
These specialist companies eschew the spices on the supermarket shelf which have been there for years. Their job is to bring the spice in full flavor directly to the consumer. If you have ever used fresh ginger in cooking instead of the dried powder you will know exactly what I am talking about.
Besides their gift of flavor, spices have been used in medicine for as long as we have eaten them. They are the gift that keeps on giving.