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| Last Updated:: 25/06/2014

Spices

 

Black Pepper

 

Scientific Name: Piper nigrum L.

Family: Piperaceae

           Black Pepper usually is a part of most kitchen gardens of Kerala. Kerala produces the finest in pepper from India. Here pepper is generally grown as a mixed crop. In the hill district of Wayanad in Kerala, black pepper is grown in coffee plantations and cultivated on a large scale. In Kerala, black pepper thrives due to a combination of natural advantages, yielding aromatic and flavor-full berries. Two of the varieties of Indian black pepper that are of great demand in the international market are the Malabar Garbled and the Tellichery Extra Bold. Important varieties include Panniyur-1, Karimunda, Kuthiravally, Arakkulam Munda, Balankotta and Kalluvally.

 

 

Cinnamon

 

Scientific Name: Cinnamomum zeylanicum 

Family: Lauraceae 

            Historical records cite that the spice trade Kerala had with Babylon and Egypt were centuries old. Some 2000 years back, among the spices that crossed the seas; Cinnamon from Kerala was used in embalming the dead bodies of the Pharaohs and in the manufacture of perfumes and holy oils. Cinnamon from Kerala first found its way to the Middle-East through the Arabs. Cinnamon is a stimulant, astringent and carminative, used as an antidote for diarrhoea and other problems of the digestive system . It has astringent; stimulant and carminative properties and can check nausea and vomiting. It is also found to help diabetics in digestion of sugar.

 

 

Cardamom

 

Scientific Name: Elettaria cardamomum (L.) 

Family: Zingiberaceae

            If pepper and cinnamon attracted seafarers in hordes at one stage in the history of Kerala, the cardamom of Malabar too caught their attention and through them the rest of the world. Cardamom from Kerala is still a much sought after commodity in the West. Rightly called as the 'Queen of Spices' cardamom is one of the most exotic and highly prized spices. It flourishes well on the cool, shaded slopes of the Western Ghats in Kerala. Warm humid climate, loamy soil rich in organic matter, reasonable amount of rainfall all contribute to the production of high quality cardamom in Kerala. Apart from its medicinal qualities, cardamom has a pleasing flavour and aroma that makes it a chief condiment for tea, cool drinks, confectionaries and sweetmeats, vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. India is the world's largest producer of cardamom and Kerala contributes the lion's share. The aroma is stimulant enough to make it popular as a tonic-essence and aphrodisiac down the ages. Arabs use the seeds as an aphrodisiac. Like cloves, cardamoms are popular as a remedy for bad breath. Some cultures use the essence as perfume. Cardamom is a common folk remedy for indigestion in many cultures. It is also popular as a preventive for flatulence and colic. In fact, even many allopathic remedies for indigestion and flatulence use the essential oils as a flavour base. In India, many traditional weight-loss pills have cardamom seeds as an active principle.

 

 

Clove

 

Scientific Name:  Eugenia caryophyllata

Family: Myrtaceae

          A common spice of Kerala, clove is the dried floral buds of Eugenia caryophyllata. Locally it is known as grambu or karayambu. Clove is one of the key ingredients of garam masala (spices in varying proportions, roasted and powdered and used for cooking). Traditionally garam masala is prepared and preserved at home. But, nowadays, it is available in ready-to-use powder form. In addition to being a flavouring agent clove has medicinal value too. Clove oil is used as a balm for tooth ache and its oil is effective in the treatment of acidity and indigestion. Clove is propagated through seed obtained from ripened fruit, known, popularly as 'mother of clove'. Fruits are taken from trees with more then 15 years of age and regular yielding nature. The ripened seeds has to drop down naturally.

 

 

Ginger

 

Scientific Name:  Zingiber officinale 

Family: Zingiberaceae 

            Ginger root is used extensively as a spice in many if not most cuisines of the world. The active constituent of fresh ginger is gingerol. When ginger is dried, the gingerol molecules are converted into the much more pungent shogaols. Cooking ginger transforms gingerol into zingerone, which is less pungent and has a spicy-sweet aroma. Culinary uses They are often pickled in vinegar or just cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. The juice from old ginger roots is extremely potent and is often used as a spice to cover up other strong odours and flavors such as in seafood and mutton. Ginger is also made into candy, is used as a flavoring for cookies, biscuits and cake, and is the main flavor in ginger ale, a sweet, carbonated, non-alcoholic beverage.Ginger has a sialagogue action, stimulating the production of saliva.

Medicinal uses: It is an effective treatment for nausea caused by motion sickness, morning sickness or other illness. Ginger root also contains many antioxidants. Powdered dried ginger root is made into pills for medicinal use. Ginger ale and ginger beer have been recommended as "stomach settlers" for generations in countries where the beverages are made. Ginger water was commonly used to avoid heat cramps.

 

 

Turmeric

 

Scientific Name:  Curcuma longa 

Family: Zingiberaceae

        Turmeric is botanically known as Curcuma longa, derived from the old Arabic name for the kurkum plant. This spice is a member of the ginger family and unrelated to saffron. Like ginger, it is the root of the turmeric plant that is used as a spice, usually in a dried form.

Culinary uses: The root is generally peeled to expose its bright yellow flesh, then boiled, dried, and ground into a powder. Turmeric gives ball-park yellow mustard its bright color, is a prime ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, and is also used to color other foods such as butter, cheese, and fruit drinks. It is a favorite in Middle East and Asian foods and spice blends such as curry.

Medicinal uses: It is an amazing healing plant that has not only been valued for its therapeutic properties in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years but also has a significant role to play in the prevention and treatment of a wide range of modern day problems. It is an excellent natural antibiotic, and one of the best detoxifying herbs by virtue of its beneficial effect on the liver, a powerful antioxidant with health-promoting effects on the cardiovascular, skeletal and digestive systems.

Beneficial Properties: Turmeric has powerful antioxidant properties, is reported to protect against the development of cancer, and has a long history of use in the treatment of various cancers; enhancing the production of cancer-fighting cells, protecting against environmental toxins, with an immune-enhancing effect and powerful antibacterial properties. Turmeric has long been popular as a remedy for treating respiratory infections such as colds, sore throats, coughs and fevers, skin problems such as acne and psoriasis, and kidney and bladder problems. It can successfully inhibit infection whether bacterial, viral or fungal.

 

 

Nutmeg

 

Scientific Name:  Myristica fragrans Houtt

Family: Myristicaceae 

            Nutmeg is the seed of Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree. Interestingly, the tree produces both Nutmeg and mace, and grows up to 60 feet tall. Although the tree takes seven years to bear fruit, it may produce until the 90th year. Both spices come from the tree’s fruit, which splits into a scarlet outer membrane, mace, and an inner brown seed, Nutmeg.

Traditional Ethnic Uses: Nutmeg is a mild baking spice and is used in sausages, meats, soups, and preserves. Nutmeg is commonly added to puddings and fruit pies. It is popular in The Netherlands and Italy, where it is used in vegetables, puddings, and stews.

 

 

Vanilla

 

Scientific Name:  Vanilla planifolia

Family: Orchidaceae

              Natural vanillin is obtained from the cured pods (fruits) of the vanilla plant. The name vanilla comes from the Spanish word “vainilla,” meaning “little sheath,” which refers to the elongated fruit. Vanilla is a perennial climbing orchid with sessile leaves and succulent green stems, producing aerial roots (velamen roots) at the nodes. Vanilla is used as a flavoring in confections, chocolate, and perfumes.