India commands a formidable position in the world spice trade. Indian spices are popularly known for their flavor and aroma in domestic as well as in the international markets. Indian food aroma and the richer look, all are attributed to the secret ingredient called “spices or masala”. So, what is the secret behind all the chef’s recipes which makes you feel hungry and your mind happier? When Chef, Sanjiv Kapoor asks you the very same question in an ad commercial, “Masalon mein swaad kahan se aata hai?”, we all get intrigued and never thought of the same while adding a more bit of it to your frying pans. Well, he answered it right, it all lies in the “Essential Oils” present in the spices.
Why is India called as World’s Spice Bowl?
Let’s dig deeper into where it all started and how the Indian spices propagated from the land of India across the world. Between the 7th and 15th centuries, Arab merchants supplied Indian spices to the West but took care to keep their source a closely guarded secret. To protect their market, discourage competitors and enhance prices, they are known to have spread fanciful stories to satisfy the curious – such as cinnamon growing in deep glens infested by poisonous snakes – among other things. The Europeans took their ships on long expeditions in their quest for the true origin of the spices that gave life to their food. Since Indian spices were heavily in demand and very difficult to procure, they were even more valuable than gold at that time.
Out of 109 spices listed by ISO (International Standards Organization), India produces around 75 spices in its various climatic regions. India is one of the largest producer, consumer, and exporter of spices in the world.
Some Key Highlights of Indian Spice Production Capacity and Potential:
- Indian Spice Market is set for a Rapid Growth and is Expected to grow at a CAGR of 4.5% by 2026.
- 1.08 billion kgs of total spices have been exported by India during the 2017-2018 year, valued at USD 3.11 billion.
- The total spice production in India is 8.12m metric tons. Andhra Pradesh is the highest spice production state in India.
- The most common spice produced throughout India is chilies.
- The total area under spice cultivation is 3.21 million hectares.
So, we can now easily gauge how deeply spice production has been infused in the Indian production chain. One of the essentials of an Indian kitchen is the “Masala Dabba”– a traditional spice box. It typically consists of small cups (usually five or seven) containing spices that are used in daily cooking. Whether it’s a soupy south Indian Rasam, a snack time Gujarati Dhokla, a sumptuous dessert in the Bengali Mishti Doi, or the traditional tea in the Kashmiri Kahwa, spices are widely used in all parts of the country, across various courses in a meal, vegetarian or otherwise.
Now, let’s dive deeper into the principle elements that constitute the Spice market of India and understand more about them. We would be discussing the principle 5 elemental spices and their origin and know more about them:
- Cardamom: Comes in two forms, green and black. Green cardamom can be blended whole when making spice mixes, like garam masala, however when using them in sweets or desserts. Black cardamom, on the other hand, is very powerful and smoky and needs to be used with a lot of caution.
- Clove: In Western cuisine, we tend to associate cloves with Christmas time, however, in Indian cuisine, it’s used commonly all year round. Cloves are technically flowers, and a lot of their oils are pressed out before they are dried and used in cooking. Cloves can be used whole or blended into spice mixes.
- Cinnamon: Also know as “Dal-chini”. Cinnamon can also be used whole or ground in spice mixes. It is easily distinguishable by its rough, tree bark-like texture, and the best way to check for freshness is to rub a little on your fingers.
- Black Pepper: Black pepper is actually native to India, primarily from the Western Ghats and Malabar region. It is a surprisingly hard spice to grow, as it depends on many natural cycles, like a set amount of rainfall, which is why prices for fresh pepper vary a lot.
- Turmeric: The spice with anti-microbial properties. Do you know, the best Haldi or turmeric comes from which state? It’s from Salem. The flavor of fresh turmeric is slightly stronger than dried, and it stains very easily, so make sure you are careful with your clothes and utensils while using it.
Now, we know that India being the producer of best of spices in the world is a “Food Leader” in true senses. In the on-going pandemic situation, the importance of food as immunity boosters has become very much vital. We had earlier shared 10 superfoods for boosting immunity. If you would like to add more to the knowledge pool, do share your views in the comment section below.