India is known as the 'The home of spices'. There is no other country in the world that produces as many kinds of spices as India. The climate of the country is suitable for almost all spices.
Spices constitute an important group of agricultural commodities which are virtually indispensable in the culinary art. In India, spices are important commercial crops from the point of view of both domestic consumption and export. Besides, huge quantities of spices are also being consumed within the country for flavouring foods and are also used in medicine, pharmaceutical, perfumery, cosmetics and several other industries.
According to the International Organization For Standardisation (ISO); The term 'spices and condiments' applies to such natural plant or vegetable products or mixtures thereof, in whole or ground form, as are used for imparting flavour, aroma and piquancy to and for seasoning of foods".
There are over 80 spices grown in different parts of the world and around 50 spices are grown in India. The spices that India can offer in abundant quantities are pepper, ginger, turmeric, chilli, cardamom, celery, fenugreek, fennel, cumin, dill, coriander, cinnamon, ajowan (bishop's weed), cassia, clove, nutmeg and mace.
Major spices of export are pepper, cumin, cardamom, ginger, turmeric and chillies. Other minor spices include ajowan, aniseed, celery seed, caraway, fennel, fenugreek, coriander, garlic, onion, saffron, vanilla etc. Among the spices exported, pepper has the leading position in terms of both quantity and value realised. The 'Alleppey Green' Cardamom is considered the best grade available in the world.
Role of Spices
Spices are well-known as appetizers and are considered essential in the culinary art all over the world. They add tang and flavour to otherwise insipid foods. Some of them also possess antioxidant properties, while others are used as preservatives in some foods like pickles and chutneys, etc.
Some spices also possess strong anti-microbial and antibiotic activities. Many of them possess medicinal properties and have a profound effect on human health, since they effect many functional processes. For instance, spices intensify salivary flow. They cleanse the oral cavity from food adhesion and bacteria, they help to check, infection and caries and protect the mucous membrane. Spices act as a stimulates to the digestive system and help digestion in many ways. Spices possibly activate the adreno-cortical function and fortify resistance and physical capacity. Stroke frequency , and blood pressure can be diminished or augmented by means of spices.