India is known as the home of spices and boasts of a long history of trading with the ancient civilisations of Rome and China. Indian spices are the most sought-after globally, given their exquisite aroma, texture and taste. India has the largest domestic market for spices in the world.
Of the 109 varieties of spices listed by the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), the country produces more than 65. The varying climatic conditions in India provide ample scope for the cultivation of a variety of spices. Almost all Indian states produce spices, with the total area under spice cultivation pegged at around 3.15 million hectares.
Turmeric is the boiled, dried, cleaned and polished rhizomes of Curcuma longa. The plant is a herbaceous perennial, 60-90 cm high, with a short stem and tufted leaf. There are 7 to 12 leaves, the leaf sheaths forms the pseudo stem. The lamina is green above and pale green below and has a length of 30-40 cm and width 8-12 cm. Inflorescence is a central spike of 10-15 cm length. 1-4 flowers are born in axil of the bract opening one at a time. About 30 flowers are produced in a spike. Turmeric is used to flavour and colour foodstuffs. It is a principal ingredient in curry powder. Turmeric oleoresin is used in brine pickles and to some extent in mayonnaise and relish formulations, non-alcoholic beverages, gelatins, butter and cheese etc. The colour curcumin extracted from turmeric is used as a colourant.
Chilli is the dried ripe fruit of the genus Capsicum. Capsicum annuum is an annual sub –shrub, the flowers of which are borne singly and fruits usually pendent, which provide red peppers, cayenne, paprika and chillies and sweet pepper (bell pepper) a mild form with large inflated fruits. Capsicum frutescence is a perennial chilly with small sized pods which are highly pungent. It is commonly known as ‘bird chilly’ and ‘Tabasco’.
Dry chilly is extensively used as spice in curried dishes. It is also used as an ingredient in curry powder and in seasonings. Bird chilly is used in making hot sauces as pepper sauce and Tabsco sauce. Paprika, Bydagi chilly, Warangal chapatta and similar high colour less pungent varieties are widely used for colour extraction. This colour is highly popular among food and beverage processors for its use as a colourant, as it is a ‘natural plant colour’.
Black Pepper is the dried mature berry of Piper nigrum, a climbing, perennial shrub mostly found in hot, moist region of Southern India. Under cultivation, pepper vines are trailed over support as columns, 5-6 mtr tall, 1-2 meter diameter. The climbing woody stems have swollen nods with clinging roots at each node, which helps in anchoring the vine to the support trees (standards). It has straight upward growing main stem and have lateral shoots from the axils of the leaves having shorter inter nodes without adventitious roots. In such branches the terminal buds get modified into an inflorescence (spike) and the auxiliary buds continue further growth. Pepper is largely used by meat packers and in canning, pickling, baking, due to its preservative value. It has the ability to correct the seasoning of dishes, therefore is used as a final dash at the end of cooking to effectively adjust the flavour. It is an important component of culinary seasoning of universal use and is an essential ingredient of numerous commercial foodstuffs. It is also used as an ingredient in spice mixes.
Cumin is the dried, white fruit with greyish brown colour of a small slender annual herb. The surface of the fruit has 5 primary ridges, alternatively has 4 less distinct secondary ridges bearing numerous short hairs. The plant is 15 to 50 cm high. The aromatic seed like fruit is elongated, ovoid, 3 to 6 mm long, slightly bitter and has a warm flavour. The flowers are white or rose coloured in small umbels.Cumin seed have an aromatic odour and bitter taste. It is used as a condiment, and is an ingredient in curry powders, seasonings of breads, cakes and cheese.