Spices -

May be described as aromatic vegetable substances used chiefly for the seasoning of food. They represent different portions of their respective plants - Ginger is the root-stock; Cinnamon is the bark; Cloves, Nutmeg, etc., represent the fruit, and Sage, Thyme and other HERBS, the entire upper part of the plant. Their aroma and characteristic qualities are contained chiefly in their essential oils.

Tropical spices such as Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Nutmeg and Pepper. They are frequently referred to in the Old Testament and are there generally classed with other things of known and considerable value - they were considered fit presents for royalty, and it is recorded that they were included in the tribute which other monarchs paid to Solomon. They were also indispensable ingredients in the sacred oil used in the Tabernacle. The wealthy Romans were especially lavish in their use, both in the preparation of food and burning them with the incense at the altars and in funeral rites.

In ancient times and through the Middle Ages, Arabia was popularly credited with being the home of all spice luxuries, but this was to a great extent due to the fact that it served as a market for spice merchants from the East India Islands, Ceylon in particular. Coming further down the centuries, we find that the trade occupies an important position in the history of our present civilization. For many years Pepper was one of the chief items of commerce between India and Europe. Venice and Genoa are among the cities which waxed rich in great part on its traffic - and at times tribute was levied and rents were paid in Pepper.

A darker chapter is that of Cinnamon, the Nutmeg and the clove, cloaking many deeds of blood-stained atrocity. The Portuguese and the Dutch for generations maintained their control of the supply by executing any but government employees attempting to engage in its export, by destroying plantations and accumulated stores - and on more than one occasion by massacring entire native populations to prevent them selling to other nations.

The dawn of latter-day enlightenment, the destruction of monopolistic control and scientific cultivation of the various spice plants, have brought about an abundance of all varieties at prices which make what was formerly a luxury for only kings and nobles an everyday possibility for even the poorest of those living in the twentieth century.

Modern commercialism for many years substituted extensive adulterations for old time barbarism - until quite recently a very large proportion of the "spices" marketed were mixed with a variety of other materials which robbed them of much of their strength and greatly impaired their characteristic flavors - but conditions in that respect have much improved, and both retailers and consumers can to-day, by exercising even a moderate amount of discrimination, obtain pure, high grade spices of every kind. This improvement has tended to restore public confidence and to stimulate a more general demand - an excellent result, as their proper use relieves the cookery of the average American home of the criticism of "sameness" and monotony of flavor.

Retailers will find it profitable to take advantage of this change in sentiment, by exercising special care in purchasing spices and devoting more space and time to displaying, and, where necessary, explaining them - there is a much better margin in handling them than in the majority of other grocery items. There is also a wide field for their use - in everyday preparation of meats and desserts, as well as for preserving and pickling, etc.

It would probably surprise many a GROCER to be informed that tropical spices constituted the greater part of the stock of the originators of the business in which he is engaged, and that he is a modern development of the "Pepperer" or "Spicer" of the Middle Ages. A great deal of interesting matter on this and kindred topics will be found in the article on the GROCER.

All spices should be protected from contact with the air, by keeping in well corked bottles or other closed receptacles.

The principal spices of general modern consumption are Allspice or Pimento, Anise, Bay Leaves, Capers, Caraway, Cardamom, Cassia (see Cinnamon), Cayenne Pepper (see Pepper), Celery Seed, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Dill, Fennel, Ginger, Horseradish, Mace, Marjoram, Mustard, Nutmeg, Paprika, Pepper, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Thyme and Turmeric (see descriptive matter in alphabetical positions). Several of these are more generally classified as Sweet HERBS (see HERBS), but they are all "spices" within the full meaning of the word and are so considered in government and analytical circles.

Arround Spices in The Grocer's Encyclopedia


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