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Post Harvest Technology :: Spices

Aromatic food substances, which enhance flavour, are classified into spices. Spices are usually dried roots, barks, seeds used whole or crushed, powered. Spices add a glorious touch to food with its flavour and fragrance.

  • Spices add flavour, colour to food and make the food palatable.
  • It stimulates salivation and acid secretion of digestive enzymes like amylase.
  • It has anti inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant properties. It reduces cholesterol levels useful in preventing heart diseases

Spices today, command the same respect as in earlier ages. Lot of efforts have been put by the farmers to adapt to the changing conditions and needs. A case study of different spices will reveal the increase in yield and production. Generally spices like chilli, ginger, garlic onion are grown in Maharashtra and like cardamom, cinnamon, clove, black pepper are grown in south India on large scale. Chillis is grown throughout India in over 9 lakh hectares of land. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are leading states in production. Rajstan is the largest producer of coriander whereas Kerala, Meghalaya, Orissa and West Bengal form over 60%of the country’s production. Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh share the hours in garlic production.

Kerala is considered as the land of spice crop, the plantation is concentrated in Idukki, Wayanad, and Kannur districts.

To give proper attention to research on spices, an independent All India Co-ordinated Research Project (AICRP) on spices was started in 1986. which aims to evolve disease and pest resistant varieties,standerdise agricultural techniques to suit different climatic conditions of the country , developing a proper network between different agencies involved in research on spices. A regional station of the Central Plantations Crop Research Institute (CPCRI) was started in1976 specifically for spice research and on 1st July 1995, the centre was upgraded to the Indian Institute of Spices research. To assist farmers meet today's challenges and to encourage to increase export potential, the Spice Board is developed, many schemes are launched by the board.

  • All spice or Pimento

It is a small berry, size of the pea, dried to a dark brown colour. The flavouring component is a volatile oil present at 3-4% levels containing eugenol and other closely related phenols. It is used whole in pickling and cooking meats and fish. It is used ground in cakes, puddings and preserves.

  • Ani seed (Somfu/owa)

The chief compound of it is anethole. It is also known as sweet cumin and has the flavour of liquorice. It is chewed after meals and used as mouth freshener. It is used in cakes, breads, cookies and candles; vadacurry, kurma, non-vegetarian dishes, biriyani, thandai, kachori and in pickles.

  • Asafoetida

It is an oleo gum resin exuded from the rhizome or root of Ferula asafoetida. The odour component consists of a ferulic ester and sulphur containing volatile oil.

  • Bay leaves (Birinj Leaves)

They are the dried aromatic leaves of laurel tree. They contain 1-3% of highly aromatic volatile oil. Oil of bay leaves is used in the preparation of pickling spice and in the flavouring of vinegar.

  • Caraway seeds

It contains about 5% volatile oil. The chief flavouring principle of which is D-carvone and D-limonere. The seeds are used to flavour cakes, biscuits, cheese, apple sauce and cookies. The oil from caraway seed is used to flavour meats, canned foods, sausages, soups, in cakes, certain bread rolls, cheese, confectionery and also flavouring liquor.

  • Cardamom

The fruit contains brownish black seeds, which have about 2-10% volatile oil with the characteristic pleasant odour. The active principles present in the oil cineole, terpinyl acetate, pinene, sabinene and porneol.

  • Chillies

The red colouring matter of chillies is due to a carotenoid pigment. Ground chilli is used in most of the Indian gravies and vegetable dishes. It is used in making chutneys, pickles, dehydrated chillies, vattal and in day to day preparations. Dry chillies are used for seasoning. Chillies contain a substance called capsaicin, which increases the gastric secretion, and it causes the destruction of the mucosal cells.

  • Cinnamon

It is a thin inner bark of a cinnamon tree. The bark contains about 1% essential oil. The active principles are eugenol, cineole and cinnamaldehyde. It is used in stick form in fruit preserves. It is used ground for cakes, cookies and puddings. Used in spicing sauces,pickles,in pulav,biryani.

  • Clove

It is the dried flower bud of the clove tree. It contains about 15% essential oil. The chief active principle is eugenol. Cloves are used whole in meats, pickling and fish. It is used ground in cakes, cookies and puddings. Used as flavouring agent in pulav, rice puttu and fruit cake.

  • Coriander seed

It is unmatched for its fresh delicate spring like aroma. The seeds contain 0.5-1% essential oil which has an active principle coriander an isomer of geraniol. The roasted powdered seed are used as an ingredient of curry powders. It is used as flavouring and thickening agent in cookery. In the form of powder it is used in rasam, all curries and vegetables and chutney powders. It is also used as whole in kamandhokla, samosas and kachori. It is used for sprinkling on prepared food, flavouring sambar and rasam, pounded or minced as a base for sauces or chutneys.

  • Cumin seeds

It is pungent, sharp and astringent. It contains 2-4% essential oil. The active principle is an aldehyde cumino.

  • Fenugreek seeds

It is a hard lentil seed. Its colour is dark fawn and has astringent aroma Fenugreek seeds contain 5% bitter fixed oil. The oil has a strong celery like odour.

  • Garlic

Garlic contains an antibiotic principle "allin" (inactive form) which is converted to allicin (active form) by the enzyme allinase. Allicin further breaks down to allyl disulphide, which is responsible for characteristic flavour. It is used in reciepes like rasam, pickle, chutney, pulav ,sauces.

  • Ginger

It is the root of the plant Zingiber officinale. The volatile oil present is "gingerol". The flavouring compound has sharp burning sensory stimulation.

  • Kokam

It is a fruit dried and used as sour agent in cookery. Since anthocyanin is present, it is also used in making sherbet.

  • Mango powder

During the early stages of growth, the tree may have a heavy "fruit drop".

  • Mint leaves

It is essentially an aromatic culinary herb. These are the leave of spear-mint plant. The leaves yield an essential oil (pepper mint oil) which is used for flavouring gum, confectionery, tooth paste, perfumes and pharmaceutical preparations. The principle components of the peppermint oil are menthol, menthyl acetate, menthyl iso valerate and menthone. It is used fresh for beverages, salad dressing and for garnishing. It is also used in making many dishes like raitha pulav, chutney, vada and pani puri water. Dry powder is also used for different.

  • Mustard

These are the small reddish black seeds of annual herbs. The leaves of this plant are consumed as vegetable. Mustard seeds have a pungent flavour. The characteristic flavour of mustard seed is due to an allyl iso thiocyanate. The mustard paste is used to flavour hotdogs, sandwiches, cheese, eggs, meat and salad dressings. Dry mustard is used in meat, sauces, gravies and mayonnaise. It is used in the powdered form in pickles. It is used in the vegetable preparations and raitha. It is used mainly for the seasoning. Mustard is used without the skin for pickling (chilli pickles). Mustard oil is also used in cookery.

  • Nutmeg

Nutmeg is the dry hard wrinkled seed or pit of the nutmeg fruit. Mace is the orange red fleshy covering of the nutmeg kernel. They contain 7-14% essential oil. This essential oil contains highly toxic compound known as myristicin, used in small amounts to flavour puddings and fruit Myristicin present in nutmeg seeds could lead to delirium and deep stupor. Smaller amounts of nutmeg may cause vomiting and colic.

  • Mace

Mace is more delicate and used for flavouring fish sauces, certain meat and fish dishes, pickles and preserves. It is used ground in cakes, cookies, pies and chocolate dishes. It is used in garam masala.

  • Onion

It is used as a flavouring agent in food preparations. It contains an essential oil the active principle of which is responsible for the characteristic cooked flavour is allyl propyl disulphide. Dehydrated onion is used in European countries and U.S.A. for flavouring food preparations. It is used in cookery to improve the flavour or to mask undesirable flavours and to increase the thickness of the gravies.

  • Omum

It is allied to the liquorice family and a powerful spice. It is used in ompodi, rusks, namkin and biscuits.

  • Poppy seeds

They are the tiny dark cream colour seed of poppy plant, which are used for topping of bread, cake, rolls or fillings for buns. Oil extract is used for salads. Poppy seeds ae used as thickening agent in the preparation of gravies. It is also used in kurma, non-vegetarian dishes and sweets.

  • Pepper

They are the dried small round berry of a tropical vine with small white flower. White pepper is mature berry with the black coat removed. Pepper corns are used whole or crushed. Ground pepper is used for seasoning many dishes and is also used as a condiment at the table. Pepper corns are generally used whole in pickling meats and stews. It is used ground for general seasoning of meat fish, poultry, vegetables and salads. White pepper is used in dishes that require a less pungent flavour. It is used in making bounder, pongal, rasam, kolambu, vadai and fried rice. And also used as substitute for chilli powder. It is also used in marinating the non vegetarian foods. Flavour can be improved by the addition of pepper powder to omelets, sandwich, salads, papads, soups and chips.

  • Saffron

This is the name given to the fragrant stigmata found in the Crocus flower. It is a regal spice of matchless aroma and the most costly in the world. 75,000 flowers are needed to make one ounce of pure saffron. Each filament can colour 700 times its own weight in water. It is used mainly for its yellow colour. Saffron has a pleasant aroma and an essential oil croncin and the colouring principle crocerin. It is used in soups, sauces especially rice dishes to give them bright yellow colour and distinctive flavour. It is used in sweets, like sandesh, rasmalai, thandai, kesar milk, ice cream, halwa and srikand. It may be adulterated with styles, anthers and parts of corolla of saffron and various materials coloured with coal tar dyes.

  • Tamarind

This spice is the pulp of the tamarind fruit after the outer shell and seeds are removed. The extract is used in making rasam and sambar. It is used as souring agent in chutneys, chat, pickle, pani puri and in tamarind rice. It is also used as thickening agent in gravies. Tamarind puree is available in the market.

  • Turmeric

It is the ground dried aromatic root. It contains 5% essential oil. The colouring substance present is known as curcumin. Its natural aroma is most apetising and on its own without the use of other spices, can produce delicious food.

  • Vanilla

Vanilla beans are being cultivated in Kerala. The active principle is "vanilla". Synthetic vanilla is much cheaper than that of the natural product. It imparts the flavour and it is used in preparing ice creams, custards, puddings and cakes.

Aniseed (Somfu/owa) An infusion of fennel is used to counteract flatulence. It is mildly carminative and used in treating colic pain.
Asafoetida Asafoetida is used as an antimicrobial agent. It is also used in treating chronic bronchitis and whooping cough. It is used in counteracting intestinal flatulence. It increases the levels of detoxification enzymes in the body.
Clove Cloves contain eugenol which has anti mutagenic effect. It is used for tooth pain
Coriander seed An infusion of coriander seeds is used in flatulence, vomiting and intestinal disorders. Coriander seeds contain thalides which increase the levels of anticancer protective enzymes.
Cumin seeds It is used as stimulant and carminative agent. Cumin seeds contain bio-active substances called pthalides which increase the levels of anticancer protective enzyme in the body.
Fenugreek seeds Fenugreek seeds aid in maintaining the blood glucose levels in non-insulin dependent diabetes. The fibre present in the seed may be responsible for this. It is also used with the butter milk in the treatment of dysentery.
Garlic Garlic is used to treat various digestive disorders. Extracts of garlic can lower tissue cholesterol levels and prevent heart diseases. It is also an anti fungal agent and helps reduce the fat content in blood (helps in blood thinning) and thus reduce blood pressure.
Ginger Ginger is reported to reduce inflammation and pain in joints. It also has potential prophylactic use in treating migraine headaches. It may also be effective in alleviating nausea.
Mustard Mustard seeds are rich in sulphur containing compounds namely the dithiol thiones, which protect against the toxic effects of aflatoxin. The dithiothione is also used as antischistosomal drug. Consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with negative cancer risks.
Nutmeg Nutmeg has antimicrobial property. The volatile components of these spices are believed to be responsible for this property.
Onion Consumption of raw or cooked onion is believed to aid in maintenance of normal glucose levels. Onion has antibacterial properties. The sulphur containing compounds from these plants strongly act against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. The extracts of onion are known to inhibit growth of many pathogenic fungi belonging to aspergillus and candida. Onion can lower blood cholesterol and lipid levels and useful in preventing heart diseases.
Omum Omum water is given to children for digestion
Pepper It is used along with hot milk for throat infections
Saffron Saffron is used as sedative and also used for eye infections.
Turmeric Protective factors in turmeric help in detoxifying harmful drugs or chemicals that are converted to toxic metabolites. Turmeric also helps in increasing the mucin content of gastric juice and reduces irritation in stomach. It is also used to relieve sore throat, cough, cold and against flatulence. Studies carried out at National Institute of Nutrition Hydrabad suggest that turmeric can be a potent anticancer agent. Turmeric isolated from turmeric showed a potent antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties. The active principle of turmeric, curcumin is known for its inhibitory action on bacteria and arrest the growth of fungi. Turmeric and curcumin have been reported to reduce the levels of cholesterol in experimental animals given high cholesterol containing diet.




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