History of Spices

Ancient, Mysterious, & Exotic
 What are your favorite foods?
 What flavors make them special?
 What would your favorite foods
taste like without spices,
seasonings, or herbs?
 Spices and herbs have played a dramatic role in the
development of Western Civilization as we will learn.
 Today, spices and herbs are used mostly as flavorings
for foods and occasionally as medicines.
 In ancient and medieval times, spices and herbs were
rare and precious products, used for medicine,
perfume, incense, flavorings, beauty treatments, and
 For centuries, Arabs controlled the
trading of spices from the Far East.
The earliest recorded use of a spice
(sesame) was noted in an Assyrian
The first real evidence of spice use
came from the writings and artwork of
early civilizations
Hieroglyphs in the Great Pyramid at
Giza, Egypt show workers eating garlic
and onions for strength.
In 1453 BC, the first Greek Olympians
wore garlands of bay leaves and
In 400 BC Hippocrates listed more
than 400 herbs and spices for medical
use, half of which are still used today
 During this period, the
Romans controlled the Spice
 At the time, it was a great and
dangerous 2 year voyage on
the sea to sail from Egypt to
India to gather pepper,
cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves,
and ginger.
 Until, a Greek merchant
sailor, Hippalus, noticed that
the changing winds could be
used to shorten the voyage to
less than a year
 Europeans explore passages to the
East Indies
Late 13th century, Marco Polo’s
exploration of Asia establishes
Venice as the most important trade
port in the world
By 1498 the Portuguese & Spanish
began searching for their own spice
producing lands
Shortly after , Vasco de Gama
(Port.) sailed around the Cape of
Good Hope, Africa to reach
Calcutta, India, returning with
pepper, cinnamon, jewels, and trade
deals with Indian princes.
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean
blue and brought back allspice,
vanilla, and red peppers from the
West Indies for Spain.
 WAR! Spain, Portugal, England, &
Holland fight for control of the spice
 In 1519, Ferdinand Magellan (Spain)
sails west around the world. One of
his ships returns with enough
pepper and spices to deem it a
financial success despite the loss of
4 ships & crews and the death of
 By 1608, the Dutch had gained
control of the cinnamon spice trade,
and by 1663 they established
exclusive trading rights fro pepper
with Western India
 Around 1600, the English
began to take control of
the trade routes to India
 In 1780, the Dutch and
English go to war over
the spice trade routes.
England is victorious and
destroys the Dutch hold
on the spice trade.
 By 1799, the Dutch had
lost all of their spice
trading centers
 By 1672, Americans enter
the spice trade.
 Boston born, Elihu Yale
begins his own spice
trading business, making a
fortune, and starts a
university, Yale.
 In 1835, Texan settlers
develop chili powder
 In 1889, food researchers in
Watsonville, CA developed
the techniques for
dehydrating onions and
 Spices are the various strong flavored
or aromatic substances of vegetable
origin, commonly used as condiments
or employed for other purposes on
account of their fragrance and
preservation qualities
 Spices have 2 main components:
 1- Volatile Oils (essential oils) which are responsible
for the characteristic aroma of spices
 2- Oleoresins (non-volatile extracts) which are
responsible for the typical taste and flavor of spices
 Colors should be vibrant
 Aroma should be pleasant
 Purchase small amounts at a time to ensure freshness
 Cut or powdered spices have more surface area exposed to
air, so they lose their flavor more rapidly
 Store spices and herbs in cool, dry places away from
exposure to light, heat, moisture, and oxygen
 Avoid storage that is too close to cooking ranges, ovens,
dishwasher, or refrigerator.
 Store herbs and spices in airtight containers to help protect
them from moisture and preserve the oils that give them
their flavor and aroma
Leaves & Flowers
1 year
Ground 6 months
Seeds and Bark
2 years
Ground 6 months
2 years
6 months
 LIGHT: color pigments
are photosensitive and
oxidize in light
 HUMIDITY: dry spices
tend to attract water and
 OXYGEN: essential oils
oxidize, especially at high
 1. What spices were shown on the hieroglyphs in the
Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt?
2. Which famous American university was funded
from the financial success of the spice trade?
3. What state was chili powder developed in?
4. What was the preservation technique for onions
and garlic that was developed in Watsonville, CA?
5. What are the 3 factors that affect the quality of
stored spices?
1. Garlic & Onions
2. Yale
3. Texas
4. Dehydration
5. Light, humidity, and oxygen
Scoring :
5 : Caliente! Your Hot, Spice
3-4: Medium spicy
1-2: Mild spice. Add a little bit
more BAM! Don’t be afraid to
“Kick it up a notch!”