Spice Dictionary – by Zeeshan Munir

AJWAIN (also known as bishop’s weed) is a seed spice grown as an annual plant. It is an erect glabrous or minutely pubescent branched annual. The stems are striate; the leaves are rather distant, 2-3-pinnately divided, the segments linear. The flowers occur in terminal or seemingly-lateral pedunculate compound umbels, white and small; the fruits are ovoid, muricate, aromatic cremocarps, greyish brown; the mericarps, which are the components of the fruit, are compressed, with distinct ridges and tubercular surface, 1-seededajowan

Botanical Name : Trachyspermum ammi L


Ajwain originated in the Middle East, possibly in Egypt and the Indian Subcontinent, but also in Iran, Egypt , Afghanistan and India


It is used both as a spice and as a medicine. It gives an oil rich in thymol. It is traditionally used as a digestive aid as it relieves abdominal discomfort due to indigestion, and it is an antiseptic.

In southern parts of India dry ajwain seeds are powdered and soaked in milk, which is then filtered and fed to babies. Many assume that it relieves colic in babies and for children it also improves digestion and it improves their appetite. Ajwain can also be used as a digestive mixture for large animals.

In the northern part of India, Ajwain is often consumed after a heavy meal; it is commonly offered after dinner parties.

ALLSPICE (also known as Jamaican pepper) is the mature berry of a bushy evergreen tree. Allspice trees are medium sized,  growing up to a height of 8 to 10 meters, with a slender upright trunk and smooth greyish bark. The male trees produce only a few fruits.

The male and female trees are similar in appearance and cannot be identified till the flowering commences.  The spherical berry has an uneven surface after drying and has a diameter of around .5 centimeters

On steam distillation, allspice from Jamaica yields 4% – 5% of volatile oil, with a diameter of around 0.5 centimeters. Allspice is rich in eugenol; it is distilled  to extract oleoresin.allsp

Although much bigger, Spanish explorers mistook it to be pepper. The flavor represents a combination of clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper and hence the name Allspice.

Botanical Name : Pimenta officianalis L


The plant is indigenous to the West Indies with Jamaica being the main producer. It is also available in Central American countries, especially Mexico.


The ground allspice and its extractions are used in a wide range of foods like vegetable, meats, soups and puddings.

ANISEED is the dried seed of the parsley group. It is an annual plant with an average height of 30 to 50 centimeters. The plant is completely covered with fine hairs. Its seed has greenish grey to yellowish brown colour and a length of 3 to 5 millimeters.


It is oval in shape with longitudinal ridges and usually with a bit of thin stalk attached. It has a sweet aroma and flavor, reminiscent of licorice.

On distillation, aniseed gives an essential oil with a yield of 2% to 3.5% anethole. The flavour is similar to star anise.

Botanical Name : Pimpinella  anisum L

Other Names – SaunfBadishepVariyaliSombuPerinjeerakamSopuBadesepi.


Aniseed is a native of the East Mediterranean region and is widely cultivated in Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, South America, Syria, Turkey, Spain, UK and USSR.

The major products of aniseed are anis oil and oleoresin anis.


It is used in many  sweet dishes for its taste and flavour.

It is also used in herbal medicine to relieve cramps and gas, and also used as a mouth freshener.

However aniseed is used mainly as a flavourant, as well as for culinary, household, cosmetic, and medicinal purposes.

The fruit of anis, commercially called aniseed, is widely used for flavoring curries, bread, soups, baked goods, dried figs, deserts, cream cheese, pickles, egg dishes, non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.

The essential oil is valuable in perfumery. The oil is used for production of anethole and sometimes as a sensitize for bleaching colors in photography. The other functional properties are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-oxidant, stimulant, carminative and expectorant.

ASAFOETIDA is a dried latex exuded from the rhizomes of several Ferula species. The ferula plant has large tap roots (rhizome) which are carrot shaped with 12-15 centimeters diameter at the crown when fully grown. Just before summer when the plants flower, the top of the living rhizome is exposed by cutting the stem close to the crown.

Milky juice exudes from the cut surface and after a few days the dried gum is scrapped off. This process of cutting and collecting the exudate is continued for about 3 months. From high yields, the gum collected can be as much as 1 kg.asa

On steam distillation, dry gum gives an oil with yield ranging from 3% to 20% depending  on the variety and origin of the plant.

Asafoetida  has a strong piercing aroma and flavor, liked especially in India. The typical strong aroma is caused by propyl disulphide and other sulphides. People in the western world do not so much enjoy the spice, and it is sometimes referred to as “devil’s dung”


Botanical Name : Ferula asafeerutida L.

Other Names- Indian (Hing, Perumkayam, Inguva), Sri Lanka (Perumkayam) English (Devil’s dung), Persian (Angustha-Gandha), French (Ferule Asafoetida), German (Stinkendes steckenkraut),


The main producing countries are Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.


Asafoetida is extensively used for flavouring curries, sauces, and pickles. It is also used in medicines because of its antibiotic properties.

BASIL (also known as French Basil or Sweet Basil or Tulsi) is an erect glabrous herb, 30-90 centimeters high and  is indigenous to India. The leaves of the basil plant have numerous oil glands with aromatic volatile oil. The herb bears clusters of small white lipped flowers in racemes. The freshly picked bright green leaves turn brownish green when dried and become brittle and curled. The major types are American Basil, French Basil, Egyptian Basil and Indian Basil.tulsi

Botanical Name : Ocimum basilicum L.

Other Names- Indian (Tulsi ke patte, Tulsichi paney, Tulsina pan, Tulsi, Babui tulsi, Durlabha), Spanish (Alba Laca), French (Basilic), German (Basilienkraut), Swedish (Basilkort), Arbaic (Raihan), Dutch (Basilicum), Russian (Basilik), Chinese (Lo-le), Japanese (Meboki), Thai (Horapa, Horapha),


It is cultivated throughout India, Southern France, Egypt, Belgium, Hungary, and other Mediterranean countries, and also in USA.


The dried leaves and tender four sided stems are used as spice for flavouring and for extraction of essential oil. Apart from flavouring numerous foods, it is also used for seasoning in tomato paste products.

The sweet basil oil is widely used in perfumery compounds.

It also has applications in areas of medicine, and also used as an insecticide and bactericide.

BAY LEAF (or Laurel Leaf) are dried leaves or an evergreen shrub or more rarely a tree attaining  a height of 15 to 20 meters. The upper surface of the leaf is glabrous and shiny, olive green, and the lower surface is dull olive to brown with a prominent rib and veins. The aroma of the crushed leaves is delicate and fragrant, and the taste is aromatic and bitter. The size of the leaves range from 2.5 centimeters to 7.5 centimeters in length and 1.6 centimeters to 2.5 centimeters in breadth. The shape is elliptical and tapering to a point at the base and tip of the leaves.bay

Botanical Name : Laurus nobilis L.

Other Names : India (Tezpatta, Tamal patra, Talishap pattiri, Karuka patta, Talisha, Patta akulu, Patraka, Joan, Juani). Spanish (Laurel), French (Laurier), Italian (Alloro), Dutch (Laurier), Russian (Laur), Arabic (Laur), Japanese (Gekkeiju), Chinese (Yuch-kuei)


It is a native of the Mediterranean and grows widely in scrub land woods in Europe and California. It is widely cultivated in Europe, America, and Arabian countries.


Bay leaves are used as flavoring in soups, stews, meat, fish, sauces, and in confectioneries. Both leaves and fruit possess aromatic, stimulant, and narcotic, properties.

The essential oil from the leaves is also used as spice, and food flavoring and has a wider application in traditional medicines of different countries. The major functional properties are anti-microbial, anti-fungal, hypoglycaemic, and anti-ulcerogenic .

BLACK PEPPER is one of the most important spices and is valued all over the world. It is generally believed that the epic voyages undertaken towards the end of 15th century by pioneers like Vasco de Gama, Columbus and others, were in search of this “black gold”blackpepper

Pepper grows on a perennial climber, which thrives best in humid rainy tropical lands. Pepper is known for the strong spicy aroma and hot pungent taste.

It grows as bunch on a spike.  As it matures to harvesting stage size,  a normal berry grows to a sphere of 2-4 millimeters, deep green in color due to chlorophyll on the outer layer of skin.

The climbing woody stems have swollen nodes with clinging roots at each node, which helps in anchoring the vine to the support trees. It has straight upward growing main stems that have lateral shoots from the axils. In such branches the terminal buds get modified into an inflorescence (spike) and the auxiliary buds continue further growth.

On plucking and sun drying the outside color turns black. This colour change is due to actin of enzyme on phenolic compounds present on the compact pulpy skin. Cholorophyll does not disappear but is masked by the black pigments formed by enzymatic action.

A fresh pepper berry consists of a hard core and a soft outer rind. The dried black peeper will have a typical spicy aroma, caused by the essential oil, which is mainly distributed to the inner portion of the outer rind, and a very small amount in the core. The hot pungent taste is caused by piperine, which is distributed in the hard core.

The root system is confined to 75 – 100 centimeter radius and depth. The inflorescence is a pendent spike 3 – 15 centimeters long with 50 – 150 flowers. The flowers are minute, white pale yellow, arranged spirally on fleshy pedantries. The species is naturally self-pollinated and pollen dispersal is aided by the presence of water droplets. The fruit is a single seeded drupe often called a berry. It is spherical in shape, green in color, changing to red on ripening.

Pepper requires hot and humid climate and grows between 20 degree North and South latitudes, from sea level to up to 1500 meters  AMSL. The crop tolerates temperatures between 10 degree and 40 degree Celsius. A well-distributed annual rainfall of 125 to 200 centimeters is considered ideal for pepper.

The oil is separated through steam distillation. The essential oil content of pepper varies between 2% – 4% and piperine content between 4% – 10%.

Botanical Name : Piper nigrum L

Other Names : India (Kali Mirchi, Kale Miri, Mari, Milagu, Kurumulagu, Miriyalu, Ollemenasu)

French (Poivre), German (Pfeffer), Arabic (Filfil Aswad), Italian (Pepe), Japanese(Pepe), Russian (Pyerets), Chinese (Hu-Chiao)


Pepper is considered as originating in the hills of the South Western Ghats of India. It is now grown in Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brazil, Mexico, and Guatemala apart from the country of origin.


Pepper is largely used by meat packers, and in canning, pickling, and baking; it is also recognized for its preservative value.

It has the ability to correct the seasoning of many dishes, therefore it 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. White pepper is used in products like mayonnaise, where black specks of black pepper are not accepted.

Other products of pepper  are pepper oil, oleoresin, micro encapsulated pepper, green pepper in brine, dehydrated green pepper, and frozen pepper .

Black pepper is an essential ingredient in the Indian system of medicine. The major functional properties of pepper are analgesic, anti-pyretic, anti-oxidant, and anti-microbial.

CAMBODGE is a tropical fruit commonly known as Malabar Tamarind. It is a medium size evergreen judicious tree with a rounded crown and horizontal or drooping branches, attaining a height of up to 18 meters.

The fruit is a berry having a size of an apple, yellow or red with 6 to 8 grooves, forming blunt lobes with a tough rind, and with 6 to 8 seeds and succulent arils. The fruit is weighs 50 to 180 grams.cambodge

Botanical name :  Garcinia cambogia

Other Names –India (Goraka, Kodampuli, Vrikshamala), French (Gamboge), German (Gummiguttbaum), Chinese (Guan-mu)


It is a native of India. It is also fairly common in Sri Lanka and Malaysia.


The dried rind is used as a condiment for flavouring curries. In Sri Lanka the dried rind with salt is used for curing fish. The rind contains hydroxy citric acid and is widely employed in anti-obesity drugs.

CARAWAY is the dried fruit of a biennial herbaceous plant. It has been used in Europe since ancient times. It could have its origin in the Near or Middle East, as the name is believed to have originated from Caria, which was a region in Asia Minor.

The seeds are small and elongated and slightly curved with a length of about half a centimeter.

On steam distillation, dry spice yields  7 – 8% volatile oil. The main constituent of caraway oils is cavone which is present to the extent of 60%.  Seeds contain about 15% fixed oil.caraway

Botanical name : Carum carvi L

Other Names : India (Siya Zeera, Shimai shambu, Shime jeerige), French (Grainsde Carvi), Arabic (Karaway), Italian (Caro)


Caraway is a native of North and Central Europe and is extensively cultivated in Holland, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Rumania, Syria, Morocco, and to a lesser extent, in England, and US


The seeds are used to mask breath, especially alcoholic breath.

The aroma and flavor are distinctly savory.

Caraway is also widely used as a spice for culinary purposes and for flavouring bread, biscuits, cakes and cheese.

It is also used for seasoning sausages and as medicine.

CARDAMOM (Small) There is a mention of Ela (which is cardamom) in the old medicinal treatise attributed to Charaka and Surusta of the 1st century AD.

Cardamom is regarded as the third most expensive spice after saffron and vanilla.

Cardamom of commerce, is the dried ripe fruit (capsules of the cardamom plant) often referred as the “Queen of Spices” because of its very pleasant aroma and taste.

Cardamom is a perennial, herbaceous, rhizomatous plant. Three varieties are of cardamom are most commonly recognized:  Malabar with prostrate panicle, Mysore with erect panicle, and Vazhukka with semi erect panicle.

Plants are of medium size (2 to 3 meters in height) with pubescent leaves (on the dorsal side) and in the case of Malabar, with fruit,

Indian cardamom is offered to the international markets in different grades: ‘Alleppey Green Extra Bold’ (AGEB), ‘Alleppey Green Bold’ (AGB) and ‘Alleppey Green Superior’ (AGS) are names that register instant appeal worldwide.

India is a traditional exporter of cardamom to the Middle East countries where it goes mostly into the preparation of ‘Gahwa’ – a strong cardamom – coffee concoction without which no day is complete or no hospitality hearty, for an Arab.

Indian cardamom enjoys a premium preference in the Middle East, and for Japanese and Russians who relish it for its distinct enriching properties.

Scandinavian countries also  used to patronize India  bleached cardamoms especially for use in pastries and puddings.

Saudi Arabia has promoted use of green cardamom, probably because of the green colour which is significant to Muslims.

Botanical Name : Elettaria cardmom M

Other Names : India ((Elaichi, Welchi, Lila Alchi, Choti Ilaichi, Yelakkai, Elathari, Yelakki), Spanish (Cardamomo), German (Kardamom), French (Cardamome), Italian (Cardamomo), Russian (Cardamomo), Arabic(Hal), Japanese (Karudamon), Chinese (Pai-tou-k’ou)


Cultivation of cardamom is mostly concentrated in India. Besides India, cardamom is grown as a commercial crop in Guatemala, and on a small scale in Tanzania, Sri Lanka, El Salvador, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Honduras, and Papua & New Guinea.


Cardamom oil is a precious ingredient in food preparations, perfumery, health foods, medicines, and beverages.

Cardamom as a flavor is highly liked in sweets, milk products, and masala tea.

It is also used in savory foods like meat curries.

CARDAMON (Large) is a perennial herb with subterranean rhizomes and 50 -140 aerial leafy shoots. Each shoot has height of 1.7 to 2.6 meters and possess 9 to 13 leaves in each tiller. Leaves are glabrous on both sides with a prominent mid-rib.

the inflorescence is a condensed spike with a yellowish perianth. Each spike has 10-15 fruit. The fruit is a round or oval shape capsule with reddish brown colour. Each capsule is trilocular with many seeds.big-cardomom

Botanical Name – Amomum subulatum Rozburgh.


Large Cardamom is cultivated in the Sub-Himalayan region of North Eastern India, Nepal and Bhutan


It is used as a flavourant in dishes like Pulavu, Biriyani, and meat preparations. It is also an ingredient in curry powder and spice masala mixtures, and is also used in Ayurvedic and Unani medicines.

Large cardamom also has applications in flavouring cola, biscuits, and liquors.

CASSIA  Ancient Chinese religious followers used to give cassia a lot of importance  as a tree of Paradise. It is also referred in the Bible.

Cassia is the dried bark of the cassia tree, which is a bushy ever green  18-20 meters high with and a trunk 40-60 centimeters in diameter.  The trunk is straight and cylindrical with grey brown bark 13-15 millimeters thick when mature.  cassia

The bark gives a heavy essential oil rich in cinnamic aldehyde. The trees are generally grown in the wild and are not subjected to systematic agricultural practices.

Indonesian cassia is a top quality product. It gives high yields of oil and is regarded as superior in flavor characteristics.

Cassia is grown at altitudes up to 300 meters AMSL with a mean daily temperature of about 23 degree Celsius and an annual rainfall of 1250 millimeters with about 135 wet days.

It is a light demanding tree, slightly shade tolerant when young, preferring cool and wet condition

Botanical Name- Cinnamomum cassia Blume.

Other Names: India (Jangli dalchini, Lavangapattai), French (Cannelle de cochinchine), German (Kassie), Italian (Cassia), Arabic (Darasini), Chinese (Gui pi/Gui)


Cassia grows mainly in South China, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Nepal. In India only a few trees are available.


Apart from its use as spice, cassia is a well known medicine, reinforcing ‘yang’, the body fire. ‘Gui zhi’ (the dried twig of the cassia and cinnamon) is collected in the spring and summer and dried in the sun. It is used in decoctions, and has analgesic and anti-pyretic properties

CELERY SEED is a spice that was known to the ancient world. Its medical property is reported in Homer’s Odyssey. The plant is closely related to carrots and parsley. The seeds are bitter and therefore in the olden days it was used mainly for therapeutic uses.

Celery is an umbelliferous, aromatic, herbaceous plant grown for its leaves, seeds, oleoresin and essential oil. Celery plants are usually 30-60 centimeters high, erect with conspicuously jointed stems, bearing well-developed leaves on long expanded petioles.

The rigid fruit is small, ovoid, 1 to 1.5 millimeters long, 1 to 2 millimeters in diameter and containing a small brown seed.celery seed

Dried seeds give an oil with a yield of 1 – 2.5%.

The amin constituent of the oil is selinene.

Botanical Name – Apium graveolens L.

Other Names – India (Shalari, Ajmud, Randhuni, Ajmoda) French (Celeri), German  (Sellerie), Italian (Sedano), Arabic (Karafs), Chinese (Chin)


The native habitat of celery extends from Sweden to Egypt, Algeria and Ethiopia and in Asia, India and China. It is an annual in the planes, whereas, biennial in cold climate and on hills.cele


The dried ripened fruit (celery fruit) is used as spice.The leaves and stalks are used as a vegetable in salads and in soups.

It is also widely used in meat seasonings, in flavoring beverages, confectioneries, ice creams and baked goods.

It is figured as a natural medicine in different cultures. In modern medicine, it is used as a stimulant and for treating Asthma and liver diseases.

CHILLI is the dried ripe fruit of the genus Capsicum.

Capsicum annuum is an annual shrub, the flowers of which are borne singly and the fruit usually pendent, which provide red peppers, cayenne, paprika, 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’.

Botanical Name :- Capsicum annum L.,

Other Names :- India (Lal mirch, Mirapa kaya), German (Paprika), Arabic (Filfil Ahmar), French (Puvre de Guinee), Chinese (Hesiung Yali chiao)



Chilly is reported to be a native of South America and is widely distributed in all tropical and sub tropical countries including India. It was first introduced in India by the Portuguese towards the end of 15th century. Now it is grown all over the world except in colder parts


Dry chilli is extensively used as a spice in curried dishes. It is also used as an ingredient in curry powder and seasonings. Bird chilly is used in making hot sauces such as Pepper sauce and Tabasco sauce.

Paprika, Bydagi chilli, Warangal chapatta, and similar high colour but 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, because of being a ‘natural plant colour’.

As a medicine, chilli is used as a counter irritant in Lumbago, Neuralgia, and Rheumatic disorders. Capsicum has a tonic and carminative action and taken inordinately it may cause gastroenteritis.

The enzyme isolated from chilly is used in the treatment of certain types of cancers. Oleoresin capsicum is used in pain balms and vapor rubs. Dehydrated green chilly is a good source of vitamin ‘c’.


CINNAMON is referred to in the Bible and its use is indicated in the embalming and religious ceremonies of ancient Egypt. It is possible that in early historical records, true cinnamon was confused with Chinese cassia.

Cinnamon spice is made from the inner thin bark of cinnamon trees. It is prepared by cutting of branches and scraping off the outer rough layer. (For good quality spice only branches of the proper size are used). After this the thin bark is skillfully removed to prepare different and well recognized grades.

The long rolls of inner bark of about 1 meter length forms the best grade known as a “quill”. During the processing, due to breakage, small pieces obtained are known as ‘quilling’.

Other lower grades include ‘feathering’, which are the inner bark or twigs which cannot give straight quills, and “chips”  (pieces obtained from thick branches).

Steam distillation of oil is carried out from ground cinnamon of lower grades. Distillation takes a long time as the oil is very heavy with specific gravity higher than water. The oil tends to diffuse and the collection from distillate water takes time. The main constituent of oil is cinnamic aldehyde.

Botanical Name – Cinnamon verum Presl

Other Names – India (Dal Chini), Sinhala (Kurundu), Arabic (Querfa)


Cinnamomum verum is mostly cultivated in Sri Lanka, Malagasy Republic, and Seychelles. It originated in the central hills of Sri Lanka. In India, it is grown in one or two locations in Kerala, and it is said to grow wild in Himalayan regions of Nepal.

Cinnamon is a hardy plant and is cultivated in Sri Lanka under varying conditions ranging from semi dried to wet zone conditions. The ideal temperature for growing cinnamon is between 20-30 degree Celsius with rainfall between 1250 to 2500 millimeters. It thrives well as a forest tree above 300 – 350 meter AMSL



Cinnamon bark is a popular spice with a delicate fragrance and a warm agreeable taste. It is used in the form of small pieces or powder. It is widely used in flavouring confectionery, liquors, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.

It is found to help diabetics in the digestion of sugar. It has astringent, stimulant, and carminative properties, and can check nausea and vomiting.

The cinnamon bark oil has anti-fungal properties and cinnamon leaf oil is widely used in perfumery and cosmetics.

CLOVE is a widely traded spice. There are references to cloves in the Chinese literature of the 3rd century BC. Zanzibar, now part of Tanzania, was once the major supplier in the world. The island of Pemba there is known as ‘the island of cloves’.

Clove is the flower bud of an evergreen tree Syzgium aromaticum.

The unopened buds are grown in a bunch of 10-20. On drying the buds get dark in colour. Cloves have a powerful fragrant aroma, with a medicinal note. Early medical people considered it as an aid to digestion and believed that it strengthened the stomach, liver, and heart.

Cloves give, on steam distillation, an essential oil with a yield of 12-20%. Dried clove leaves yield 2-3% of clove leaf oil.


Botanical Name- Syzgium aromaticum L

Other Names – India (Laong), Arabic (Kabsh ,Qarunfil), Chinese (Ding xiang), French (Clou de girofle)


Indonesia is the largest producer and supplier of cloves. Other major growers are Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Cloves are also grown in  India.


In Indonesia, ground clove is used along with tobacco for cigarettes.

Clove is used as a masticatory in the East.

Clove suppresses the tendency for nausea and freshness in teeth.

However the largest and most common use of cloves is as spice in cookery and for food processing. It is used in a wide range of foods, meats, vegetables, sweet dishes, pastries, and puddings.


CORIANDER was used as early as 5000 BC according to Indian Vedic literature. It was used in Egyptian burials at around 1000 BC and even before. The great Arabian classic “ A Thousand and One Nights” refers to this spice as an aphrodisiac.

The name coriander, is derived from a Greek word “kopis” meaning bugs.

Coriander is an important spice crop having a prime position in flavoring food. The plant is a thin stemmed, small, bushy herb, 25 to 50 centimeters in height with many branches and umbels. Leaves are alternate and compound. The whole plant has a pleasant aroma.

The inflorescence is a compound umbel comprising of 5 smaller umbels. The fruit is globular, 3 to 4 millimeters in diameter, and when squeezed will break into two locules each having one seed. The fruit has a delicate fragrance; the seeds are pale white to light brown in colour.corian

Botanical Name:- Coriandrum sativam L

Other Names – India (Dhaniya), German (Koriander), Arabic (Kuzhbare), Chinese (Hu-sui)


Coriander is a native to the Mediterranean and commercially produced in India, Morocco, Russia, East European countries, France, Central America, Mexico, and USA.



The young plant is used for flavouring and garnishing curries and soups. The fruit (seeds) are widely used as condiments with or without roasting in the preparation of curry powders, sausages and seasonings. It is an important ingredient in the manufacture of food flavourings, in bakery products, meat products, soda and syrups, puddings, candy, preserves, and liquors.

In medicines it is used as a carminative, refrigerant, diuretic, and aphrodisiac. In household medicines, it is used against seasonal fever, stomach disorders, and nausea.

Coriander oil and oleoresins are primarily used in seasonings for sausages and other meat products.

CUMIN is a seed spice, known to Egyptians even 5000 years B.C . It also has references in Bible. It is also  a spice that was used in ancient Europe. In southern Europe it represented greed, while in Germany it was used by newlyweds as a symbol to ensure loyalty to one another.

Cumin is the seed of an annual small herb.cuminThe seeds have a pleasant aroma but with a mildly bitter taste. the seed is oval and about 6 millimeters in length with longitudinal ridges. It yields 4-5% of essential oil out of which around 50% is made up of cuminaldehyde. Seeds have about 20% fatty oil.

Botanical Name :- Cuminum cyminum L

 Other names – India (Zeera), Arabic (Kammun), Russian (Kmin), Chinese (Machin), French (Cumin)


Cumin is indigenous to Northern Egypt, Syria, the Mediterranean region, Iran, and India. It is also cultivated in Mexico, China, Sicily, and Malta.


It is used as a condiment, and as an ingredient in curry powders, seasonings of breads, cakes, and cheese. It is also used in native dishes of Central and South America.

In medicine, cumin is used as a stimulant, carminative, stomachic, and astringent.

Cumin seed oil is used in perfumery, and for flavouring liqueurs and cordials.


DILL is used in Europe for its soothing effect on the digestive system.

It is regarded as a magic herb in medieval Europe.

In ancient times, brides were believed to wear a small branch in their hair and footwear for good fortunes.

Mexican believed that it can protect them from effects of witchcraft and evil spirits.

Dill is an annual herb of Parsley plant.

The seeds with a length of about half a centimeter are grey-brown, curved, oval and flattish with about five ribs.

European dill gives an essential oil with a yield of 4% while Indian dill gives a lower yield.

The oil, being rich in crvone, about 60%, has a smell similar to caraway.


Botanical Name – Anethum graveolens L

Other Names – India (Sowa), French (Aneth), Arabic (Shibith), Chinese (Shin-Lo), Italian (Aneto)


European Dill (Anetheum graveolens) is indigenous to Europe and is cultivated in England, Germany, Romania, Turkey, USA, Russia, and Iran.


Dill seed is used both whole and ground as a condiment in soups, salads, processed meats, sausages, and pickling. Dill stems and blossoms are used for dill pickles.

The essential oil is used in the manufacture of soaps.

Both seeds and oil are used in indigenous medicinal preparations.

The emulsion of dill oil in water is an aromatic carminative.

FENNEL  In olden times, scholars used to consider fennel seeds not only as a spice but also as one endowed with many characteristics related to active and healthy life.

In Greece fennel is regarded as a symbol of success.

In Rome, young fennel shoots are eaten as food, it is believed to improve vision and even as an antidote for poison.

The greenish seeds are long and larger than cumin, with longitudinal ridges.

On steam distillation, the seed gives about 1-6% of oil which is rich in anethole. It has about 15% fatty oil.

It is a biennial, aromatic, stout, glabrous, 1.5 to 1.8 meters high. The ripe fruit (seed) is small, oblong, cylindrical, 6.8 millimeters long, straight or slightly curved, greenish yellow, deeply furrowed with 5 ridges, and having an agreeable aroma.


Botanical Name : Foeniculum vulgare Miller

Other Names – India (Sounf), Italian (Finocchio), Chinese (Hui-Hsiang), French (Fenouil)


Fennel is a native of Europe and Asia Minor.

It is cultivated extensively in Northern India as a cold weather crop. It comes up well in fairly mild climate. The dry and cold weather favours high seed production. Prolonged cloudy weather at the time of flowering is conducive to diseases and pests.


The leaves of fennel are used for garnishing. The leaves and stalks are also used in salads. It is an essential ingredient in Italian sausages, widely used to sprinkle on pizza. The dried fruit has a fragrant odour and pleasant aromatic taste and therefore used as a masticatory.

The fruit is also used for flavouring soups, meat dishes, sauces, pastries, confectioneries and liquors.

The fruit is aromatic, stimulant and carminative.

FENUGREEK seed is the ripe fruit of an annual herb.

This robust herb has light green leaves, is 30-60 centimeters tall and produces slender, beaked pods, 10-15 centimeters long, each pod contains 10-20 small hard yellowish brown seeds, which are smooth and oblong, about 3 millimeters long, each grooved across one corner, giving them a hooked appearance.

The fresh fruit has a pleasant odour, reminiscent of maple. The dried spice is yellow to light brown in colour with rounded rectangular to triangular shape. It has negligible amount of essential oil and as such dried spice has very little aroma. Its fine aroma and flavor comes from roasting. Apparently the spice produces thermally developed flavours as is seen during roasting of similar products. On roasting, the colour turns darker due to carmalization.fen

Fenugreek is a cold season crop and is fairly tolerant to frost and very low temperature. It is best suited to tracts of moderate to low rainfall and is sown in all types of soil but performs better in loam and clayey loam with proper drainage. It can also be grown on black cotton soils

Botanical Name :- Trigonella foenum-graecum L

Other Names – India (Methe), French (Fenugrec), Italian (Fieno Greco), Chinese (K’u – Tou)


Fenugreek is a native of South Eastern Europe and West Asia, now cultivated in India, Argentina, Egypt and Mediterranean countries (Southern France, Morocco and Lebanon).


Fenugreek is used both as a food and food additive as well as in medicines.

Fresh tender pods, leaves and shoots are eaten as vegetable.

As a spice, it flavours food.

Powder of dried leaves is also used for garnishing and flavouring a variety of food.

Fenugreek extract is used as a flavouring agent of imitation maple syrup.

It is also one of the principle constituents of curry powder.

In medicine, the seeds are used as a remedy for colic flatulence, dysentery, diarrhea, dyspepsia, chronic cough, and enlargement of liver and spleen, rickets, gout, and diabetes.

It is also used as a carminative, tonic, and aphrodisiac.

Fenugreek oil is used in the manufacture of hair tonics.

GALANGAL is the dried rhizome of a plant named Alpenia Galanga. This is a perennial, robust, tillering, rhizomatous herb.

The plant is 1.8 to 2.1 meters high and bears perennial rhizome (2.5 to 10 centimeters thick), which are deep orange to brown in colour, aromatic, pungent and bitter.

The pseudo-stem formed by the rolled leaf sheaths is erect, the inflorescence is terminal, and flowered. The fruits are about 13 millimeters long, constricted in the middle and containing 3 to 6 seeds.


Botanical Name : Alpinia galanga

Other Names : India (Kulanjan), German (Galgant), French (Galanga, Souchet long), Chinese (Gou leuhng geung)


Galangal is a native of Indonesia and is currently cultivated in all South East Asian countries, India, Bangladesh, China and Surinam.


The rhizomes have many applications in traditional medicines such as for skin diseases, indigestion, colic, dysentery, enlarged spleen, respiratory diseases, mouth and stomach cancer.

Rhizomes show anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-protozoal, and expectorant activities.

Young rhizome is a spice used to flavour various dishes in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and China.

GARLIC is known to ancient Romans and Egyptian and is referred to in Bibical writings at the time of Moses. It is believed to have originated in West Asia.

In the pre- Christians era, people of Rome and Greece believed that garlic has magical powers, so much so that sailors carried it, hoping that it will save them from sea disaster. There is also a mention that Israelis developed a taste for garlic during their journey out of Egypt.

Garlic is the hardy bulbous portion under earth, of a plant with narrow leaves. The compound bulb consists of 6 to 34 bulblets called ‘cloves’ which are surrounded by a common, thin, white or pinkish papery sheet. Garlic has a strong flavour and taste.


Botanical Name – Allium sativum L

 Other Names – India (Lahsun), French (Ail), Arabic (Thum), Chinese (Suan), Italian (Agilio)


Garlic is a native of West Asia and Mediterranean area. China, Korea, India, USA, Spain, Argentina and Egypt are the major garlic growing countries.


 Garlic is used for flavouring various dishes practically all over the world. In United States almost half of the produce is dehydrated for use in mayonnaise products, salad dressings, and in several meat preparations.

Raw garlic is used in the preparation of garlic powder, garlic salt, garlic vinegar, garlic cheese croutins, garlicked potato chips, garlic bread, garlicked bacon, etc. Spray dried garlic products, liquid garlic preparations are other comm derivatives of raw garlic.

In India and other Asian and Middle East Countries, garlic is used in pickles, curry powders, curried vegetables, and meat preparations . Oil of garlic is used as a flavouring agent in soups, canned foods, and sauces .

The other properties of garlic are anti-bacterial, fungicidal, and insecticidal.

In the area of medicine, it is used for various ailments of the stomach, and skin diseases. It has wider applications in indigenous medicines and is also considered as highly nutritive.

GINGER is the dried underground stem of the herbaceous tropical plant grown as an annual. The whole plant is refreshingly aromatic and the underground rhizome, raw or processed, is valued as spice.

Ginger is a slender perennial herb, 30 – 50 centimeters tall with a palmately branched rhizome bearing leafy shoots. The leafy shoot is a pseudostem formed by a leaf sheath and bears 8 to 12 distichous leaves.


  Botanical Name – Zingiber officinale Roscoe

Other Names – India (Adrak), French (Gingembre), Italian (Zenzero), Chinese (Chiang)


Ginger is a tropical plant with the centre of origin in India and Malaysia. Now it is widely cultivated in India, Nepal, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Malaysia, Southern China, and Japan.


Fresh ginger, dry ginger powder, oleoresin and oil, are used in food processing. It is indispensable in the manufacture of ginger bread, confectionary, ginger ale, curry powders, certain curried meats, table sauces, in pickling, and in the manufacture of certain cordials, ginger cocktail, carbonated drinks, and in liquors.

In medicine ginger is used as a carminative, and stimulant. It has wider applications in indigenous medicines.

The ginger oil is used as food flavourant and in in soft drinks.

MUSTARD was known to the Chinese before Christ, and it is referred to in the Christian Gospels by Jesus,  as the smallest of seeds. It was known to the Greeks and Romans at about that same time..

Large quantities of mustard seeds are used as a source of fatty oils, but it is also quite valuable as a spice.

Mustard is a seed of an erect, multi branched herbaceous plant. It is an annual herb cultivated as an oil seed crop, as vegetable, and as fodder; of which three species are known for its condiment value.

They are pale yellow or white mustard (Brassica hirta) brown mustard (Brassica juncea) and black mustard (Brassica nigra).

The leaves of the plant are alternate, long, bristly branched, petiolate, and hairy on both sides. The flowers are small, yellow with four petals, cruciform. The Seeds are 1.5 – 3 millimeters in length.


Botanical name : Brassica juncea (L.) Czern. & Coss.

Other Name – India (Rai), French (Moutarde), Italian (Senape), Chinese (Chieh)



The yellow/white mustard is indigenous to Southern Europe, whereas brown mustard is from China introduced to Northern India. The black mustard is endemic in the Southern Mediterranean region. The white mustard is widely cultivated in Australia, China, Chile, Denmark, Italy, Japan, UK, Netherlands, North Africa, Canada, and USA.


Besides oil, the major processed products are mustard powder used in the manufacture of mayonnaise, dried or dehydrated mustard leaves, and whole mustard seeds.

Whole mustard is used as a flavouring agent in Indian cooking, whereas ground mustard provides flavour and consistency in Bengali fish curries.

NUTMEG & MACE  are two distinctly different spices produced from a fruit of an evergreen tree usually 9-12 meters high.

Mace is the dried reticulated ‘aril’ of the fruit, and nutmeg is the dried seed kernel of the fruit.

The trees are normally unisexual, bearing either male or female flowers.

The male flowers are born in clusters, whereas female flowers are often solitary.

The fruit is a fleshy drupe, spherical in shape, pale yellow in colour, with a longitudinal groove in the centre. When the fruit matures it bursts open along the groove exposing the bright attractive mace covering the hard black shiny shell of the seed called nutmeg.

Nutmeg thrives well in places with warm humid climate from sea level up to 600 meters AMSL. It grows on a variety of soils from sandy to clayey loams and red laterite soils with good drainage. A well-distributed annual rainfall of 250 centimeters is ideal for the crop.


Botanical Name – Myristica fragrans

Other Names – India (Jaiphal), French (Muscade), Italian (Noce moscata), Chinese (Dou kou shu)


Nutmeg trees are indigenous to the Moluccas Islands. The major nutmeg growing areas are Indonesia and Granada. It also grows on a smaller scale in Sri Lanka, India, China, Malaysia, Zanzibar, Mauritius, and Solomon Island.


Both nutmeg and mace are used as condiments particularly in sweet foods.

The spice in the ground form is mainly used in the food processing industry especially as a standard seasoning in many Dutch dishes.

Nutmeg oleoresin is used in the preparation of meat products, soups, sauces, baked foods, confectioneries, puddings, and seasoning of meat and vegetables.

The fleshy outer cover of the fruit is crystallized or pickled or made into jellies. Mace is used in savoury dishes.

Mace is also used as a drug in Eastern countries because of its stimulant, carminative, astringent, and aphrodisiac, properties. Excessive doses have a narcotic effect.

Nutmeg oil is used in soft drinks, cosmetics, and toiletries.

SAFFORN is often called the “golden spice”. It gives a rich colour and equisite flavour. The dried spice is generally regarded as the most expensive spice in the world. It is the dried stigma and style top of plant.

One kilogramof dry saffron needs 500,000 to 1,000,000 stigmas and this gives an idea of high cost involved. The plant grows to a low height of 15 – 30 centimeters with an underground globular bulb.

The fragrant flowers have orange coloured stigmas together with style tops. There is a short critical roasting to fix the colour to spice which comes as organish strands.


Botanical Name –Crocus sativus L.               

Other Names – India (Kesar), French (Safran), Italian (Zafferano), Chinese (Fan Hung-Hua)


Saffron is a native of Southern Europe and cultivated in the Mediterranean countries, particularly in Spain, Austria, France, Greece, England, Turkey, and Iran. In India, it is cultivated in Jammu & Kashmir and in Himachal Pradesh.


Saffron is used as a culinary seasoning and to colour cottage cheese, chicken and meat, rice, mayonnaise, liquors, and cordials. It is also used in speciality breads, cakes, confectioneries, and Mughlai dishes.

Saffron is also used as a perfume in cosmetics.

In medicine saffron is used as a remedy for fevers, melancholia, and enlargement of liver and spleen.

In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to heal arthritis, impotence, and infertility.

It has wide range of uses in Chinese and Tibetan medicines.

TAMARIND is the ripe fruit of the tamarind tree and is used as a condiment.

It is a moderate to large evergreen tree, growing up to 24 meters in height and 7 meters in girth.

The bark is brown or dark gray, longitudinally and horizontally fissured. The leaves are paripinnate up to 15 centimeters long, leaflets are in 10-20 pairs, oblong, 8 – 30 millimeters in length.

The flowers are small, yellowish with pink stripes, the pods are 7- 20 centimeters long, 2.5 centimeters broad, 1 centimeter thick, more or less constricted between seeds, slightly curved, and brownish coloured.

The seeds are 3 -12 oblong compressed, 1.5 centimeters, dark brown and shining. The endocarp is a light brownish, sweetish or acidic, edible pulp, traversed by branched ligneous strands. The outer cover of the pod is fragile and easily separable.tamarind


Botanical Name – Tamarindus indica L    

 Other Names – India (Imli), Italian (Tamarindo), Chinese (Da ma lin), French (Tamarin)


Tamarind originated in Madagascar and is now extensively cultivated in India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, several African, Central American, South American countries, and in India.                            


Tamarind pulp is used in numerous culinary preparations. It is also a raw material for the preparation of wine like beverages.

The tamarind kernel powder is found to be extensively used for its sizing properties, in textile, confectionery, cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries. The testa is used in the dyeing and tanning industry.

The tender leaves and flowers are used as vegetables.

In medicine, tamarind is used as an appetizer, laxative, and healing and anti-helmintic. It is also used against fluorosis.

TURMERIC is the boiled, dried, cleaned and polished rhizomes of Curcuma longa.

It is  a spice valued in international market more for the bright yellow colour than as a flavouring material. Nevertheless, it is valued from olden days  for food flavouring, for colouring, and for therapeutic uses, so much so that it is regarded as an auspicious material.

Turmeric is a rhizome, an underground stem growth from which roots and shoots grow.

The turmeric plant grows to a maximum height of 1 meter, and harvested about nine month’s later.  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 centimeters and a width of 8-12 centimeters. The inflorescence is a central spike of 10-15 centimeters in length. One to four flowers are born in the axil of the bract opening one at a time. About 30 flowers are produced in a spike.

The seeds are produced in capsules and there will be one to numerous sunken capsules in an inflorescence.


 Botanical Name – Curcuma longa L.

Other Names – India (Haldi), French (Curcuma), Italian (Curcuma), Russian (Zholty Imbir), Chinese (Yu.Chin)

turmeric plant


Turmeric is cultivated in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, Korea, China, Sri Lanka, Nepal, East & West Africa, South Pacific Islands, Malagasy, Caribbean Islands, and Central America.


Turmeric is used to flavour and to 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.

The colour curcumin extracted from turmeric is used as a colourant. Turmeric is also used as a dye in textile industry.

It is used in the preparation of medicinal oils, ointments, and poultice. It is stomachic, carminative, tonic, blood purifier, and an antiseptic.

It is also used in cosmetics.

The aqueous extracts has biopesticidal properties.

VANILLA a member of the orchid family, is a climbing monocot possessing  a stout, succulent stem; short petioled, and oblong leaves about 20 centimeters long.

The inflorescence is a raceme with 20 or more flowers. The flowers are 6 centimeters long, 2.5 centimeters wide, either yellowish green or white.

The fruit, popularly known as ‘beans’ or ‘pods’ is a capsule, nearly cylindrical and about 20 centimeters long.DSCF1035

Vanilla thrives well from the sea level up to 1000 meter AMSL, under hot, moist, tropical climate with adequate well-distributed rainfall.

Natural growth is obtained at latitudes of 15 degree North and 20 degree South of the equator. The optimum temperature ranges from 21-32 degree Celsius, and rainfall 2000 – 2500 millimeters annually.

Dry periods of about 2 months is needed to restrict vegetative growth and induce flowering. It grows best in light, porous, and friable soils, with pH. 6-7. Partial shade is essential for successful cultivation.

Botanical Name – Vanilla planifolia Andrews

Other Names – India (Vanilla), Chinese (Hsiang – Tsao), French (Vanille), Arabic (Wanilla), Italian (Vaniglia)


It is a native of the Atlantic Coast from Mexico to Brazil. The important vanilla producing countries are Madagascar, Mexico, Tahiti, Malagasy Republic, Comoros, Reunion, Indonesia, Seychelles, and India.


Vanilla is used mainly as a flavouring material; a critical intermediary in a host of pharmaceutical products and as a subtle component of perfumes. As a flavouring agent, it is used in the preparation of ice creams, milk, beverages, candies, confectionaries and various bakery items.