Ajwain seeds also known as celery seeds and botanical name is Trachyspermum ammi. Ajwain seeds, oval-shaped, seed-like fruits are pale brown schizocarps, which resemble the seeds of other plants in the Apiaceous family such as caraway, cumin and fennel. They have a bitter and pungent taste, with a flavor similar to anise and oregano. They smell almost exactly like thyme because they also contain thymol, but they are more aromatic and less subtle in taste, as well as being somewhat bitter and pungent. Even a small number of fruits tend to dominate the flavor of a dish.
Aserio seeds botanical name is lepidium Sativvum. A member of the Cabbage family, it displays a spicy aroma and a refreshing, peppery-pungent taste lasting only a few seconds. Similar to many other members of the cabbage family, it owes their aroma to isothiocyanates. The isothiocyanates are formed from inactive precursors called glucosinolates as a reaction to injuries. Common cress contains gluconasturtiin, which yields the 2-phenylethyl isothiocyanates (C6H5-CH2-CH2-NCS). Seeds contain volatile essential aromatic oil, the active principle and fatty oil.
The basil seeds that are used for eating are the seeds from the sweet basil plant, Ocimum basilicum. They are also called Thai basil seeds, falooda, sabja, subza, selasih or tukmaria. Sweet basil seeds are a similar size as chia seeds.
Bay fragrant leaves with pointed ends are used in their dried form. These are used in curries and rice preparations. It is an example of an aromatic leaf which is commonly used in cooking Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavour and fragrance.
Black Pepper is the dried mature berry of Piper nigrum, a climbing, perennial shrub mostly found in hot, moist region of 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.
Caraway seeds also known as shahjeera; botanical name is carum carvi. Caraway is the mature, dried schizocarpic fruit of a biennial herb, native to Eurasia. Each schizocarpic fruit is formed of two caraway seeds and divides into the two half-fruits when mature. The umbels are cut shortly before they reach maturity and dried. Caraway has a warm, sweet and slightly peppery aroma. Caraway is used in the food industry, in medicine and domestically. The primary active constituent in caraway is volatile oil (4-6 on average), which itself is made up of carvone and limonene. The fruit of the caraway plant contains fixed oil along with carbohydrate and protein.
Cardamom botanical name is Elettaria cardamomum. Cardamom is the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family. Fruits and seeds leave pleasant aroma with sweet, pungent taste behind when chewed. Cardamom has a sweet, lemony, eucalyptus flavor. It is world’s second most expensive spice. It is available as a powder, dried pods, or loose seeds. Green cardamoms are the most common, but there are also black and cream varieties. It is one of India’s favorite spices, used in curries, savory and sweet dishes, ice cream and custards. It is often combined with almonds and saffron. It can be used to flavor tea and also is great with black coffee. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine to remove fat and as a cure for urinary and skin complaints. Egyptians chewed cardamoms to whiten their teeth and simultaneously sweeten their breath. The seeds are aromatic, sweet cooling, carminative (cures flatulence), digestive, stimulant and tonic. Cardamom finds usage in indigestion, anorexia, burning sensation, debility, asthma.
Chilly is the dried ripe fruit of the genus Capsicum. Capsicum annuum is an annual 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 like pepper sauce and Tabasco 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’.
Cinnamon is the dried bark of various laurel trees in the cinnamomun verum family. It is a sweet-tasting spice, with a warm, woody aroma. The smell of Cinnamon is pleasant, stimulates the senses, yet calms the nerves. The thinnest bark is the best quality cinnamon. It is available as a powder but is much better bought in sticks. When ground, the flavor becomes stronger. Whole cinnamon is used for spacing hot drinks, ground – in cakes, sweet dishes, fruit pies (especially apples). It can also be used in more piquant dishes, such as curries, and combines perfectly with chicken.
Cloves botanical name is Syzygium aromaticum. Cloves are small, dried, reddish-brown flower buds of the tropical evergreen tree of the myrtle family. They have strong, sweet aroma and hot, pungent taste, Cloves are best bought whole and ground, if necessary. They have been used in India for thousands of years, not only in cooking, but to sweeten the breath and to relieve the pain of toothache. They contain a mild anesthetic. Whole cloves are frequently used to flavor meat dishes, curries, and soups.
Coriander seeds botanical name is Coriandrum sativum. Coriander seeds are a member of the parsley family. The seeds are oval in shape, ridged, and turn from bright green to beige when ripen. This spice tastes sweet and tangy, with a slightly citrus flavor. The English name for this spice comes from the Greek word ‘Koros’, meaning “bug”. Coriander is usually sold in powdered form, although the whole seeds are also available. Fresh green coriander because they are aid in digestion, is particularly effective with carbohydrates like pastries and bread. Coriander is also used in fish and savory dishes as a healthy alternative to salt, and it is a basic ingredient of curry powder.
Cumin seeds botanical name is Cuminum cyminum. Cumin is the dried, white fruit with greyish brown colour of a small slender annual herb. Cumin seed have an aromatic scent and bitter taste. It is used as a condiment, and is an ingredient in curry powders, seasonings of breads, cakes and cheese. Cumin seed comes from the parsley family. The seeds are oval with ridges, greenish-beige in color, warm, nutty aroma and a taste that is bitter, but not hot. They can be grounded to a powder. Cumin is usually dry-fried before use (drop the whole seeds into a hot dry pan and cook until the roasted fragrance emerges). It is used to flavor rice, stuffed vegetables, many savory dishes and curries. It combines well with cilantro and is widely used in beef dishes.
Dill seeds also known as Suva; botanical name is Anethum Graveolens. Dill is the dried fruit of the herb anethum graveolens. Dill seeds are oval-shaped, soft and fluffy and have a pungent and aromatic flavor. Dill seeds have been used since ancient times. The leaves and stalks of the dill seeds are aromatic. The flavor of the seed is slightly bitter which is similar to caraway. In ancient times, brides were believed to wear a small branch in their hair and footwear for good fortune. Mexicans believed that it can protect them from effect of witchcraft and evil spirits. Dill is the seed of annual herb of spirits. It has carvone as an essential oil.
Dry ginger’s botanical name is Zingiber officinale. The fresh root ginger is a knobly rhizome with a sweet aroma and hot, pungent taste. Inside, the ginger is hard and woody, yellow and fibrous. It is easiest to cook with, once peeled and grated. The length of the root indicates maturity, and the longer it is, the hotter and more fibrous it will be. Ginger makes a tasty paste, especially if mixed with garlic. Ginger can be used in sweet dishes, desserts, or in piquant dishes such as hot curries and stir fries. The ground (soondth) type is the same as that used in baking. Ginger is also commonly regarded as an aphrodisiac.
Fennel seeds’ botanical name is Foeniculum vulgare. Fennel seed is a greenish-brown, small oval seed from Pimpinella Anisum, a plant in the parsley family. It has a sweet and aniseed flavor. Used sparingly, it gives warmth and sweetness to curries. The seeds combine well with peanuts and the zest of citrus fruit. Roasted fennel seeds are chewed to freshen up the breath after a meal. They have digestive properties.
Fenugreek seeds’ botanical name is Trigonella foenum-graecum. Fenugreek is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae, with leaves consisting of three small obovate to oblong leaflets. It is cultivated worldwide as a semiarid crop. Its seeds and its leaves are common ingredients in dishes. Fenugreek is an herb similar to clover that is native to the Mediterranean region, southern Europe, and western Asia. The seeds are used in cooking, to make medicine, or to hide the taste of other medicine.
Garam Masala whole is a mixture of whole spices like cloves, cardamom, cumin, peppercorns and cinnamon, bay leaves, nutmeg. It is far better to grind your own spices than to buy the mixture ready. The blend of spices in the garam masala varies according to the dish to which it’s added, so a spice blend for a fish dish is different to a spice mix for lamb. Depending on the ingredients of your dish, you can enhance the garam masala by adding other spices like ginger and turmeric (which would suit chicken or fish). Cloves and fennel seeds are added to a mix for dark meats like lamb or beef.
Kasoori methi is short, upright plant (related to spinach) with oval leaves. The entire plant has a strong, sweet aroma. The mature leaves have a bitter taste. Ground fenugreek seeds has a warm, yellowish-brown color with a strong curry-like taste. In powdered form, fenugreek is one of the main ingredients of curry powders. Fenugreek is used to add flavor to meat dishes. It is also considered as an aphrodisiac. Kasoori methi are dried fenugreek leaves (Trigonella Foenum Graecum). They are used in Indian cooking and taste similar to a combination of celery and fennel with a slightly bitter bite. Typically the leaves are crumbled and sprinkled over meat and vegetable curries before serving.
Mace also known as jawantri; botanical name is Myristica Fragrans. Nutmeg is unique in the sense that it yields another spice known as mace. It is dried aril which covers the shell. It is present as a yellow red to red soft broken layer that surrounds the seed. The reddish pigment is lycopene, which is the main pigment of tomato. Generally the myristicine content of mace is higher and the aroma is regarded as superior to nutmeg. The mace being skinny, dries easily compared to kernel, nutmeg. Besides, mace will lose its reddish color on excessive drying. Because of this reason, mace and nutmeg are dried separately into two different spices. Mace gives 10 to 16% volatile oil. Mace and its oil are used in many foods where nutmeg is used. But being more costly, it is used in more expensive foods. Mace’s strong aroma is similar to a combination of pepper & cinnamon.
Kalonji, botanical name is Nigella sativa. Kalonji are small, irregular shaped black seeds of the plant that grows in India. This spice can be used fresh or dry roasted in curries, and added to vegetables, relishes, pickles and yogurts. It is featured in many spice mixtures such as Bengali five-spice mixture panchphoron, which also includes fenugreek, mustard, cumin and fennel.
Nutmeg botanical name is Genus Myristica. Nutmeg is the seed of the evergreen tree. Mace is the fleshy lattice, covering of the nutmeg (hard nut), which is golden brown in color. Nutmeg has more robust flavor than mace, but they are otherwise very similar. They have nutty, warm and slightly sweet flavor. Nutmeg is used to add sweet and savory flavor to dishes such as pies, custards, puddings, cakes, soufflés, vegetables, egg dishes, lamb, and fish, and beverages. Like nutmeg, mace is a sweet and flavorful spice, which can be substituted for nutmeg or cinnamon to complement a variety of foods. Mace is also used in sauces for fish and pickle chutneys.
Phool makhana is also known as Euryale ferox. In India, these Lotus seeds are commonly referred to as Makhana. Usually people consume it during their fasts or even use it as an ingredient in Indian cuisines or sweet dishes. However, not many people are aware of its health benefits and nutritional value. It is a recommended dietary supplement and is easily available in the market. You can find it in any grocery store and has a very good shelf life and therefore can be stored for a long time in an air-tight container. Just ensure that you keep it away from direct sunlight and moisture. These seeds can be consumed raw or cooked depending on the taste. Apart from being a nutritious snack, it can also be used as medicine as it was being used in the medieval times. The essential micronutrients found in lotus seeds are of vast importance to the human body.
Poppy seeds also known as Khas-Khas; botanical name is papavera somniferum. Relics from Ancient Greece have been found which clearly illustrate that people have long been aware of the medicinal and narcotic properties of the poppy. Through Arab traders and the spread of Islam to the East, the opium poppy was introduced to Persia, South East Asia and India. When used in moderation, opium gave great relief from pain, but soon the trade was exploited as traders and merchants made their fortune from the addiction of countless thousands, bringing suffering and death to those caught in its trap. Papavera somniferum means sleep inducing poppy, referring to the opium in the latex that exudes when the unripe seed pod is cut. Poppy seeds bought for cooking are entirely free from any sinister side effects. The seeds are sweet smelling and they give off a nutty aroma when cooked. The taste is similar to the bouquet, but with a more highly developed nutty sweetness.
Star Anise also known as Badiyan and botanical name is lllicium Verum. Traditionally the Japanese used to burn the beautifully aromatic mark of the tree as incense. Star anise is the fruit of a small to medium, evergreen tree, native to south west China and now grown in Indo-China and Japan. Yellow, narcissus like flowers yield fruits which open out into an eight- pointed star shape. The tree bears fruit after 6 years initially, but then it has a productive life of up to a hundred years. The fruits are harvested before they ripen. When ripe they are rust red and each point of the star shaped husk contains an amber coloured seed. Both the seed and the husk are used for the ground spice. Star anise has about 8% of volatile oil. The main constituent is anethole. The spice and oil have a sweet flavour. Though star anise could not be more different from anise in appearance, both spices smell and taste very similar with distinct liquorice like aroma and flavour.
Turmeric comes from the root of Curcuma longa, a leafy plant related to ginger. It has a bright yellow color and a pungent, warm, earthy aroma and taste. But it becomes bitter if used excessively. It is mildly antiseptic. Turmeric is an essential spice in Indian food, giving a rich, appetizing color. It is used in curries, fish dishes and with beans because of its digestive properties. Research show that turmeric inhibits blood clotting, reduces liver toxins, and helps the liver metabolize fats and so aids weight loss. Turmeric is the boiled, dried, cleaned and polished rhizomes of Curcuma longa. The plant is an 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.
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