Allspice

During his explorations of the West Indies, Columbus named many things, often, it would appear, incorrectly. He seems to have confused allspice with black pepper, although they do look quite similar. He named capsicums ‘peppers’ also, and any native inhabitant he came across he seems to have simply called ‘Indian’. WHERE IS IT FROM? There…

Cardamom

Like so many of the spices we use today, cardamom has been used in food and medicine around the world for millennia. The Roman collection of recipes, the Apicius, compiled in the 4th or 5th century C.E., recommends cardamom as a aid in digestion after heavy meals, and as a cure for overindulgence after heavy…

Fenugreek

According to Pliny the Elder, fenugreek can be used in at least 31 health remedies, including getting rid of dandruff, removing ringworm, and even to cure ‘the rank odours of the armpits’. But, having said that, it can add some pretty good flavours to food too! WHERE IS IT FROM? Fenugreek, (rigonella foenum-graecum) known in…

Ginger

King Mithridates of Pontus, back in the first century B.C.E. created an amazing universal antidote that he drank daily to protect him against all poisons. Ginger was one of the spices that featured in his Mithridaticum, which, naturally, he tested on condemned prisoners first. He must have been successful because, when he wanted to end…

Cloves

In 1519 when Magellan left Seville to find a route to the Spice Islands, he set out with 5 ships and more than 250 men. Three years later, after circumnavigating the globe, only one ship carrying 18 men made it back to Spain. Magellan himself was not among them, having been killed in the Philippines…

Cinnamon

According to Herodotus, the Greek ‘father of history’, Cinnamon grows in shallow lakes, protected by Cinnamologus, a giant, fierce winged creature that screeches horribly and pecks out the eyes of those seeking to harvest the tree. Brave Arabic cinnamon gatherers would trick the birds by leaving large pieces of meat around, which, when carried back…

Cumin

Around four thousand years ago someone in ancient Babylonia recorded for posterity a recipe that included cumin in the preparation of leftover lamb. This ancient Sumerian tablet was the world’s first cookbook, listing no fewer than 25 recipes, 21 meat and 4 vegetarian. Cumin has clearly been used in cooking for millennia, and it’s good…