Herbs and Spices
Black pepper has had many uses over the years, but its main use has been
as a preservative, mostly as a whole peppercorn in rice, meat, game, and
pickles. Powdered, it is one of the main ingredients of the mixed spices
that are the basis of curry powders. Other uses have been for the alleviation
of colds, coughs, and constipation.
First cultivated in India for its aromatic, culinary, and medicinal purposes,
Cardamom has been used for flavoring such savory dishes as curries and
some sweets. Other uses have been for stomach disorders, urine retention,
and as a heart tonic.
These members of the genus Capsicum provide spicy hot flavor to foods.
Peppers are rich in vitamin C and are very effective in clearing the sinuses.
Cinnamon has had heavy use to season rice and lentil dishes, as well as
fish. Medicinally it has been used for head and body aches, stiffness,
bladder disorders, heart tonic, decongestant, coughs, colds, and sore
Cloves are dried, unopened flower buds. Their sharp, pungent bite and
warm familiar aroma makes them an essential ingredient in certain spice
blends (Garam Masala for instance).
Coriander leaves (a.k.a. Cilantro) have been used for years as a seasoning.
Chopped leaves are sprinkled over curried meats and vegetables. Its seeds
are roasted and crushed to form the spices for almost all savory dishes.
Ayurvedic uses include use as a diuretic, a fever breaker, and as a digestive
Cumin is one of the earliest spices cultivated by Indians for use in seasoning
curries, pickles, or breads. Because of its effectiveness in expelling
gas in the stomach, it has sometimes been used in the treatment of diarrhea
and other discomforts of indigestion.
These small, oval-shaped leaves from the curry plant impart an aromatic
curry-like flavor to dishes.
With its light and distinctive flavor, this spice has been popular in
flavoring rice, puddings, fish gravies, vegetable greens, and lentils.
Ayurvedic medicinal purposes include treatment for dehydration, fever,
anemia, body odor and coughs.
The drumstick, which is rich in vitamins, particularly vitamin A, is popular
in curries, lentil, and vegetable dishes. Drumsticks and medicines isolated
from them have been used as a natural antibiotic, anti-fungal, andti-tubercular,
and externally for leg spasms.
Fenugreek greens are used as a vegetable (like spinach) when fresh and
as a herb when dried. Seeds from the Fenugreek plant are also used as
Ginger has been used heavily in preserves, chutneys, vegetable, and meat
dishes. In Ayerveda it is regarded havily for use against colds, coughs,
bronchitis, indigestion, diarrhea, nausea, breaking of fevers, headaches,
respiratory infections, and as a stimulant.
Mahua is sometimes cooked into a vegetable dish or made into puddings
and sweetmeats, or ground into a meal. Medicinally, it is sometimes used
as a treatment for respiratory ailments, diabetes, and externally for
various skin ailments.
The highly aromatic, dark green, oval mint leaves play a cricial part
in Indian cuisine. They are used extensively in chutneys and sauces.
Of the three varieties (yellow, brown, and black), Indian cuisine uses
brown mustard seeds. These tiny round seeds are dark brown to black on
the outside and yellow on the inside. They have a sharp, pungent flavor
which mellows after they are fried or roasted
Palmyra is most widely known for the sweet sap the tree produces. This
sap is high in vitamins, and in Ayurveda has had many uses including the
treatment of diarrhea and as a diuretic. Its sap forms into a thick molasses
twice a year (which is then made into a sugar called jaggery), and the
sap has also been used in such spirits as tadi (or "toddy") and arak.
Tamarind is rich in vitamin C, and is a popular ingredient in both curries
and preserves. Medicinally it has been used to lower body temperature,
and to fight mouth and throat infections.
Belonging to the same family as Ginger, Tumeric is also a rhizome (root).
To obtain the familiar powder, the root is boiled, peeled, dried and then