Spices have of course been used for culinary, and medicinal purposes for centuries.
So important in fact, the ancient Egyptians even used spices in the mummification process.
The Middle East became a big hub for spices given the Silk Road trading route passed through its center.
Aleppo in Arabic is Halab, and so this pepper is also known as Halaby pepper, or Aleppo pepper.
It is a burgundy chile and a type of Capsicum annuum, it is about half as hot as other pepper flakes.
USED IN: Meat dishes.
Known as Aniseed, it is native to the eastern Mediterranean and is part of the Apiaceae family.
Baharat simply means spices in Arabic. This is not one spice, but a blend that will vary slightly depending where you are in the Middle East.
It can improve digestion, reducing bloating and flatulence. The probiotic effect encourages growth of good flora in the intestines.
Chewing on the whole pod acts as a mouthwash, cleansing the breath.
USED IN: Arabic coffee, and many different types of dishes, usually as part of several spices.
It comes from the inner bark of a tree and is indigenous to India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh and known as ‘true cinnamon’.
USED IN: It is included in many dishes, freshly ground, or as whole sticks to flavor broths. several spices.
Cloves are indiginous to Indonesia, and are the aromatic flower buds of a tree.
This is another very fragrant, sweet tasting spice that is most often used in combination with other spices.
USED IN: Used widely around the world from mulled wines to cookies and everything in between.
The fresh leaves have a fragrant citrus flavor whereas the seeds have a warm, nutty and spicy flavor.
Cumin is a bold spice and comes from a flowering plant that is native to the Middle East. Its flavor is warm, nutty, earthy with hints of lemon.
Ginger is a flowering plant in which the root is used for culinary or medicinal purposes. Long known for its ability to help with digestion, it is also used to lessen muscle soreness from exercise. The flavor is warm, spicy and peppery.
But this glorious start is followed by a very bitter aftertaste. To counter this mahlab is used in cooking.
It has a flavor of pine and cedar, and is sun dried to produce small hard bits of resin that are then ground up.
USED IN: Breads and desserts.
Both peppermint and spearmint have menthol in them, with peppermint having the higher content. Mint is very good in relieving indigestion and gas, by speeding digestion.
The Nigella Seed has a bitter and peppery taste, and in the Middle East is used in cooking, bread and cheese making, as well as taken directly in the form of a ground up seed paste for medicinal purposes.
It has many purported health benefits such as reducing inflammation, and controls bacteria and parasites in the gut.
Ras El Hanout
This is a blend of spices that translates as the ‘best the shop has to offer’. In the old days this sometimes meant a mixture made up of as many as 50 spices. Today it is more in the range of nine spices.
USED IN: Meat or vegetables dishes from North Africa.
Shown to reduce bloating, heartburn, loss of appetite, and even diarrhoea it is the go to tea drink in the Arab world. It has a strong flavor with eucalyptus and citrus notes.
This bush is native to the Middle East where the berries are dried, ground and used in cooking.
It is used as a way to give food a yellow/orange color. The taste is strong and somewhat pungent, with somewhat of a bitter aftertaste.
USED IN: Vegetable and rice dishes, along with smoothies.