Tamarind: A Tart Tropical Legume


The tamarind name comes from the Arabic term tamar hindi, which means Indian date. The leguminous tamarind tree is believed to originate in Africa but has been heavily cultivated in India since antiquity. It is likely that it was brought to the subcontinent by Arabian traders. In Africa, it grows wild in Nigeria as well as in Cameroon and other countries.

Historical documents show that tamarind was cultivated in Egypt as early as 400 BC and was known to the Greeks in this time period as well.

Tamarind was introduced to Mexico and to South America in the 16th century; the documentation suggests that it was brought to Acapulco from Asia by the Spanish. Today, you can find tamarind throughout South America and the Caribbean. Tamarind trees can also be found in Hawaii, where one of the first trees was first planted in 1797. It is a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine and is used to a lesser extent in the West Indies. Mexico has over 10,000 acres dedicated to tamarind cultivation.

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Mango Powder: The Fruity Spice

Mango Powder

Mango is indigenous to India, Burma, and Malaysia and is documented as one of the oldest cultivated fruits in the world. There is evidence of its cultivation going back 4,000 years. As a result of European colonization starting around the 16th century, mango has spread to many different regions. As a result of the colonist’s efforts, you can find mango growing throughout Africa and the Americas.

Dried and powdered mango is used as a spice and is also called amchur, which is sometimes spelled amchoor. Am means mango and chur or choor means powder. Mango powder is made by first sun-drying unripe mangoes and then grinding them into powder. Mango powder is ancient with a history that stretches back into antiquity, much like the other uses of the mango fruit.

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Zedoary: A Mysterious Indian Rhizome


The plant from which zedoary is obtained is native to India, Pakistan and Indonesia but can now be found in many places. For example, it can now be found growing in Florida as well as in parts of Latin America.

Zedoary is also known as kachur and as white turmeric. It was brought to Europe in the sixth century. The name zedoary comes from the Arabic and Farsi; in those languages, it is called jadwaar or zedwar. It was a popular spice at the time of its introduction to Europe and appears to have been in use through the medieval period. There are European recipes from the 16th century that include it as a spice. However, it has since fallen from favor and is now largely unknown in the west. Its flavor has been replaced by the milder flavors of ginger and yellow turmeric.

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Asafoetida: A Spice With An Unforgettable Aroma


Asafoetida is a spice consisting of the resin from a plant called Ferula that is native to Iran and Afghanistan. Hing and ferula asafoetida are two of this spice‚Äôs many other names. Alexander the Great first brought it to Europe in the belief that it would a good substitute for Cyrenaic silphium. The now-extinct silphium was used in antiquity as both a medicine and a spice. After silphium’s extinction, asafoetida would take its place despite being weaker and having a less pleasant aroma. Medicinal use of asafoetida dates back to 700 BC.

The philosopher Maimonides, who lived between 1135 and 1204 recommended its use in moderation.

The spice would lose favor in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire up to the 16th century. After that, its use was rare and usually medicinal. Today, it is almost unheard of in European cuisine but is still widely used in India.

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Light Brown Sugar: The Milder Version Of Brown Sugar

Light Brown Sugar

Like dark brown sugar, light brown sugar consists of refined white sugar with added molasses. Light brown sugar simply has less of it. Dark brown sugar contains 6.5 percent molasses, light brown sugar has 3.5 percent.

Sugar cane originated in the South Pacific and made its way to the Middle East by way of India. It would be discovered by crusading Europeans in the 11th century. Sugar would reach England for the first time in 1099.

When Christopher Columbus traveled to the New World, he would take sugar cane plants with him. In the tropical climate of the Americas that was similar to that of the South Pacific, the plants flourished and thus an industry was born. At this point in history, sugar cane was processed into raw sugar in sugar mills and brown sugars were born.

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