Saffron: The World’s Most Expensive Spice


The history of saffron stretches all the way back to the late Bronze Age and back then it had numerous uses just as it does today. Saffron consists of the dried stigmas of the crocus flower and was used in the Middle East as a spice, dye and as perfume.

In ancient Rome, Romans used saffron to perfume their baths. In the Henry VIII’s court, women used saffron to color their hair until the king forbade it. The prohibition on saffron-colored hair was due to the king’s fear that a shortage would keep the spice from reaching his table. Saffron was so prized that in 15th century Germany, merchants who adulterated it were burned at the stake.

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Fresh Ginger Vs. Ground Ginger: SPICEography Showdown

Fresh Ginger Vs Ground Ginger

Both dried and fresh ginger come from the underground stem of the ginger plant (Zingiber officinale) which is a part of the Zingiberaceae family. This means that the ginger plant is related to other spices like turmeric and cardamom. Ginger is a popular spice used to flavor beverages like ginger ale and ginger beer and is an important ingredient in a variety of Asian cuisines as well. It is used in dishes from the Caribbean, Africa and Europe. It is from China but spread throughout the world on the spice routes that existed as early as the first century.

The forms of ginger that are most familiar to Americans are the fresh form which involves peeling and chopping or grating the ginger, and the dried and ground form. This week on SPICEography Showdown, let’s take a look at how these two forms compare to each other and how to choose which one to use.

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Is Cinnamon Good for Your Skin?

Is Cinnamon Good For Your Skin

Much of the world’s cinnamon comes from southern Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Indonesia and India, and people in those regions have been using cinnamon medicinally for centuries. Skin problems are among the conditions that this spice is used to treat. Cinnamon is versatile and can be used on skin in a number of ways including as a mask in the form of an oil and so on. Here are some of the ways that you can use cinnamon as a part of your skin care regimen.

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Fennel Seed: Sweet Licorice-Like Spice

Fennel Seed

The fennel seed is the fruit of the fennel plant, which belongs to the parsley family. Its taste is similar to that of aniseed and the two are often confused with each other as a result. Fennel seeds are oval shaped and have grooves. They are yellowish-brown or yellowish-green in color once dried.

The fennel plant is native to southern Europe and its name comes from the Greek for “marathon.” This is because the battle at Marathon took place in a field of fennel. 

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What’s A Good Coriander Substitute?

Coriander Substitute

Coriander is from the parsley family. The seeds of the plant are ground to make the coriander spice while the leaves and stems are called cilantro. If you are preparing a dish and find that you have no coriander, you have two options: you can either run to the grocery store or you can seek out a substitute. If you decide on the latter option, you have several spices that you can use as a coriander substitute. 

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Kosher Salt Vs. Sea Salt: SPICEography Showdown

Kosher Salt Vs Sea Salt

Any discussion of kosher salt and sea salt should start out with the fact that they share the same chemistry. Another important fact that you should note is that technically, all salt could be considered sea salt due to the fact that it existed in an ocean at one point. However, sea salt is generally defined as salt harvested from a living ocean with the use of evaporation. Kosher salt can come from the sea or it may be mined like regular table salt.

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What’s A Good Thyme Substitute?

Thyme Substitute

Thyme is a popular and very aromatic herb grown in Europe and is related to mint. There are numerous different varieties of thyme. It provides a sweet and earthy flavor to many dishes, and is commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine. Thyme can be used to flavor lamb, pork and game and has the benefit of being able to withstand long cooking times. As a result, it is often used in pasta sauces as well. It is an important ingredient in classic dishes like coq au vin and osso bucco.

As it is a well-known and widely used herb, most serious cooks will keep a bottle on their spice rack. However, you may have run out of thyme or it may just not be something that you thought you would ever need. If you are looking for a substitute, the good news is that (as with most ingredients) there is a multitude of good options.

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