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spice

spice, aromatic vegetable product used as a flavoring or condiment. The term was formerly applied also to pungent or aromatic foods (e.g., gingerbread and currants), to ingredients of incense or perfume (e.g., myrrh), and to embalming agents. Modern usage tends to limit the term to flavorings used in food or drinks, although many spices have additional commercial uses, e.g., as ingredients of medicines, perfumes, incense, and soaps.

Spices include stimulating condiments, e.g., pepper, mustard, and horseradish; aromatic spices, e.g., cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, and mace; and sweet herbs, e.g., thyme, marjoram, sage, and mint. Spices are taken from the part of the plant richest in flavor—bark, stem, flower bud, fruit, seed, or leaf. Although spices are very commonly used in the form of a powder, some are used as tinctures obtained by extracting essential oils, and many are used whole.

Garlic, chives, caraway, mustard, and many herbs grow in temperate regions, and vanilla, allspice, and red pepper are indigenous to the West Indies and South America. Most of the major spices, however, are produced in the East Indies and tropical Asia.

The Spice Trade

Spices from India, E Asia, and the East Indies were in demand from ancient times; they were carried by caravan across China and India to ports of the Mediterranean Sea or the Persian Gulf and thence to the marketplaces of Athens, Rome, and other cities, where they were sold at exorbitant prices. Certain spices were used as media of exchange; Alaric I is said to have demanded pepper as part of the ransom for raising the siege of Rome in 408. In the early Middle Ages few spices reached the markets of Europe, but trade was slowly resumed in the 9th cent. and was later greatly stimulated by the Crusades. In Western Europe the desire for spices arose in part from the monotony of the diet and from poor facilities for the preservation of food, especially of meat.

When overland trade routes from Asia were cut off by the Mongols and Turks, the European demand for spices was a major factor in motivating a search for new trade routes around Africa and across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The high price obtainable for spices was partially responsible for the bitter rivalry of European powers for the control of spice-producing areas and of trade routes. Even after adequate supplies of spices were found and means of transportation made available, the cost long remained very high in Europe and in America. This was largely because of the expenses incident to attempts to retain monopoly of markets and to deliberately limit crops in order to secure high prices.

Although spices today are still important in trade, their per capita use for flavoring food has declined in Western civilizations, and certain spices must compete with synthetic flavorings. The demand for spices has remained large in Asia, where spices have a wider social and ceremonial significance than they ever attained in the West.

Bibliography

See J. W. Parry, Spices (2 vol., 1969); F. Rosengarten, Jr., The Book of Spices (rev. ed. 1973); J. Heinerman, Complete Book of Spices (1983).; A. Dalby, Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices (2000); J. Turner, Spice (2004).

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spice

spice / spīs/ • n. 1. an aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to flavor food, e.g., cloves, pepper, or mace: enjoy the taste and aroma of freshly ground spices. ∎  an element providing interest and excitement: healthy rivalry adds spice to the game. 2. a russet color. • v. [tr.] [often as adj.] (spiced) flavor with spice: turbot with a spiced sauce. ∎  add an interesting or piquant quality to; make more exciting: she was probably adding details to spice up the story.

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spices

spices Distinguished from herbs in that part, instead of the whole, of the aromatic plant is used: root, stem, or seeds. Originally used to mask putrefactive flavours. Some have a preservative effect because of their essential oils, e.g. cloves, cinnamon, and mustard.

They are normally consumed in amounts too small to provide any nutrients but see curry powder.

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spice

spice aromatic vegetable substance used for its pungency or fragrance. XIII. Aphetic — OF. espice (mod. épice) :- L. speciēs appearance, specific kind, SPECIES, (late) pl. wares, merchandise.
So spice vb. XIV. spicery XIII. Hence spicy (-Y1) XVI.

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spice

spice Food flavouring consisting of the dried form of various plants. Spices were used in medieval times to disguise the taste of food that was overripe or decaying, and as preservatives. They also had medicinal and religious functions.

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spice

spiceadvice, bice, Brice, choc ice, concise, dice, entice, gneiss, ice, imprecise, lice, mice, nice, precise, price, rice, sice, slice, speiss, spice, splice, suffice, syce, thrice, trice, twice, underprice, vice, Zeiss •merchandise • paradise • sacrifice •packice • woodlice • fieldmice •titmice • dormice • allspice •cockatrice • edelweiss

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Spices

SPICES

The Bible has no special word for spice. In the talmudic and midrashic literature the term tavlin is used, from the verb tavel (תבל), which is apparently connected with the root balol ("to mix"). This term was employed metaphorically by R. Joshua b. Ḥananiah in his reply to questions by "the emperor" (probably Hadrian): "Why has the Sabbath dish such a fragrant odor?" To this R. Joshua replied: "We have a certain spice (tavlin) called the Sabbath, which we put into it [the Sabbath dish] and which gives it a fragrant odor" (Shab. 119a). Spiced foods were very popular among the Jews of Ereẓ Israel and Babylonia, even as they are today among Jews from Oriental countries who know several dozen varieties of spices, special favorites being the pungent-tasting ones, principally pepper, that stimulate the appetite. Such spices apparently also have some disinfectant action under the inferior conditions of food hygiene prevalent in the East. The general name for spices is משביחי אוכלין (mashbiḥei okhelin, "food improvers"; Sif. Deut. 107, where seven kinds of spices are mentioned). Another term used is צִיקֵי קְדֵרָה (ẓikei kederah; Yoma 75a; Ḥul. 77b; et al.).

Among the "food-improving" spices may also be included pungent-tasting vegetables, such as *garlic, the *leek, the *onion, etc. Some aromatic plants (*incenses and perfumes), such as *cinnamon and *saffron, were also used as spices. In addition to these aromatic plants and vegetables, the Bible mentions four kinds of spices, *hyssop, *caper, *cumin, and *fennel-flower, while talmudic literature refers to dozens of varieties, the most important of which are the following.

amomum

The word ḥamam mentioned in the Mishnah (Uk. 3:5; et al.) refers, according to Asaph ha-Rofe, to the seed of the pungent-tasting, aromatic plants of the genus Amomum of the Zingiberaceae – ginger family – such as Amomum cardamomum. Called hel in Arabic, it is popular among Oriental communities as an additive to coffee. Some hold that the "principal spices" (Ex. 30:23) refer to these plants.

asafetida

The ḥiltit of the Mishnah is the plant Ferula asafetida, the congener of galbanum, and, like it, has an unpleasant aroma but flavors a dish, and is still used in Iran. Mentioned together with asafetida is a spice named ti'ah (Uk. 3:5), held by some to be the root of the same plant.

caper

The fruit, aviyyonah, and the flower buds, ẓalat, of the caper plant were eaten pickled either in salt or in vinegar.

caraway

The karbos of the Mishnah (Kil. 2:5 – this is the correct reading), which is identified in the Jerusalem Talmud (ms Rome, ibid. 2:5, 27d) refers to Carum carvi, the seed of which was used as a spice and the thick root as a vegetable.

costus

The kosht, which is mentioned among the "food improvers" (Sif. Deut. 107; cf. Uk. 3:5) and among the ingredients of the incense used in the Temple (Ker. 6a), has been identified with the aromatic spice Costus, which was extracted from species of plants belonging to the ginger family. According to another view, the Costus of the ancients is to be identified with Aucklandia costus (= Aplotaxixhappa), a fragrant plant which is a member of the Compositae family.

cumin

The seed of the kammon of the Bible and the literature of the sages was used as a spice on bread during baking.

dill

Called shevet in the Mishnah, dill is the plant Anethum graveolens used today mainly as a spice in pickled cucumbers. In mishnaic times its foliage, stems, and seed were used as a spice (Ma'as. 4:5), and it was sown for this purpose (Pe'ah 3:2). It is an umbelliferous plant with yellow flowers, which grows wild in the Negev (it is popularly but erroneously called shamir).

dodder

This plant is identified with plants of the genus Cuscuta of which there are many species that are parasitic on cultivated and wild plants in Israel. Dodder is called in the Mishnah keshut, the meaning of which is "hair," since these plants are leafless and have the appearance of entwined hair. The seed sprouts on the ground, and the plant winds itself around the stem of another plant, extracting its sap by putting forth suckers into it. The fruit of the dodder was used as a spice, mainly in wine (Pliny, Historia naturalis 13:46). In the Talmud it is mentioned that the dodder is a parasitic plant, its life depending on the plant to which it is attached (Er. 28b).

fennel

The umbelliferous plant Foeniculum vulgare, leaves of which are used as a spice similar to dill, fennel is called gufnan in the Mishnah (Dem. 1:1) and shumar in the Talmud. The Jerusalem Talmud (Dem. 1:1, 21d) states that the Galileans did not consider it a spice, but it was regarded as such in Judah.

fennel-flower

Known as keẓah in the Bible and the literature of the sages, the seed of the fennel-flower was used as a spice on bread.

ginger

The Indian plant Zingibar officinale, from the rootstock of which an aromatic spice was made, ginger is called zangevila in the Talmud and was sold both dried and fresh (Ber. 36b; Yoma 81b). In the Talmud (ibid.) it is also called "the himalta which comes from India."

hyssop

The plant Majorana syriaca is called ezov in the Bible and in the literature of the sages; its leaves were used as a spice. Of the allied genera, reference is made to the spice plants (ezov koḥeli), which is Hyssopus officinalis (Neg: 14, 6, where ezov romi is also mentioned), evreta, maru-ḥiyyura, and shumshuk (Shab. 109b), species that belong to the genera Majorana or Origanum.

lavender

The plant Lavandula officinalis (spica) is known as ezovyon, and its leaves are used as a perfume and as a medicine (Shab. 14:3).

mint

The plant Menta piperita, the leaves of which are used as a spice and yield an ethereal oil, is called minta in the Mishnah (Uk. 1:2) and na'ana (which is also its Arabic name) in the Jerusalem Talmud (Shab. 7, 10a). Four species of mint grow wild in Israel.

mustard

Known as ḥardal in the literature of the sages, *mustard is extracted from the seed of species of Sinapis and Brassica.

pepper

The most important and popular spice, black *pepper is know as pilpel, and Piper longum as pilpela arikhta.

rue

The small shrub Ruta graveolens, whose leaves have a pungent aroma (regarded by some as unpleasant), is popular among Oriental communities. In the Mishnah (Uk. 1:2; et al.), it is called pigam, and in Arabic fijn or rudah (= Ruta). The Mishnah (Shev. 9:1) also mentions a rue that grows wild, the reference being to Ruta bracteosa, which grows in the woods in Israel. To the family of rue – Rutaceae – belong species of the Citrus.

safflower

The prickly plant Carthamus tinctorius has reddish-yellow leaves, ḥallot ḥari'a (Uk. 3:5), which were used as a spice, and its seed, benot ḥari'a (Tosef. Ma'as. Sh. 1:13), as food as well as a spice. In the Talmud koẓah, kurtama, and morika are used as synonyms for safflower. Today the safflower is grown largely for the oil extracted from its seed. The petals of the flower's corolla were formerly used as a dye (see *Dye Plants).

saffron

Known as karkom in the Bible and the literature of the sages, the stigmas of its flower were used as a spice and a dye.

savory

Called si'ah in the Mishnah, savory is mentioned there, together with hyssop and thyme, among plants which were grown as spices; it also grew wild (Shev. 8:1; Ma'as. 3, 9). According to the Jerusalem Talmud (Shev. 7:2, 37b), si'ah is identified with ẓatrah, which is Satureia tymbra Savory, an aromatic dwarf shrub of the family Labiatae, that grows wild on mountains. The Arabs call these three species zaʿar.

sesame

The summer plant Sesamum orientalis (indicum), sesame was used in the preparation of delicacies and as a spice in various kinds of pastry (Shev. 2:7; ty 1:5). Its seed consists of 50% oil, which was used as a food and in lamps (Ned. 6:9; Shab. 2:2).

sumac

The og of the Mishnah, the fruit of the sumac tree was used as a spice.

thyme

Called koranit in the Mishnah, thyme is a diminutive dwarf shrub which grows extensively in Israel on the kurkar hills near the coast and on mountains. Its tiny, pungently aromatic leaves were used as a spice, like hyssop and savory, together with which it is mentioned (Ma'as. 3:9).

The above are the most probable identifications, others having been suggested by commentators for these plants, as well as for kinds of spices common in their day. Among these, mention should be made of the poppy, the plant Papaver somniferum. Its seed is used as a spice and also in various kinds of pastry. In modern Hebrew the poppy is called parag or pereg, on the basis of the identification given in the Arukh and by other commentators for פרגים in the Mishnah, which are, however, none other than *millet. Although several species of Papaver grow wild in Israel, it is impossible to determine whether the cultivated poppy was grown. The only reference to ofyon (opium is extracted, as is known, from poppy) occurs in the Jerusalem Talmud (Av. Zar. 2:2, 40d). It was considered dangerous to buy ofyon from heathens (see *Havdalah).

bibliography:

Loew, Flora, respective articles and 4 (1934), 93f.; S. Krauss, Kadmoniyyot ha-Talmud, 2 (1929), 243–9; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'ah ha-Mikra'i (1968), 176–85; idem, Kilei Zera'im ve-Harkavah (1937), index. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Tzome'aḥ, 19, 22, 24, 41, 65, 66, 69, 73, 85, 89, 100, 104, 123, 125, 132, 137, 147, 148, 154, 157, 197.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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Spices

Spices ★★★ 1986

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Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.