Monday, May 30, 2011


Spices have been with us since we first crawled on the earth.

Spice rack
We've been using spices since as far back as 50,000 BC, according to archeological findings. 

The spice trade developed throughout the Middle East in around 2000 BC with cinnamon and pepper, and in East Asia (Korea, China) with herbs and pepper. The Egyptians used herbs for embalming and their need for exotic herbs helped stimulate world trade.

The word spice comes from the Old French word "espice" which became "epice" and which came from the Latin root "spec", the noun referring to appearance, sort, kind.

By 1000 BC, China, Korea and India had medical systems based upon herbs. Early uses were connected with magic, medicine, religion, tradition, and preservation.
With that kind of history, spices deserve a good home.
Enter the Spice Rack. These things have a history too, as one might imagine.

Experts think that the invention of the spice rack took place in 1000 B.C and was probably constructed of wood. Built for storage rather than for decorating the kitchen, they were utilitarian, plain.  
As time progressed and spices became more commonplace and spice racks moved from hidden corners in the back pantry to becoming a decorative focal point the kitchen.

My kitchen has spice racks, drawers, cabinets and shelves....I guess you could say we have a lot of spices in our house. My favorite is one Jack made for his mother when he was 19 years old-he's 61 now.  A family heirloom, it holds a place of honor in our kitchen.

Aside from being decorative treasures they're also very functional.  They keep the spices organized and shielded from dampness, light and heat.  

Jack's home made cabinet (closed)
That's a major consideration; protecting spices from dampness, light and heat.  Too often they are left defenseless against the to things that can and do destroy them.  And then you are left to wonder why the ground garlic is clumpy, the sage has lost its sage-ness and the basil has started to smell like a damp basement.  What a waste!  What a tragic loss of beautiful flavors!
Try to remember spices come from living things...and though they're no longer part of the plant they came from, they're still subject to the whims and whimseys of nature. 

Jack's home made cabinet opened
Keep this in mind when planning your kitchen.  Locate your racks away from direct sunlight, dampness and heat.  Also, consider more than one so you can organize your spices according to use.  Some are for baking, others for roasting, stewing and so on.

Also, remember that spices have a shelf life.  If they start smelling sour they probably are.  Or if the green oregano is starting to look grey, it's most likely past its prime. All it takes is a little TLC.

Your food....and your spices will thank you.

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