Spices are an essential part of cooking; it adds so much flavour to the dish. It is no wonder that the spice trade was once an important part of the global economy, started in the Middle Ages.
The Silk Road was a long trade and dangerous route that went from China to Europe. There would be many people waiting to loot these spices.
Sailing helped speed up the shipment and trade of spices. Christopher Columbus accidentally discovered North America because he was looking for India to acquire spices.
Thankfully, nowadays, spice’s price is not that much, and it is quite easy to find. However, this only pertains to those commonly used in cooking.
Top 15 Most Expensive Spices In The World
There are some spices these days that are very expensive and hard to find. This post will go through a list of these spices.
Saffron is considered to be one of the most expensive spices in the world. This is because it originates from a flower called Crocus Sativus, which is native to Central Asia. The way saffron is produced is from the stigma of the flower, and each flower only has three stigmas. That is why it is very expensive, because of the hours and hours of labour put into it just to produce one pound of saffron.
It will take at least 20 hours of labour to collect a pound of saffron and like 70,000-80,000 flowers. The amount of demand for it also means that it requires acres of land to grow, increasing its cost. Fortunately, the spice’s smoky, rich flavour means that you will only need a little to increase your dish’s flavour profile significantly.
There are many health benefits linked to it since it is a source of antioxidants. Improved mood, libido, sexual function, and reduced PMS symptoms and enhanced weight are just a few things seen when ingesting saffron. It is also safe and easy to add to your diet.
2. Caraway Seeds
The seeds tend to have a lovely aroma when added to baked goods like cakes, bread, and biscuits. Caraway seeds can be used for pickling and brining and go together well with garlic and pork. It can also be likened to ground cumin, it can be used as an alternative, but it is advised only to use half of what the recipe calls for.
They also contain a lot of nutritional value as it has a lot of minerals, nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants. They are a rich source of fibre and contain the daily recommended dose of fibre to avoid stomach complications like constipation.
Asafoetida is a sulfurous gum resin that is extracted from Furula plants. It’s traditionally ground into a powder and can be used either for its proposed medicinal qualities or as a spice to add a savoury flavour to food.
It is a good source of antioxidants that help protect against chronic inflammation, heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Studies done on asafoetida have also been shown to help boost digestion by increasing digestive enzymes’ activity. Specifically, it may increase the release of bile from the liver, which is needed to digest fat. It is also said to reduce or prevent gas after eating.
Sumac is a flowering shrub known scientifically as Rhus coriaria. This is a very underrated spice, but it is considered very versatile. It is made from dark red sumac berries from the sumac bush which are ground up. It is native to the Middle East.
It has a tangy and nice taste which makes it a good addition to various dishes like poultry, fish, and dry rub for most meats.
It is used as herbal medicine as it is very rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Research shows that it is beneficial for blood sugar control and can provide relief to muscle pain.
5. Grains Of Paradise
This aptly named spice is considered to be a more fragrant and intense version of black peppercorns. It can be described as having a black pepper-like taste with hints of citrus. Some say it also has notes of coriander, cardamom, ginger, juniper and nutmeg. It is used for adding flavour to curries, braises, cakes and gingerbread.
There are also many health benefits associated with it, like easing stomach pains, ulcers, diarrhoea, and even eliminating intestinal worms. It can also help with protection from viruses as it helps release toxins from the body. It can help fight joint pain, toothache, and stomach ache. It can also help lessen scars from chickenpox and measles.
This orange-red condiment can also be used as food colouring derived from the achiote tree’s seeds. It is native to tropical trees found in Mexico or Brazil. It is known for its flavour and aroma and is used to impart a yellow or orange colour.
Early research shows that it can be linked to cancer-fighting potential. It has shown that the extracts can suppress cancer cell growth and induce cell death in the prostate, liver and pancreas. Annatto is high in carotenoids, which can benefit eye health.
This spice is essentially dried pomegranate seeds which gives a sour, somewhat fruity flavour that can be likened to cranberries. It makes a good dry seasoning for fish or poultry. It is also widely used in chutneys in India. It can also be used in pastries and bread in the Middle East.
It is rich in vitamin C, potassium and fibre. It also contains 48 per cent of the recommended daily vitamin C intake, which is good for health. It is also very rich in antioxidants.
8. Juniper Berries
The juniper tree, known as Juniperus communis, is an evergreen shrub that grows in many parts of the world, that includes Europe, North America, and Asia. It has been described as having a tart, pine-like flavour.
It can be used for culinary uses as well as medicinal uses. Since it is high in nutrients, it gives a good intake of minerals, antioxidants and vitamins. It promotes heart health and has good antibacterial and antifungal properties.
9. Amchur Or Amchoor
Amchur is a powder made from unripe and dried mangoes which are sun-dried. They are then ground into a powder. Though it does not taste like mangoes, it has been described to have a tangy and slightly sweet flavour. It is mostly found in India where it is used as a citrus seasoning for dishes like soups, curries, chutneys and stir-fries.
It is said to boost digestion as it aids in digestion and combats acidity. It can also aid in weight loss. It is also said to improve vision and help in improving heart health.
Galangal is a root that looks similar to ginger except it has whiter and shinier skin. It is often used in Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian cooking where it is commonly paired with fish dishes and curries to give a zingy, fragrant and herbal flavour. It can be found in powder form.
It has many health benefits linked to it as it helps fight inflammation and strengthens the immune system. It has also been said to increase sperm count and mobility. It is also considered a natural antimicrobial that is good skin, and it also supports digestive health. It also reduces high blood cholesterol and fights respiratory ailments.
Vanilla is a spice that is obtained from pods of the Mexican spices, flat-leaved vanilla. The word vanilla can be translated to ‘little pod’ which is an accurate description since only a little vanilla needs to be added to get a flavourful taste.
However, because it is so expensive, companies try to replicate the taste by making the essence of vanilla, vanilla extract and artificial vanilla. Still, it does not come close to the taste of the real thing. Those are still a good substitute for desserts.
Vanilla is an expensive spice because it needs to be hand-pollinated. It has to be harvested by hand shortly before they ripen, treated with water vapour and stored in an airtight container for four weeks to ferment.
12. Kaffir Limes
Kaffir limes are completely different from normal limes as they’re considered a wild lime variety. The leaves are a fresh aromatic addition to any dish and add a nice citrus taste to any dish.
It also has a lot of health benefits, like its ability to promote oral health. It also helps detoxify the blood. It helps lower inflammation, and it aids the immune system. It can also improve the health of hair.
13. Pasilla De Oaxaca Chile
This chile is named after the state, Oaxaca which is in the South of Mexico. Its flavour is not too hot, but it has been described as leaving a lingering heat on the tongue.
It also has a smoky flavour resulting from the harvesting process since they are left to dry before harvesting, and then they are dried and smoked in large ovens over low heat for a few days. It is used like a bay leaf as it is just dropped into the pot while making soups or bean dishes.
Mahlab is a very rare spice that comes from the seed kernel of St. Lucie cherries. The Middle East, Southern Europe, and the Mediterranean region are native to these cherry trees. It is mostly used in baking to sharpen the taste of sweet cakes and foods.
It is an aromatic spice that is extracted from cherry stones. The seed kernels are then ground into a powder. Its flavour is similar to a combination of bitter almond and cherry and similar also to marzipan.
15. Long Pepper
Although long peppers were used heavily by ancient Greeks and Romans, it was bumped aside with chilli pepper’s arrival. However, it’s still used in India, Pakistan, and Nepal where it’s known as pippali.
It tastes similar to black peppers, though the heat is toned down with hints of nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom.
Over to you..
Have you tried any of these?
Let’s know in the comments below.