The average consumer of food products normally fills his food basket with a standard set consisting of meat and diary products, grains, sweets, and tea. However, the preparation of the enormous number of available dishes without spices is impossible to imagine. After all, it is they that give a dish its special "notes" and give it a unique taste.
According to archaeologists who have carried out excavations, spices became a part of human life over 50 thousand years ago, before even salt was used, and before the cultivation of domesticated crops.
The culinary dictionary by Alexandre Dumas Sr. contains both notions: seasonings and spices. The writer treats spices as fresh or dried and sometimes specially processed parts of plants (leaves, flowers, seeds, roots, fruits, zest) which have a strong, distinct flavor, peculiar only to the plant in question. Not all aromatic plants can be considered spices, only those which have bactericidal properties which manifest to varying extents.
Dumas qualifies seasonings using a term which in a strict culinary sense is the opposite of the notion of spices. Seasonings are divided into two great classes — natural, uniform and complex, artificial, combined. The main purpose of seasonings is to provide a dish or a certain product with a definite, pointed taste.
Ozhegov’s dictionary designates spices as sharp seasoning for dishes and pickles.
According to experts, there exist more than 200 different kinds of spices and seasonings that have been used in the 21st century.
The Russian market of aromatic kitchen herbs is represented by a variety of spices: some are well-known by the consumer, while others are rare and valuable products.
One of the most popular spices in the world, and of course in Russia, is pepper, with black pepper enjoying high demand. It arrived in Europe long before its more piquant fellows. The title of runner-up is held by basil. The popular appeal of this seasoning can be attributed to its versatility: basil goes well with meat and fish dishes, and also has outstanding antibacterial properties. Third place belongs to cinnamon. It is a traditional seasoning for dishes used in all Oriental countries. It is added to drinks to achieve a special aroma, and the most widespread use of cinnamon is in confectionery, chocolate, and coffee.
The fourth place is occupied by cloves. This excellent seasoning is used for meat, pickles, confectionery, and wines. In addition, various spice mixes include cloves.
It is impossible to imagine many dishes being eaten without the addition of such a pungent seasoning as mustard. It ranks among the top 5 most popular seasonings. This fiery hot seasoning is especially loved in Russia. There are many kinds of just Russian mustard. Mustard is not only used alone — it also forms a part of such products such as vegetable oils, sauces, mayonnaise.
China, India, Uzbekistan, Indonesia, the Czech Republic and Poland are the main exporters of seasonings and spices to Russia. The amount of seasonings imported to the Russian market in 2015 amounted to more than 100 thous. tons.
The following data on queries, from Yandex Statistics, shows the manufacturers and importers of spices: Kotanyi – 1242 queries per month (from October 16 to November 16), seasonings by Kotanyi – 260 queries, Kotanyi spices – 146 queries, chicory seasoning – 146 queries Santa Maria seasoning – 264 queries, buy Santa Maria seasonings – 58 queries, kamis seasonings – 864 queries, buy kamis seasonings – 101 queries (the data provided according to Yandex Statistics, queries wordings kept unchanged).
What spices are produced in Russia?
Russia annually exports such seasonings as pepper, which covers more than 50% of exports, coriander – 19% and cinnamon – 11.1%. The rest of the export is broken down into 18 kinds of spices, each constituting not more than 2%. It comprises anise, star anise, fennel, coriander, cumin, juniper, as well as mustard and mustard flour. But despite these significant numbers, the major part of the seasonings in Russia is imported.
For local distribution of aromatic additives, a manufacturer employs services of the wholesalers. As a rule, this applies to small companies who want to sell their products. For large promising companies that are engaged in promotion of their products in the regions, it is common practice to set up their own branches there. Presently, the share of imports of spices in the Russian market is worth over USD 3 million.
The following major companies-suppliers are presented in the market : Aidigo, Kuhmaster, Trapeza, Indana.
Having used the Yandex analyst service we obtained the following number of queries in respect of Russian manufacturers and suppliers of spices: Aidigo seasonings – 147 queries, Kuhmaster – 4 requests per month, Trapeza seasonings – 157 queries Indana seasoning – 33 queries (the data provided according to Yandex Statistics, queries wordings kept unchanged).
Here are some interesting facts about the spices:
- Turmeric contains 10 times more antioxidants than blueberries
- In the Middle Ages, theft of nutmeg was punished by a severed hand, and capital punishment awaited those who faked saffron.
- Basil was part of the oil for anointing kings.
- In ancient times, the Arabs concealed the origin of cinnamon from the Europeans. According to them, cinnamon sticks were brought from distant lands by huge birds to build their nests on the cliffs. The first groves of cinnamon in Sri Lanka were discovered only in 1400 by the Portuguese.
- The Mojito cocktail contains mint and cilantro.
- Alexander the Great used to take saffron baths to accelerate the healing of his battle wounds.
- The Aztecs in Mexico paid taxes to their ruler with vanilla.
- Cinnamon is such an ancient seasoning that one can come across it in the Bible.
The beneficial properties of seasoning and spices continue to be studied in the 21st century. Adding seasoning to various dishes not only gives them their distinct taste, aroma, and flavor, but also contributes to the neutralization of many harmful substances. Seasonings can also improve digestion, boost the immune system, and give vivacity and energy.
With every coming year, the share of imports of spices to Russia increases. Currently, it exceeds 80 thous. tons. We can say that the share of imports of spices to the Russian market is much larger than that produced by Russia itself.