Authentic Hispanic Spices: Spice up Your Life and be Healthy
Spices are food additives used in flavoring dishes. It gives fabulous aromas to brighten up a recipe. Authentic Hispanic spices have greatly influenced the enhancement of foods from past to present. Hispanic spices continue to evolve onto different variations.
Spices are a vegetative substance made from dried seed, root, fruit and the bark of tropical trees or plants. Spices are often whole or ground types and even powdered for flavoring purposes. It even serves as a type of food preservative.
It can enhance food and improve ones health. The use of spices can regulate levels of sugar, fat and salt in our daily diet. It can also aid in digestion and increases the rate of metabolism.
Ethnic foods contribute more to Spanish cuisines. The spice history started to evolve due to the early settlers. Native and genuine Hispanic spices continue to emerge due to the different cultures of countries across the globe.
The history of Spanish food and spices goes all the way back to the Spanish coastline settlers. Greeks, Phoenicians and the Carthaginians are being followed by other contributors like the Romans and Moors. Hernan Cortez uncovered bold new flavors in Mexico similar to red pepper and all spices which has become popular in most countries.
Garlic, saffron and beans are some of the varieties that are commonly imported and are widely used in Spanish cuisines. In fact, spices are a luxury for early traders. It became a valuable ingredient which only rich people can afford.
Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Mexican are the three largest American groups that have introduced authentic Hispanic spices. Below are some of the authentic spices.
Annatto seed/ achiote /atsuete seed – Annatto seeds are a rich yellowish-orange colored ingredient for stews and sauces. Seeds are steeped in boiling water for 20 minutes so as to extract its color.
Anise Seed- Anise is a native Mediterranean basin that is both used for sweet and savory applications. It is featured in breads cakes, cookies, liquors and even in sausages and tomato sauces.
Chipotle chili powder – This is made from dried and smoked jalapeo pepper, giving it a unique taste.
Cumin – This is a type of dry seed from cuminum cyminum herb which takes three to four months to grow. It is a member of the parsley family and is used for chili and curry powder. Aside from this, it is used for making a type of tea called “cumin cider”. The Cumin seed is almost similar to anise and fennel in appearance but it is much darker and smaller.
Fennel seed – This is a type of dry seed that is about 4 to 10 mm long. It features a brown or green color and aromatic spice that is similar to the anise seed, especially in taste and appearance. Fennel seeds are commonly used as breath fresheners in India. Its flavoring is used in some toothpaste.
Epazote – The Epazote can flavor food, especially black beans. It is known as a type of Mexican tea which is good for soothing intestinal pains caused by over eating of beans and other similar foods. Epazote is poisonous when given in large amounts. It is used in seasoning sopes soups, quesadillas, tamales, mole de olla, chilaquiles and enchiladas. Thus, Epazote helps in the treatment of amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, chorea, malaria, hysteria and asthma.
Red pepper flakes/crushed red pepper (Capsicum) – These are dried and crushed cayenne peppers, often sprinkled in certain pizzas. Its fruit contains capsaisin, a lipophilic chemical. It can create strong burning sensations in the mouth
Spanish paprika (Pimentón) – The Spanish paprika is red in color. It has a strong flavor and aroma. It is a natural condiment, obtained by drying and grinding red peppers. Dehydration usually lasts for two weeks and it is classified according to quality and type. It can be sweet, bitter or spicy. It can be kept for 2 years.
Paprika is widely used in many traditional Spanish recipes. At current, Americans incorporate this in their cuisines as a type of seasoning for kebabs, pork barbeque, even beef and lamb stews.
Saffron – This is a deeply rooted condiment in Castile-La Mancha. It is originally from central Asia and was introduced to the Peninsula by the Arabs. The plant was protectively denominated since March 2001.
It comes from dried stigmas of saffron crocus (Crocus sativus). The cultivation requires harvesting with the use of your bare hands and the pruning of the flower. Saffron provides dishes with orange color and a slight bitter taste, along with an exotic aroma. It is sold in flexible and resistant strands, having bright stigmas.
David H. Urmann