• Friday, June 14, 2024
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BusinessDay

10 most expensive spices in the world

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Food spices have been a cornerstone of human cuisine for thousands of years, with a rich history that spans continents and cultures. The use of spices dates back to ancient civilizations in Egypt, China, and India, where they were not only used to add flavour but also for their medicinal and preservative properties.

As global exploration and trade expanded, so did the variety of spices available, with new and exotic spices becoming highly sought after for their unique flavours and aromas. Today, some of the rarest and most coveted spices can command high prices due to factors like limited supply, labour-intensive harvesting, and high demand.

Based on these factors, here are 10 of the world’s most expensive spices

Saffron – $1000/pound

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It is derived from the stigmas of the crocus flower, which are handpicked and dried to produce the spice. Due to the labour-intensive process,approximately 170,000 flowers are required to produce one pound of Saffron.

Saffron is used in various culinary dishes, such as paella and risotto, and is also valued for its potential skincare benefits. The spice is primarily cultivated and harvested in a few countries, including Iran, Afghanistan, Spain, and India. Saffron’s high price is reflected in its cost per gram, ranging from $8 to $9, depending on the type, grade, and origin.

Fennel Pollen – $450/pound

Fennel pollen is a highly valued spice due to its labour-intensive harvesting process. Despite being easy to cultivate, the pollen must be hand-picked, resulting in a low yield. The majority of commercial fennel pollen comes from Italy, while some individuals choose to harvest it at home. Fennel pollen has a unique flavour profile and is sought after by chefs. In addition to its culinary uses, fennel has been used in traditional medicine for various health purposes. Its historical uses include treating digestive issues, aiding in detoxification, and supporting weight loss.

Vanilla Bean– $200/pound

Vanilla is expensive due to several factors. Most of the world’s vanilla comes from Madagascar, a region prone to cyclones that damage crops. In the past, low demand led some farmers to stop producing vanilla, reducing supply. Additionally, theft of vanilla beans is common, causing farmers to harvest them before they’re fully ripe, which affects quality. Vanilla vines take several years to mature, and their flowers only bloom for a short time, requiring precise pollination to produce beans.

Mahlab – $69/pound

Mahlab is a spice made from the seed kernel of St. Lucie cherries. The process of extracting the kernel from the cherry pit is time-consuming, which contributes to its high price. The kernels are dried and sold whole or ground. Whole mahlab retains its flavour longer, and can be ground with a pestle and mortar or pepper mill. Mahlab is commonly used in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Long Pepper – $47/pound

Long pepper comes from a flowering vine plant. It has a distinctive shape and was once widely used in various cuisines, including African, Indonesian, Indian, and Mediterranean cooking. In the past, long pepper was considered valuable enough to be included in a ransom payment to Alaric I, King of the Visigoths. Today, it is relatively rare and expensive in the West, but has a unique flavour that can be used in soups, curries, and marinades. Long pepper is also used in Ayurvedic medicine, often in combination with other herbs.

Black Cumin Seed – $39/pound

Black cumin seeds have a distinct flavour, sweeter and more citrusy than regular cumin seeds. They are thinner and darker in colour, and should not be confused with other seeds like black caraway or nigella. The seeds are used whole and toasted to add flavour to various dishes, including breads, stews, vegetables, and ground meat. In some regions, black cumin seeds are also used to help alleviate health conditions such as bronchitis, rheumatism, and asthma. The oil extracted from these seeds is rich in vitamins and minerals, and is used for both cooking and skin care purposes.

Kaffir Lime Leaves – $36/pound

Kaffir lime leaves are a costly ingredient due to the labour-intensive process of hand-picking from thorny branches. Native to Southeast Asia, they are widely used in Thai cuisine. The leaves are used to add flavour to various dishes, including curries, stir-fries, rice dishes, and soups. They have a dark green colour and can be found in dried form at specialty grocery stores. Fresh Kaffir leaves are also cultivated in California and Florida. In addition to their culinary uses, Kaffir leaves are a good source of Vitamin C and can be used in other ways, such as adding them to a bath for a fragrant experience or using them to scent hair.

Grain of Paradise – $33/pound

Grains of paradise or Melegueta pepper, come from a West African plant called Aframomum melegueta. This plant is a member of the ginger family and produces seeds with a distinctive aromatic and peppery flavour. The seeds are used as a spice. In addition to culinary uses, Grain of Paradise is also used for medicinal purposes and is sold in extract form. Some cultures believe that whole Grains of Paradise have aphrodisiac properties.

Green Cardamom – $32/pound

Green cardamoms have a strong flavour that complements both sweet and savoury dishes. They are picked before maturity, unlike black cardamoms which are dried over heat. Green cardamoms are commonly used in Indian and Scandinavian cuisine, such as in Finnish cardamom bread. To use,the seeds are removed from the pods and ground with a pestle and mortar. Green cardamom powder has potential health benefits, including reducing inflammation and blood pressure. It contains quercetin, a flavonoid that may help alleviate anxiety and depression according to some research.

Pasilla de Oaxaca Chile– $29/pound

The Pasilla de Oaxaca chile pepper originates from the Oaxaca region in Mexico. It is smoke-dried and has a higher heat level than traditional Pasilla chiles. This pepper is expensive for its unique flavour. Pasilla de Oaxaca chiles can be used to add a smoky flavour to various dishes such as salsas, sauces, soups, and stews. They can also be stuffed with cheese and fried for a delicious snack.