Spices date back to ancient times. In fact, a spice was usually defined as anything that carried a strong aroma. Herbs and incense were also labeled with spices way back when. The most important aspect of what constituted an ancient spice was that it was not perishable and that could be transported for many months without or much little loss of its pungency. Archaeological records and findings show that even 3,000 years ago spices were traded to Persia and the Romans were able to buy spices from remote areas east of Indonesia. There are various Biblical references to spices as well from Genesis through Song of Solomon, the Gospels, and Revelation.
Long before Christopher Columbus Egyptians sought out spices. Thanks to Chinese and European shippers in the early 1500’s that both Portuguese explorers Magellan and Vasco de Gama found routes to the Spice Islands, aptly named for the variety of spices found there. Today the Spice Islands belong to Indonesia and are often called the Malukku Island.
Spices were traded from local merchant to local merchant, gradually making their way slowly from east to west. Increasing availability of spices is reflected in the cuisines of various cultures over the centuries. Spices were highly valued and provided a very lucrative trade in ancient times. Over the centuries they have continued to be valued for their exciting flavor and enhancement to the foods we eat.
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