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5 spices to explore with Italpepe, a company that for years has specialized in bringing the best spices and their stories to the Bel Paese. Happy reading and remember to “give pepper to your life”
Mint, from Greece to Morocco
According to legend, Mint was a beautiful nymph, daughter of Cocito, one of the 5 rivers of the Underworld. In a short time she would become Hades’ favorite concubine, clashing with the wrath of Persephone, the new queen of the underground kingdom. It is said that Mint, after provoking the latter concerning her skills in bed, was killed and torn to pieces by her. Hades, however, felt sorry for his concubine and decided to turn it into the grass so well known to us. Finally, it will be Demeter who will put the condition of sterility in the plant, a posthumous punishment for the attempt on marriage.
As far as cooking is concerned, Maghreb mint tea, a drink that makes the green herb absolute princess of every meal and every meeting, cannot be mentioned. Although the introduction of tea was fairly recent, the pairing soon became a must, so much so that in just a century and a half it became an almost sacred ritual within the Maghreb communities (primarily Moroccan). Mint has antiseptic and antiviral properties thanks to its incredible abundance of polyphenols. In addition, it has antispasmodic, balsamic and sedative properties and proves to be an incredible ally in the fight against flies.
Turmeric, the golden spice of India
Turmeric is one of the 9 herbs with which Nabapatrika is made, a floral arrangement designed to celebrate Durga Puja, a festival deeply linked to the nature of India. The latter was in fact born as a way to celebrate the end of the monsoons and the resumption of the harvest, then binding to local faith and cults, thus becoming one of the most sacred and celebrated rituals in the country. Specifically, in Nabapatrika turmeric represents Durga, the Hindu goddess of war, golden just like the famous spice.
But then does this miraculous spice have incredible and astounding properties? Yes and no. Since ancient times various properties have been attributed to it, including its antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and many others; which, however, have not been confirmed in the studies. In 2017, in fact, the largest research ever on curcumin, the main element of turmeric, was published, without however revealing any particular beneficial effects. Some slight effect was seen in the laboratory and on animals, however, it is not proven that it has miraculous effects on humans. Nonetheless, at least for taste, color and history, turmeric remains one of the essential elements for those who want to devote themselves to the cuisine of the Greater Middle East.
Cumin, the “superfood” of the Middle East
The first finds ever were found in the Iraqi countryside, specifically in Tell ed-Derr, a mound that rises about 70 km from Baghdad and in which remains of the plant dating back to 2000 BC were found. . Thanks to the inhabitants of the Nile, various medical properties of cumin were discovered which, until the Middle Ages, made it the most widespread and popular species of the entire world cuisine. The latter is in fact particularly rich in iron, an essential element for any good diet and essential for different moments of life including growth and menstruation, moments in which you risk having less.
In addition, its digestive properties have been known since ancient times, so much so that one of the most popular remedies of Indians for this type of problem is a decoction of cumin. Some studies have also highlighted potential anti-carcinogenic properties, but only recently began to study in depth this spice, which almost disappeared in Europe since the Middle Ages.
Paprika, the Ottoman spice
Although formed from peppers, originating in Mexico, paprika was invented at the Ottoman court of Buda, now part of Budapest, Hungary. Here the Turkish soldiers had the brilliant idea of creating a new mix of spices with the vegetables just arrived from the New World, thus forming the first version of paprika ever existed.
According to legend, for a long time the Hungarian people were kept in the dark about this delicious secret, which they will discover only thanks to a girl who, like Prometheus for the fire, escaped from the harem and instructed the farmers about the famous recipe. In the 19th century the recipe was then developed in Szeged, also in Hungary, where the “sweet” version was invented by the Pàlfi brothers. Since paprika is a real mix of peppers, it is rich in: vitamin A, vitamin C, beta-carotene and lutein, all elements that make it interesting even from a nutritional point of view.
Curry and its re-incarnations
Before starting with our story, a small distinction must be made regarding the evolution of the term “curry” which, following the English domination, took very precise connotations, previously completely absent before. The word in fact derives from the Tamil kaṟi which means “sauce” or “rice dressing” but in an absolutely generic concept, on a par with Garam Masala. The “definition of the term” was created later by the British who will begin to give it very specific features.
The latter, in fact, arrived in India only after the arrival of the Portuguese, who introduced the chilli pepper, a plant native to South America and completely unknown to the Indians, who however began to make extensive use of it. Once in those lands, the British fell madly in love with that specific mix of spices, starting to import it also in the motherland, where it achieved international success and was widespread throughout the Empire. The properties of “classic” curry are essentially those of turmeric and its main element.
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