Tracing India’s Food Journey – Of Sugar & Spice

The quintessential feature of Indian food is, of course, the extensive use of spices.  The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has registered 109 spices, of which 52 are supervised by the Spice Board of India.  Spices indigenous to India are ginger, turmeric, tamarind, black (also called round) pepper (Piper nigrum), curry leaves, pippali or long pepper (Piper longum), green and black cardamom, and holy basil or tulsi.  Some were used in the Indus Valley Civilization – analyses of the residue in cooking pots and human and bovine teeth (then, as now, cows were fed leftovers) at Farmana just 60 km from New Delhi confirm that between 2500 and 2000 BCE cooks were using turmeric, black pepper, ginger and garlic as spices – ingredients for a 4000-year old North Indian curry. Almost all the spices used in India today, except chilies and mint, have Sanskrit names, indicating their extremely long usage.