These highly aromatic berries, barks, leaves, stems, buds, roots and seeds have long been prized. They have been used in rituals, customs, anointing royalty and mask the taste of spoiling food. Spices are still as valuable today, with only a small amount needed to heighten and enhance the taste of culinary creations.
Spices are grown all over the world. Many are still harvested the way they have been for centuries -- manually. Vanilla beans, for example, are an expensive spice in part because of their labor-intensive cultivation and curing. Only Mexican bees and hummingbirds can pollinate the plants in nature, so workers do it by hand using a bamboo splinter.
Nature plays an essential role in the texture, taste, flavor and aroma of spices. The powerful nuances of volatile oils are what give spices their distinct flavors. Thyme,and cinnamon are among the best know aromatic spices. Mincing, grinding and processing release these volatile chemicals. This is why ground spices have such a rich aroma.
For many years, spices and herbs have been an integral part of many of the world's cuisines. In fact, many consumers today take for granted black pepper and the other spices which once caused wars and disputes. Wealthy people, like kings and royals, were the only ones who could afford such delicacies as cinnamon. Fortunately, times have changed. Nowadays, supermarkets and grocery stores have well-stocked spice shelves offering a vast selection of spices and herbs.