It wasn’t until the early human species Homo Erectus that fire was used to cook food some 1.9 million years ago. Up until that point, it is believed that the human species had not evolved enough to understand the beauty and wonder of cooking food with flame that has now shaped who we have become as the modern human species. While cooking has been around for close to 2 million years, when and how did culinary herbs and spices come to be?
Early documentation suggests that hunters and gatherers wrapped meat in the leaves of bushes, and accidentally discovered that this process enhanced the taste of the meat, which later led to humans adding flavor to their food through various herbs and spices. In 3500 BC the ancient Egyptians were using various spices to flavor food, use in cosmetics, and to embalm the dead. The use of spices spread through travel and trade into the Middle East and throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. Valuable Spices from Asia were originally transported overland by donkey or camel caravans and for nearly 5000 years, Arab middlemen controlled the spice trade, until European explorers set out on long sea voyages to discover a sea route to the sources of spices. It was because of these endeavors that the great Age of Exploration began, which led to the discovery of the New World.
Herbs and spices were an extremely valuable traded commodity whose history is interwoven with empires created and destroyed, flavors sought and found and the rise and fall of various religious practices and beliefs.
During the Middle Ages, spices were the driving force of the world’s economy, a commodity as valuable as gold and gems. Rare and in high demand, spices were vital to mask the flavor of spoiled food due to the lack of refrigeration. European nations heavily competed over the control of the spice trade, which eventually led to the colonization of India and other Asian territories. The English, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish, all had their times of establishing monopolies over various parts of the spice trade.
Fortunately, commerce in spices today is mostly decentralized. This is what allows us here at Colorado Spice, to source the finest herbs and spices from the best origins to sell directly to our customers. While the cost of our seasonings may not be that of gold or rare gems in this day and age, we like to think that our herbs and spices are of precious quality, unique and hard to come by.
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