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TOP SEVEN HERBS AND SPICES USED IN NIGERIA


The beauty of Nigerian Cuisines

herbs and spices

Let's talk about herbs and spices. Let's talk about the condiments that does not only add flavour, taste and beauty to our dishes, but also comes with so much health benefits ( this aspect many does not know). There are lots and loads of herbs and spices available-Pepper, thyme, rosemary,Oregano, basil, parsley, curry powder, bay leaf, turmeric, nutmeg, ginger, garlic chives and lots more. Majorly, the herbs are the leafy ones and the spices are the ones from other parts of the plant, say roots, stems, flower.
 
Now, we have come up the top seven herbs and spices most used in Nigeria.
1. Pepper : Pepper is often described as the 'king of spices', and it is a major condiment in our every day meal. As a Nigerian, one can hardly go a day without tasting anything that does contain pepper (especially for the Yoruba people of the south western part of Nigeria). The word 'pepper' originated from the Sankrit word 'Pippali' meaning berry. there are almost a thousand specie of pepper, but the types majorly used in Nigeria are the scotch bonnet, chilli, bell and ghost pepper.  
2. Curry powder: This spice is not a stranger to the Nigerian kitchen as it has been a major contributor to the taste, flavour and colour of popular Nigerian dishes like Fried rice, Jollof Rice, Pasta and veggies etc. Curry powder is majorly and widely used in India and the authentic curry powder is from there too. Curry powder is actually a pulverized blend of up to 20 spices, herbs and seeds. Among those most commonly used are cardamom, chilies, cinnamon, cloves coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, mace, turmeric (which is the major reason the spice is yellow in colour), red and black pepper, poppy and sesame seeds, saffron, tamarind and nutmeg.
3. Thyme: Overtime, thyme have become the brother accompaniment to curry, as they are usually patronised hand in hand in Nigeria. The thyme is a herb that does not only carry the health benefit of curing bedwetting, sore throat, diarrhoea etc, but also gives our dish a pleasant aroma and a greenish colour. There are over 400 catalogued types of thyme in the world but the most common type of thyme is the garden thyme (Thymus vulgaris).
4. Ginger: When it comes to the use of spices in the kitchen, ginger is considered indispensable. From your stir fries to your pastries and even down to your drinks, ginger may be all you taste and smell. In Nigeria, the pungent, peppery sharp and aromatic scent of this spicy rhizome can be tasted and smelled in our very own zobo (habiscus) drink, 'kunu' drink, tea, rice varieties and lots more. Talking about the medicinal benefit, ginger has long been used to treat nausea, stomach ulcers, regulates blood sugar etc.
5. Garlic: Thinking of the pungent smell, people tend to stand far away from garlic. But considering the spicy flavour, one tend not go on cooking without it. Garlic to long extent is considered a vegetable but it is also used to spice up dishes. In Nigeria, one can't specifically place the use of garlic because they are just everywhere, lets say food, baked goods, herbal products, pharmaceuticals and drinks. There are more than 300 varieties in the world and this allium genus also have some rich health benefits like the boost of digestion, lowering the cholesterol level, reduction of hypertension.

6. Nutmeg: These spice in it flavor and aroma are delicately warm and sweet. Nutmeg can be added to stew, rice and has been acting as the close substitute of cinnamon in Nigeria and it sweet nutty flavour in baked goods cannot be overemphasised.
7. Bay leaf: Growing up, when served Jollof rice,seeing this leaf inside the food made me want to question the hygiene of the cooks for allowing some leaves to fall inside my delicious plate of Jollof rice. I realised later on that this leaf is one the main constituent feature of a the delicious bowl of Jollof rice. Also called laurel leaf or bay laurel, this aromatic herb comes from the evergreen bay laurel tree, native to the Mediterranean. Bay leaves are used to flavor soups, stews, vegetables and meats. They're generally removed before serving. Overuse of this herb can make a dish bitter. Fresh bay leaves are seldom available in markets. Dried bay leaves, which have a fraction of the flavor of fresh, can be found in supermarkets. Store dried bay leaves airtight in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

SOME FACTS ABOUT HERBS AND SPICES
  • Trinidad Moruoga Scorpion chili is the world's hottest pepper(it can burn through a protective latex gloves.
  • Saffron is the world's most expensive spice, as a kilo gram cost about ₦396000 - 3,960000 (US$1,100- 11,000/kg).
  • India is responsible for 70% of the global spice production. The majority of people in the world have some sort of spice in their home from India.
  • Nutmeg trees actually produce two spices: nutmeg and mace. Nutmeg is the seed of the tree, while mace is the lacy, reddish covering on the nutmeg seed.
  • Pepper is the most used spice in the world.

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