Food: The spice world’s golden treasure |

Food: The spice world’s golden treasure

Angela Shelf Medearis & Gina Harlow

Curry is a heady melange of spices and pungent root vegetables that come together to form a symphony of flavors that create the essence of the blend. Yet when you hear the word “curry” you might assume it refers to a dish popular in Indian cuisine. Curry is used in countless ways in cuisines all over the world — from Asia to Europe, the Caribbean and South America.

The amalgamation that is curry, in all its forms, represents the spice world coming together in an exotic and piquant melting pot of flavors extracted from pods and seeds, peppers, wine, ginger and garlic. The vast array of ingredients represented in curries hails from Asia and its subcontinents. But these highly coveted seasonings eventually made their way to the rest of the world.

Curry is an immigrant that became a naturalized citizen in many countries, with a unique version born in each new land. As the foundation of spices that constituted the original curry moved from one place to the next, the curries themselves took on different qualities.

Many curries are the color of gold, and it is an interesting coincidence, because the curry spices at one time traded as if they were gold. For thousands of years, humans have valued the qualities of aromatic plants. Spices were coveted everywhere and used in everything from cuisine to medicines.

In Asia, spices moved across the continent by land, and were the heart of an important and lucrative commerce. Hundreds of years after that, with the invention of sophisticated navigational vessels, explorers and traders took to the seas, along with their prized cargo of spices.

The curries we see today are descendants of mixtures that date back 4,000 years. Thanks to archeological advances, scientists can determine what our ancestors ate by examining skeletons and ancient pieces of pottery. We know that even then, a form of curry was part of the primitive culinary landscape. While curries vary from place to place, they all seem to have evolved from the basic spices of ginger, garlic and turmeric. Curries can consist of countless ingredients, from cumin and coriander to hot chilies and lemongrass.

While some curries are dry, most are added to a stew, combined with actual curry, bay or lime leaves, and vegetable, beef or chicken stock or coconut milk. There is a strong history of meat in these stews, but many curries are vegetarian. Curry and vegetables are a wonderful combination, elevating vegetable dishes to tasty, stand-alone heights. Try my recipe for Quick Curried Vegetables, and make your own Mild Curry Powder to use in this and countless other recipes!

Visit Angela Shelf Medearis’ website at To see how-to videos, recipes and much, much more, Like Angela Shelf Medearis, The Kitchen Diva! on Facebook and go to Read Gina Harlow’s blog about food and gardening at Recipes may not be reprinted without permission from Angela Shelf Medearis.

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