Ghana Cooking 101 – Know Your Spices

When you go shopping at the marketplace for spices, do you find yourself painlessly bypassing the local spices section yet making a stop at the sector with colourfully wrapped up and bottled spices? OK, that’s fine… really. I’m only going to stick to discussing local spices with you. Ready?

My mother is quite the traditional one in the kitchen, so I barely know the prices of Onga and A1. There are also planted a number of herbal plants in the garden at home, but then again spice use most importantly has several valuable effects – this includes reducing food-borne illnesses and food poisoning.

Allow me to spoil you with my new knowledge on Spices: predictable perceptions make us recognize that foods of tropical countries are spicier than foods of the northern countries. Each spice has a unique aroma and flavor, which derive from compounds known as phytochemicals or “secondary compounds” (because they are secondary to the plant’s basic metabolism). These chemicals evolved in plants to protect them against herbivorous insects and vertebrates, fungi, pathogens, and parasites (Fraenkel 1959, Walker 1994)

According to the American Institute of Biological Sciences Jun 1999,

Spice use is ubiquitous, but spices are far more important in some cuisines than others. Most people have experienced this variability firsthand, when traveling in foreign lands, dining at international restaurants, or preparing exotic recipes at home. Japanese dishes are often “delicate,” Indonesian and Szechwan dishes “hot,” and middle European and Scandinavian dishes “bland.” So, by cleansing foods of pathogens before consumption, spice users contribute to the health, longevity, and fitness of themselves, their families, and their guests. A Darwinian view of gastronomy thus helps us understand why “some like it hot” (spicy, that is!).

Purple Shades decided to feature Naa Oyoo Quartey, a young professional lifestyle blogger who recently went to the local market to explore and inquire more about our local spices from a home-grown spice seller. In my next blog, I will again feature Naa Oyoo Quartey’s blog post of how to grind and make your own fresh whole spices.

Watch this:

Photograph: Naa Oyoo Quartey

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