Believe it or not, but the Middle East was once the leading supplier of a resource that helped fuel today’s modern world. These items led the trade market years ago and were guarded by only the wealthiest of suppliers. I’m not referring to silver or gold. If fact, these items were so treasured, that their value was even higher than that of gold and caused conflict between countries around the world. And the twist? Today, every individual comes in contact with this resource every single day. The ancient riches I’m referring to are spices.
The spice trade began in the Middle East around 2000 BC predominantly black pepper, which has remained the most common spice for centuries. Others included: cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. The biggest emporium of these spices was South Arabia where the first monopoly of the resource had begun. Spices were used for medical remedies, food, and perfume. They also had a reputation of being magical. Merchants who sold spices would increase the prices of the product by telling elaborate tales of the dangerous adventures to find them.
During the 15th century the Middle East began trading spices with Western Europe. Historians have estimated 1,000 tons of pepper and 1,000 tons of spices were exported each year. Once trade began to boom, bloody battles were fought between countries over the control and trade of spices. As their worth elevated, the search for the seasonings rose along with the urge to discover new lands that contained these treasures.
As every American knows, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and landed in North America. Although he journeyed to discover many things, a main component of his travels, was a search for spices. While in the Americas he discovered vegetables and coined the English word “pepper”.
As new discovery and trade increased during the development of the modern world, the value of spices began to decrease along with their monetary worth. Now, spices are one of the cheapest items purchased at grocery stores in the United States.
It’s now crazy to think about the history of spices and the violent measures once taken for a more flavorful bite.