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Paprika Paprika is paprika is paprika, right? Wrong! The red spice actually comes in three varieties: sweet, smoked, and hot. Sweet paprika is generally just called “paprika,” with the other two varieties being labelled accordingly.  Paprika is made by grinding the pods of Capsicum annuum peppers, which belong to the nightshade family, and are indigenous to Southern Mexico, Central America, South America and the Antilles. However, the name “paprika” is Hungarian, and stems from the Greek peperi and the Latin piper—both of which mean pepper. Why, you may be wondering, is a spice from Mexico and Central America known by...

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Black Pepper Today, “black gold” refers to crude oil. However, once upon a time, the term was used in reference to a spice that today is found in nearly every North American kitchen: black pepper. The spice was so valuable that at least one ancient Egyptian emperor was buried with it, and when the city of Rome was besieged in 410 AD, part of a ransom offered to the attackers was 3,000 lbs of pepper. Though black pepper is now grown in nearly every tropical region in the world—with Vietnam exporting approximately 35% of the world’s supply—the spice is only...

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If you are a spice and herb aficionado, you might one day ask yourself, “Hmmm, I wonder if there’s a herb that was once prized by both Roman emperors and Victorian children?” ...Okay, so maybe no one would ever ask themselves that question. But, as it happens, the answer is “thyme.” Thyme is thought to be one of the oldest herbs known to humankind. The herb is a member of the mint family and is indigenous to the Mediterranean, thriving in Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. Like other herbs from this region—such as basil—thyme has been a popular herb...

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Basil’s Latin name, basileus, means “king,” so it’s no wonder the fragrant green plant is known as the King of Herbs. People have used basil for a variety of purposes for 4,000–5,000 years, and over time it has been associated with death, love, religion, and virginity. Modern North Americans tend to associate basil with Italian cooking, but basil is actually native to the tropical regions of central Africa, India, and Southeast Asia. In India, a variety of the plant known as “holy basil” or “tulsi,” is sacred in Hinduism. Tulasi, or Tulsi, the wife of the Hindu god Vishnu, was...

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