How to buy genuine spices
How to know if you are buying genuine spices
- Sep 8, 2020
01/8Tips to buy right spices
Spices are an inherent part of every kitchen in the world. They are responsible for the taste and flavour of sweet and savoury dishes that we all love. It is generally recommended to buy fresh and pure spices as they give a distinct taste and aroma to the food. However, did you know that we often end up buying cheap and low-quality imitations of spices? Even if you belong to a country where these spices are produced, be aware that you are not safe from fake spices sold rampantly in the market. Here is a handy guide to help you know the difference between fake spices and real ones!
More often than not, it is possible that what you are buying as cinnamon is actually Chinese cassia. The latter has a much less complex and mild flavour when compared to the original or Ceylon cinnamon. Cassia also does not have a strong aroma like real cinnamon. To tell the difference between the two, always check the texture first. Cassia is coarse and thicker, while cinnamon is thinner in comparison. Cassia also tends to curl primarily on one side. Ground cinnamon can be tested for cassia by putting one drop of iodine to it. If it turns blue, it is infused with cassia.
Black peppercorns are so commonly used across the country that it is difficult to believe that we would not be able to spot an imposter. However, many sellers add papaya seeds to black peppercorns to save cost. Since papaya seeds are also roughly the same size and black in colour, most people are not able to tell the difference. Always crush a black peppercorn before buying. If it is a real peppercorn, it will be split into large pieces and leave a little oil. Low quality or old peppercorns will be divided into smaller parts when crushed.
Star anise is similar to anise in its reddish-brown colour and aroma. However, star anise has a more subtle flavour. Since it has a woody appearance, it is challenging to assess its freshness and purity. Make sure that the star anise you buy has eight segments and each has a shiny seed. If the spice is too brittle or dark, it is probably old or of poor quality. Also, when fresh star anise is broken, it releases a greasy fluid.
It is extremely tough to tell freshness and purity when it comes to powdered spices. Chilli powders should ideally be made of powdered chilli peppers. However, they are adultered with colourants and additives to make them appear fresh for long. It can even be adultered with brick powder, talc or soapstone. Pure chilli powder does not dissolve in water. Put chilli powder in a glass of water. If the colour of the water changes, it contains colourant.
Colour is the most crucial aspect to consider while buying cardamom. Fresh cardamoms are plump and olive or green in colour. However, if the cardamom pods look too green, there may be artificial colours used to make them seem fresh. If they look yellowish, they may either be too old or have been dried wrongly. Rub cardamom pods between your fingers to see if there is any colour being released. If not, you are good to go!
Many dealers extract the oil of the cloves before selling the spice. Hence, the cloves look thin and flat and usually do not have their signature aroma. Try not to buy these spices as they would not be able to give you the flavour you want. Instead, look for plump and healthy cloves that are still intensely aromatic. To check the freshness of the cloves, put them into water. While the old ones remain at the surface, fresh ones float vertically.
Turmeric powder comes from a root that looks like ginger but has a deeper yellow colour. Nowadays, many sellers are selling coloured flours in the name of turmeric powder. Fortunately, it is really easy to check by dissolving a pinch of the ground turmeric in water. If whitish specks float at the surface, the powder is not made with real turmeric. It is the best practice to buy the knotted turmeric roots, dry them up and powder them at home.
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