Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Sticker Shock

Richie had business at the meat counter at the supermarket, so I trailed over to the spice aisle. I must say McCormick & Co. is rather sneaky. They have a huge display of their red/white tins of stuff right next to a fancy rack with glass bottles of spices. That label downplays McCormick and stresses "gourmet." Either container, spices are wildly expensive. Average prices run beween $5.40 to $8.75 and those are often for less than an ounce of product!

But they've been selling spices for a long time. Willoughby McCormick founded the company in 1889 -- he was making fruit syrups and root beer in his Baltimore home. In 1896, he had prospered enough to buy out the F.G. Emmett Spice Co. of Philadelphia. By the 1900s, he was regularly importing spices from all over the world and that explains why spices cost so much.

Dr. Bader ("Mr. 10,001") conveniently lists spices and their country of origin today in his book.

Allspice - Jamaica, Central and South America
Caraway seeds - they're harvested at night (!) before the dew evaporates. Netherlands.
Cardamom - India
Chervil - France
Cinnamon - China, Indonesia and mainly Thailand
Cloves - Indonesia
Ginger - India and West Africa
Marjoram - France, Chile and Peru
Nutmeg - East and West Indies
Paprika - Hungary
Saffron - The most expensive because it is extracted from the stigma of a flowering crocus and is only imported from Spain.
Tarragon - native to Siberia, mostly imported from Spain and France
Tumeric - India and Peru
Vanilla - Also expensive as it is hand-pollinated when grown commercially. In the wild, one species of hummingbird (and one only) pollinates.

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