by Cal Orey
The word is, an uptick in herbs and spices has left manufacturers scrambling to fill orders for hungry and lonely consumers. What gives? Blame the spike on the stay-at-home lifestyle to survive the pandemic. Actually, herbs and spices have been touted as timeless treasures. Their draw goes back centuries ago, to the days of the spice trade. Seafarers searched for pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg which were priceless commodities. And now, during a 21st century plague, we are experiencing another spice explosion, sort of.
The Covid-19 challenge has already played a role in our food chain. Back in March, we endured bare shelves – a lack of flour to sugar to eggs and butter — in our grocery stores. But spices were growing in demand, too, because we were cooking more, dining out less. As months passed, during quarantine home-cooking, using herbs and spices became a hot trend around the globe.
A Pre-Pandemic Introduction to Aromatic Seasonings
Flashback to 2019, when I began my book research for The Healing Powers of Herbs and Spices: Timeless Treasures, I found a big cardboard box on my doorstop—a gift. When I opened the package, I was greeted by a strong wave of different aromas. The box was filled with dozens of individual packets containing a variety of herbs and spices. It was if they were all are saying, “Look at me! Choose me!”
I took out each cellophane wrapped and labeled packet. There were rows of small packages on my dining room table. Each one was filled with powders, pods, seeds and stems–some familiar, some not. I brought out a kit of glass bottles with stick-on labels which I had ordered online and went to work filling each container with a dried herb or spice. Foolishly, I did not wear a mask. (Fast forward: Now a mask is my best friend.) My eyes began to water, and sniffles started. I sneezed several times. I was experiencing the potent and healing compounds in the botanical plants. Within a few hours, all my seasonings were inside the glass bottles and labeled.
Little did I know these timeless treasures would end up making a huge comeback during a pandemic stay-at-home lifestyle.
Home-Cooking Is Chillaxing
Why Spice Sales Saw a Rise During the Pandemic
- As more people look to natural remedies as a way to slim down and healthy up, the demand for usage of herbs and spices continues to skyrocket.
- Celebrity chefs increasingly promote more natural, plant-based diets that include many herbs and spices for flavor, texture, and visual appeal.
- During the New Year and into V-Day, spring, and summer — spice companies will likely enjoy a greater demand for immune-boosting food paired with seasonal favorite seasonings.
- During stressful times people often turn to baking bread or making pizza – familiar comfort food. While we cope with the novel virus – losing a loved one to a job, cooking links you to a sense of normalcy.
Using herbs and spices provide different adventurous flavors and can create different cuisines — a tie to traveling which we cannot easily do right now. It’s an escape to embracing different cultures and humanity – a way to feel connected during physical distancing.
Herbs and Spices Heart-Warming Lure
Staying well is on our minds. And the key to vibrant health for all generations is in your kitchen… Anise, bay leaf, oregano, paprika, parsley, and more—for thousands of years, have been praised for flavoring food, as well as preventing and even curing illnesses.
Nature’s gifts including cloves, garlic, thyme, and turmeric are immune-boosting and can help us stay well. Since American households will be hunkering down for a while, spicing up home-cooked meals adds pleasure. And yes, herbs and spices can even ease stress and anxiety providing comfort during challenging times.
So, cooking up herb-alicious recipes like a Banana Cardamom Bread, Mediterranean Oven-Baked Garlic and Marjoram Pizza, Jumbo Anise Biscotti or a Spiced Star Anise Hot Chocolate will help get us through tough times. But note, post-pandemic days are ahead – with promise of gatherings and traveling – indulging in the variety of spice to its fullest once again.
The mega-popular Healing Powers series from bestselling nutrition writer Cal Orey continues with its 9th installment, The Healing Powers of Herbs and Spices, exploring the many ways fresh herbs in your fridge and dried spices in your kitchen cupboard can provide medicinal powers, home cures, weight loss benefits, beauty treatments, and adventurous flavors and textures to enhance plant-based dishes.