Herbs and Spices, an Ancient Tradition

Herbs and Spices, an Ancient Tradition

Sep 24, 2020Donatella Mulvoni

You don’t have to be Italian to have a sprig of rosemary or a few basil leaves in your pantry at home. Herbs and spices are a global culinary tradition that dates back centuries. However, in Italy, they play an especially crucial role in our history: they are not just ingredients, but even take on medicinal and mystical properties.



Today, the most well-known herbs and spices grow naturally throughout the Italian peninsula. Basil, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, and marjoram, for example, nowadays are all inexpensive and typical components of any pantry. Still, there was a time when spices were a luxury, and only a select few could afford to use them for medical purposes or to flavor their meals. In fact, the use of spices has deviated significantly throughout history. While we may now use herbs to flavor a sauce or a roast, the ancient Egyptians, for example, used them only for their scent, adding spices to their cosmetics or burning them to perfume their homes. Spices were first popularized in Italy by the ancient Romans, who frequently spiced both their food and their drinks. However, Romans also retained the more traditional medical use of spices, prescribing them as digestives or anti-inflammatories.



Basil is by far the most common and important spice in the Italian culinary tradition. Can you imagine spaghetti al pomodoro without a basil leaf garnish? Italians typically do not cook basil, only adding a few leaves at the end when the dish is ready to be served. It’s also a key ingredient for minestrone and Caprese salad.



How can one resist enriching oven-roasted meat or potatoes with a few sprigs of rosemary? Its aroma is intense and unique, and its versatility makes it perfect on focaccia bread or even on seafood. It’s cheap and very easy to find in every part of Italy.



Italians put parsley in everything. The herb is so ubiquitous that we even have a saying to describe it: “Sei come il prezzemolo, ovunque,” which means “You’re like parsley, you’re everywhere.” Visit our website https://www.magnificofood.com to learn new recipes or shop for high quality Italian products.

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