The Encyclopedia of Spices and Herbs

Padma Lakshmi, with Judith Sutton and Kalustyan’s Spice Shop. Ecco, $39.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-237523-0
The variety of the earth’s herbs and spices is nearly as vast as Lakshmi’s résumé. A memoirist, actress, fashion model, jewelry designer, philanthropist, and food show host, she now adds encyclopedia author to her credits with this handy and knowledgeable look at the wide world of seasonings. Flavorings both familiar and obscure are presented alphabetically, from advieh, a Persian spice blend, to zedory, a gingerlike rhizome. Each entry includes the proper botanical name of the ingredient, a history and description (which can range in length from a few sentences to a few pages), and a brief mention of any medicinal uses. Many an unexpected and delightful tidbit of information awaits the reader: the botanical name of nutmeg is Mystica fragrans; the fruit that provides cardamom must be harvested by hand before it ripens, lest it split open and the seeds escape; saffron has been prescribed for both urinary tract disorders and asthma. The more common the spice, the more complicated it can be to fully explore. Salt is broken out into 24 different types, and pepper can come from any of four different colors of peppercorn grown primarily in India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Filling out the work, a handful of info boxes cover topics such as the Scoville heat index and smoked sea salts, and color photos highlight the vast inventory at Kalustyan’s, a specialty food shop in Manhattan. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/19/2016
Release date: 10/01/2016
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-06-237524-7
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