For people searching for creative ways to save money in a lumbering economy, the household kitchen may supplant the restaurant as hangout central. It is a trend fed by an expanding appetite for celebrity chefs, television shows and blogs dedicated to cooking with healthy, ethnic and organic ingredients.
As a cooking enthusiast, finding all the right ingredients posed a serious challenge for Trusha Patel, who worked as a derivatives and structured finance lawyer in London before reinventing herself as the owner of Spice Sanctuary, an organic import business based in Canada.
“When we first moved to Calgary, I struggled to find good quality spices and was finding (that) I had to use more when making every day dishes compared to what I was using back in the UK,” says Patel. “There was not much choice in the organic field and whether it was imported via the USA or directly, the quality was just not right for me.”
Spice Sanctuary began in 2010 as a firm to promote modern Indian food through catering and cooking classes but its focus soon shifted to imported organic spices and how to use them in a healthy and easy way.
“We are not just interested in providing consumers with more choice or better quality but we also want to empower people to feel confident in using them every day just like they would (use) salt and pepper,” says Patel.
Demand for organic ingredients is on the rise globally, including spices like Patel sells to retail health food stores and fine restaurants in Canada and directly to consumers through her web site spicesanctuary.com. The forecast for the global market for spices and seasonings tops 5.3 billion pounds by the year 2017, according to Global Industry Analysts Inc., a market research publisher.
Spice Sanctuary supports rural businesses at the sourcing countries and job creation in Canada by packaging and labeling all products there, which improves quality control. A shorter supply chain –thus a reduced carbon footprint - achieved through direct importing and distribution reflects a commitment to sustainability. The spices are sourced from India, Sri Lanka and Europe or wherever she can obtain the best grade.
Spices inspire chefs, awaken our senses and even make us feel good. Their uses for culinary and healing purposes are longstanding. “They are the super foods that have been there from ancient times,” says Patel.
Turmeric, identified by its yellowish hue, rises in demand as it gains notoriety as an antioxidant that research indicates may have anti-inflammatory and other health benefits. Clinical trial results suggest that the anti-inflammation agent called curcumin found in the spice may help sharpen memory and offer beneficial treatment for arthritis and some types of cancer.
Out of the 27 individual spices offered, Patel’s favorite is cardamom. “It has the aroma that is slightly sweet but it’s pungent as well and it can be used in both sweet and savory dishes,” she says.
At Spice Sanctuary, the growing interest in organic spices leans in two directions: those who want convenience with spice blends and the experimentalists who want to try Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes seasoned with unusual spices like Nigella seeds and Fenugreek seeds and powder.
Nigella seeds, commonly used in breads or curries, give an onion aroma but with the crunch of sesame seeds. Fenugreek, with scents of celery and curry, is perfect for everyday dishes, such as root vegetable soups and meat stews.
The Fancy Foods Show, BioFach, Expo West, Natural & Organic Products Europe and Sial Canada are likely to generate more buzz about these and other trendy spices and their emergence in healthy and creative, ethnic or every-day, home cooking.