Spice Crops is essential reading for anybody seriously interested in commercial spice production. Although written for professional spice growers and traders, anybody with an interest in pharmacognosy will find heaps of interesting information in this book. The research is very thorough and clearly presented. It covers just about all aspects of the various spices discussed, from their basic botany to phytopharmacology, to details on cultivation, processing and preservation.
The introductory chapter offers a general overview on world spice trade with a rather brief sketch of that enormous chapter of plant/human history. A whole book could be written just on this subject alone, but this particular book focuses more on the specifics, rather than the general. A brief overview of the major spice crops covered within the main body of the book outlines details of trade statistics for the various spices.
The main part of the book presents various families of spice plants and a selection of their important members. Families covered include Cruciferae, Lauraceae, Leguminosae, Myristicaae, Ochidaceae, Piperaceae, Solanaceae, Umbelliferae, Zingiberaceae, and some minor species. The most important spice crops in each of these families are treated in detail, covering history, botany, ecology, growing conditions, soil and fertilizers, cultivation, weed and bug control, harvesting, processing and storage, aspects of essential oil distillation where applicable, products & specifications, medicinal uses, other related species as well as similar, but unrelated species.
The back-matter of the book comprises of a very extensive bibliography/ reference section, a glossary to explain technical terms as well as a couple of Appendices, a table of specifications of Europeans standards for quality minima and world spice harvest calendar.
Though I am neither a spice grower nor trader I found 'Spice Crops' incredibly rich and informative. Intended as a reference work, it is very practical, yet its use is by no means limited to professionals. Anybody interested in spices will find here a comprehensive source of solidly researched reference materials.
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