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Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Are Organic Spices Better?

With Organic Week around the corner, it seems only appropriate to go back to basics when it comes to spices and talking about whether organic spices are better.

Better compared to Conventional?

Organic spices are grown without the use of pesticides and chemicals whereas conventional spices are usually grown using pesticides and chemicals. So, organic spices are definitely purer. Adhering to organic production also means that the spices cannot be genetically modified. They also typically do not contain MSG or any other nasty fillers either. In addition, organic spices won't have been irradiated or fumigated.

Better in Taste?

Now this is where I feel consumers are being misled. Just because spices may be organically grown, it doesn't mean they taste better. Taste always comes down to the quality of spices and as I have talked about before, there are many factors that contribute to quality. 

Think of it like the outside of a  house and 'organic' as the foundations to the building. You need the foundations to start the house but to complete it you also need walls, floors, windows and the roof. In this case, the rest of the house would be the pillars of quality being grades, volatile oils, harvesting methods and processing, harvest year and last but not least journey time. The house would not be the best it can be and there would be no point to the foundations if any of these components were not built or completed properly as we saw with a recent peppercorn recall.

Better for You?

Recently there has been research in the UK that showed eating organic produce was better for our health. The fact that spices are organic and not grown with chemicals is obviously a good thing in that we are not ingesting those toxins but as to nutrient value or other benefits, any purported benefits or therapeutic benefits from consuming more spices can only be as good as the quality. If, for example, one is taking turmeric to help with inflammation, it is the curcumin content in the turmeric that will help with this ailment. If the curcumin content is low (typically by the lighter colour of the turmeric as it is also the colouring agent in turmeric) then you are going to need more of it. Further, if that turmeric was harvested years ago, got repackaged and oxidised multiple times and has not been used regularly, its volatile oils will have depleted and what is commonly known as a healing spice is not so healing any more.

To conclude, in answer to the question whether organic spices are better - yes they are but they are not necessarily the best - that comes from the layers of quality you need to build on top.