eli5 Why are spices so common in hot climates?



There aren’t many nutritional benefits to adding spices to food, and majority of countries in warm climate continents like Africa and Asia are known for their hotter spices. Why is it that areas with warm climates use hotter spices and cooler climates such as Antarctica and northern parts of Europe don’t?

In: Other

Mainly to preserve foods and to cover bad tastes and smells caused by the rapid spoilage of food in hot climates. Some spices have antibacterial properties and/or have strong flavors.

Nothing grows in Antarctica. But, the things we find so delicious about herbs and spices are actually plant made bug and animal deterrents and the oils they’re housed in protect the plant from moisture loss during the hot/dry season. Local customs of food are based on what grew in the area.

There is a myth that spices were to mask the flavour of spoiled meat. Don’t buy into this. People who could afford spices could afford to not eat spoiled meat.

Spices have been historically used for much the same purposes that we use them today: to flavour food, to preserve food, and medicinally. They were more common in foods in warmer climates because that’s where spices grow, so people could be heavier handed in their spice usage because there was more spice to go around in those places. You don’t have to be nearly so precious with your cinnamon if you have a cinnamon tree in your backyard, compared to if you have to sail for six months, peel bark off a tree in a foreign land, and sail six months back home.

In places where it’s cold, you don’t need to preserve food. You can just leave it out in the cold air.

But in places where it’s hot, you need to preserve it to prevent rot. So they started using spices.

I understood it as an evolutionary thing. Spicy food encourages sweating and sweating cools the body.