The following points highlight the top two spices obtained from roots. The spices are: 1. Asafetida 2. Lovage.
Spice # 1. Asafetida:
Ferula Linn.; English—Asafetida; Hindi—Hing; Kashmiri—Gujarati—Hing; Mumbai—Hing; Tamil—Kyam, perungayam’, Sanskrit—Hingu; Family—Umbelliferae (Apiaceae).
This is a genus of perennial herbs commonly distributed from the Mediterranean region to central Asia. Some of the species are important as sources of oleogum – resins, used as condiment and in medicine. Three species are found in India. The Main bulk of asafetida and other ferula gum – resins are being imported in India from Afghanistan.
Asafetida is the dried latex obtained mainly from living rootstocks or taproots of several species of Ferula, such as: F. foetida Regel, F. alliacea Boiss., F rubricaulis Boiss., F assafoetida Linn, and F. narthex Boiss., found in Central Asia. F narthex and F assafoetida are found in Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir.
The plants from which the asafetida of commerce is obtained bear massive carrot-shaped roots (5-6 inches in diameter at the crown when they are 4-5 year old). In March-April when the plants are about to flower, the upper part of the root is laid bare and the stem cut off close to the crown.
The exposed surface is covered by a dome-shaped structure made of twigs and earth. A milky juice (latex) exudes from the cut surface. After some days the exudate is scraped off and a fresh slice of the root cut when more latex exudes.
The collection of the resin and the slicing of the root are repeated until exudation stops (about three months after the first cut). Sometimes the resin is being collected from successive incisions made at the junction of the stem and the tap root. With three incisions, some plants yield 1 kg. or more of gum-resin.
Asafetida (asafoetida) occurs in commerce in three forms:
(ii) Mass, and
The tears make the purest form of the resin. They are rounded or flattened, 5-30 mm. in diameter and greyish or dull yellow in colour. Mass asafetida is the common commercial form. It consists of tears united into a more or less uniform mass usually mixed with fragments of root, earth, etc. The paste also contains foreign matter.
Asafetida is adulterated with gum arabic, other gum-resins, gypsum, chalk, wheat or barley flour, etc.
Asafetida contains 40-64% resin, 25% gum, 10-17% volatile oil and 1.5 to 10% ash. The resin portion chiefly contains asaresinotannol, free or combined with ferulic acid.
Asafetida is bitter and acrid in taste and emits a strong and peculiar odour. In India, it is used for flavouring curries, sauces and pickles. It is also used in Ayurvedic medicines.
It stimulates the intestinal and respiratory tracts and the nervous system. It is useful in asthma, whooping cough and chronic bronchitis. It is used as an enema for intestinal flatulence. It is also used in epileptic and hysterical affections and in cholera. It is also used in veterinary medicine.
Spice # 2. Lovage:
Levisticum officinale Koth., English- Lovage; Family – Umbelliferae (Apiaceae).
This is a perennial plant, introduced from Europe. It is grown as a garden plant. It thrives best in well-drained soil. It is propagated either by seeds or roots. The roots are dug out in October of second or third year after setting the plants. The freshly dug roots are washed, cut into slices and dried.
Generally the roots are used for flavouring foods. Sometimes the seeds are used for flavouring confectionery. The leaves and stems are also eaten as salad. The dried roots; on steam distillation yield volatile oil known as ‘lovage oil’. The oil is used for flavouring foods.