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C.C. de Guzman and J.S. Siemonsma (Editors), 1999. Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 13. Spices. (Associate editors: M.H. Boelens, P.C.M. Jansen (botanical aspects), L.P.A. Oyen.) Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, the Netherlands. 400 pp. ISBN 90-5782-046-3

Prosea, short for "Plant Resources of South-East Asia", is an international programme focused on South-East Asia. Its purpose is to make available the wealth of dispersed knowledge on plant resources for education, extension, research and industry through a computerised data bank and an illustrated multivolume handbook. A thorough knowledge of plant resources is essential for human life and plays a key role in ecologically balanced land-use systems. Extensive information on the plants growing in the region is needed to enable the plant resources of each country to be used optimally. A large international team of experts is preparing the texts on particular species or genera, which are being published in commodity groups. All taxa are treated in a similar manner with details on uses, botany, ecology, agronomy or silviculture, genetic resources, breeding, prospects and literature.

This volume deals with the spices of South-East Asia. Spices are defined as those aromatic plants and their parts, fresh or dried, whole or ground, that are primarily used to impart flavour or fragrance to foods and drinks. The term is used in a wide sense and includes the culinary herbs. The volume complements the Prosea volume "Essential-oil plants" that deals with aromatic plants whose main use is for the extraction and use of essential oils.
Spices are indispensable in the culinary art, used to create dishes that reflect the history, the culture and the geography of a country. Well-known examples are curry powder, houng-liu (five-spice powder), pizza herbs and "fines herbes". Spices, spice oils and spice oleoresins are also indispensable in the food and beverage manufacturing industry, the perfumery and cosmetic industry and the pharmaceutical industry.
Some spices and derivatives possess antioxidant and antibiotic properties, which has increased interest in the commercial exploitation of aromatic plants for food preservation and crop protection.
With the growing demand for natural and organic products and the increasing clamour to dispense with synthetic flavours and artificial food colouring, the future for spices seems bright.
In this volume, 61 important spices are treated in 50 papers, and 65 species of minor importance are described briefly. A further 150 species, not primarily but secondarily used as a spice, are listed.

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Copyright © 1999 Boelens Aroma Chemical Information Service (BACIS), The Netherlands

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