Spice Plant

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Spice Plant


a plant that accumulates piquant aromatic substances in various organs. The plant organs are used in food as seasonings or to improve appetite and gastric activity. Spice plants are widely distributed throughout the world, especially in the tropics.

Trees are the most common form of tropical spice plants; examples include trees of the families Lauraceae, Myrtaceae, Adoxaceae, and Leguminosae. The most valuable spice plants are the clove tree, which contains essential oils in the flower buds; the cinnamon tree, which has an essential oil in the bark; the nutmeg tree, whose seeds and aril contain an essential oil; and black pepper, which has an essential oil and the alkaloid piperine (imparting a piquant taste) in the fruits.

Widely used herbs include cardamom (essential oil in the seeds), ginger (essential oil in the rhizomes), vanilla (essential oil and aromatic glycoside in the flower buds and the unripe fruits), and red pepper (the pungent alkaloid capsaicin and up to 390 mg percent vitamin C and carotene in the pericarp).

In the USSR many species of spice plants grow wild or are cultivated. Nearly all are herbs and belong to nontropical families. Some of the cultivated species are indigenous to the tropics and subtropics (red pepper, sweet bay, parsley, marjoram). The most valuable spice plants are from the families Umbelliferae (dill, parsley, celery, anise, ajowan, coriander, parsnip), Cruciferae (mustard, horseradish, garden cress), Capparidaceae (capers), Labiatae (basil, lavender, marjoram, balm, mint), Compositae (tarragon), Liliaceae (onion, garlic), and Iridaceae (saffron). The parts used as spices from these plants include roots, rhizomes, fruits, and flowers.


Brink, N. P. Prianye rasteniia. Moscow, 1956.
Prianoaromaticheskie rasteniia SSSR i ikh ispol’zovanie v pishchevoi promyshlennosti. Moscow, 1963.
Vul’f, E. V., and O. F. Maleeva. Mirovye resursy poleznykh rastenii. Leningrad, 1969.
Kapelev, I. G., and V. I. Mashanov. Prianoaromaticheskie rasteniia. Simferopol’, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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