Spices are the delightfully aromatic plants whose warming scents are a characteristic element of the winter season. In fact, there are five spices that evoke memories of sitting by the fire on cold nights, weekends of playing in the snow, and social gatherings that feature rich seasonal desserts and mulled wine.
A spice is harvested from the root, bark, seed or dried fruit of a tropical plant or tree. The aroma or flavor comes from essential oils. Many spices contain similar essential oils but in different proportions. These oils are released through the physical process of grinding, grating or crushing. The essential oils begin to evaporate after processing and the flavors of the spices will fade over time. In contrast, the original bark, seeds, or berries can often stay fresh for years.