Today spices are used mainly to flavour food. In medieval times, however, spices played a more important role as food preserving agents. In the absence of fridges and freezers, people used spices to preserve meat during the long winter months. Before the 15th century, the spice trade was in the hands of Arab traders. Spices grew in abundance in the east and the Arabs took them to the Mediterranean ports via Constantinople and then overland to the West. The route was long and spices were therefore a costly commodity. When European navigators found sea routes to the East, they broke the Arab monopoly of the spice trade. In Lanka, the Portuguese replaced the Arabs in the spice trade. But they did little more than bleed the spice growing areas. When the Dutch took over from Portuguese, they tried to improve the spice lands of Lanka. One such area was Kurunduwatte or Cinnamon Gardens - Colombo 7. They employed the 'chaliyas' who were experienced cinnamon peelers to peel and process the cinnamon bark before they took it to Europe.
Quality of Sri Lankan Cinnamon makes it the finest in the world. Cinnamon is of many uses ranging from cooking to embalming to an ingredient in top quality perfumes. While used for embalming royals in Egypt, Cinnamon was sprinkled on funeral pyres of kings of the east. The top quality cinnamon is pale brown, thin and pleasant in fragrance.
Black mustard seed is very pungent & acrid. It is used whole, powdered or finely ground, in everything from pickles & chutneys to meat, fish & vegetables dishes.
One of the most expensive spices available, this plump, three-sided pod contains three clusters of dark seeds which have an aromatic fragrance. An exotic addition to rice dishes & confection, especially in the Sri Lankan pudding, Watalappam