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Classification of Spices
Indian spices can be classified in different ways depending on the plantparts used, the
economic importance, climatic requirements, origin and flavour, requirement of season and
botanical description. But none of the classification is complete as each classification has got
some lacuna or overlappings.
1. Based on plant parts used
Spices can be classified depending on the parts of the plant that are to be used. Different
plant parts like leaf, root, bulb, fruit, seed, etc. are used as spice.
a) Seed: Cumin, black cumin, fenugreek, coriander, fennel, ajowan, poppy,
aniseed and mustard.
b) Bulb: Onion, garlic, leek and shallot.
c) Bark: Cinnamon and cassia
d) Fruit: Chilli, cardamom, allspice and kokam
e) Leaf: Mint, curryleaf, bayleaf, chive, rosemary and savory
f) Rhizome: Turmeric, ginger, and galangal
g) Pod: Vanilla and tamarind
h) Kernel: Nutmeg
i) Floral part: Saffron, savory, caper and marjoram
j) Bud: Clove and caper
k) Latex: Asfotida
I) Aril: Mace and anardana
m) Berry: Black pepper, juniper and allspice
2. Based on economic importance
On the basis of economic importance of the spices grown in India they can be grouped
into two viz, major and minor spices
1. Major spices
The spices which contribute major share in the spice trade industry of the world are called
major spices. The spices come under this group are small cardamom, black pepper, chilli,
turmeric and ginger. These spices contribute about 75-90% of the total foreign exchange
earned through spices.
2. Minor spices
Excluding all these five major spices, all other are called minor spices. Minor spices are
further divided into five sub groups. They are mentioned hereunder:
1. Seed spices: Coriander, cumin, black cumin, fennel, aniseed, celery, mustard, poppy and
2. Bulbous spices: Garlic, onion, leek and shallot
3. Aromatic spices: Clove, cinnamon, allspice, aniseed and nutmeg
4. Leafy spices: curryleaf, mint, rosemary, bayleaf, and parsley.
v) Acidulant tree spices: Tamarind, kokam and anardana
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3. Based on climate requirement of the crop
Depending on suitable climatic conditions like temperature, sunlight, humidity and air of
a particular climatic zone, spices are grouped into three categories.
i) Tropical spices: Spices of this category need high temperature, and abundant humidity.
They are easily damaged by low temperature. Tropical spices are ginger, turmeric, black
pepper, cinnamon, kokam, galangal, small cardamom and clove.
ii) Subtropical spices: Sub-tropical climate is found where three distinct seasons like
winter, summer and monsoon are found. Low temperature occurs in winter and high
temperature during summer. Most of the spices require relatively low temperature during
their vegetative or early growth stage and high temperature in reproductive stage. The
examples of sub-tropical spices grown in winter are cumin, fennel, coriander, fenugreek,
onion and garlic. Subtropical spices grown during summer are turmeric and ginger.
iii) Temperate spices: Spices of this type can withstand low temperature and frosty
weather but are damaged easily in hot weather. Examples of temperate spices are thymes,
saffron, savoy, caraway seed and asfoetida.
4. Based on origin and flavour
Depending on the origin and flavour content of the spices, they can be classified as
i) Aromatic spices: Cardamon, aniseed, clery, cumin, coriander, fenugreek and
ii) Pungent spices: Ginger, chilli, black pepper and mustard
iii) Phenolic spices: Clove and allspice
iv) Coloured spices: Turmeric, saffron and paprika
5. Based on season of growth
According to the requirement of season of growth, spices are grouped into following three
i) Annual spices: Spices which complete their life cycle in one growing season are called
annuals. Example of this type of spices are coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ajowan and
ii) Biennial spices: It needs two growing seasons to complete the life cycle. Examples of
biennial spices are onion and parsley.
iii) Perennial spices: Perennial spices are those which live for more than two years. Black
pepper, saffron, -clove, nutmeg and cinnamon are example of perennial spices