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So says NPR’s Morning Edition, which is airing a segment today that claims the United States “is a far spicier nation than it used to be.”

Here are a few pieces of data from the NPR report to prove the point:

  • “Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show big gains in Americans’ spice consumption since the 1970s, including 600 percent more chili pepper, 300 percent more cumin, and a whopping 1,600 percent more ginger.”

  • “That mainstreaming of foreign flavors has translated into sales for McCormick. The company’s chipotle chile pepper has seen a 70 percent increase in sales since its launch five years ago. And sales of smoked paprika have jumped 300 percent since its launch three years ago.”
  • “McCormick is not the only spice company seeing growth. Penzeys Spices began as a mail-order business in 1986. It opened its first walk-in store in 1994 and now has 45 stores in 24 states, with plans to open five more this year.”
  • D.C-area food writer Monica Bhide has seen changes in the spices available in America: “‘Twenty years ago, Bhide says, ‘every time I went back home, I’d come back with a suitcase full of spices, of lentils. Everything used to come from there.’ Nowadays, Bhide can get everything she needs at an Indian store in suburban Virginia, or from Amazon.com, where a Tandoori chicken spice mix costs just a few dollars.”

I know my own spice journey mirrors our nation’s. As a child growing up in the Midwest, we knew nothing of galangal, fenugreek, coriander seed, cardamom, ginger, allspice, wasabi powder, berbere, harissa, and turmeric. These spices are now part of my weekly wanderings, and I am the richer for it.

What about you, Y&H Nation? Has your own personal spice rack grown over the years?

You can hear the full NPR segment on today’s Morning Edition, which airs on WAMU, 88.5 FM.

Photo by Sudhamshu via Flickr Creative Commons, Attribution License