The food Short Circuit : Well you everything about it
What about spices?
Although the spice route is faster today, it involves just as many intermediaries between the small family farm and the consumer! Most spices grow in tropical regions and are cultivated or picked by local people who do not have access to international markets. The first middlemen collectors go to the villages to buy their production of fruits, vegetables, plants and spices from the families at the lowest possible price. Then one, two or three intermediaries sell the goods in the country, each taking a commission in the process. Then comes the company that will export to its various target markets. On arrival, the wholesale importer takes care of receiving and clearing the goods through customs. He will then distribute the goods to resellers or companies that will package them under their brand name, then distribute them through their reseller networks or to mass distribution, which will then sell them to consumers. In the end… Many intermediaries who earn a much better living than the small farmer who takes all the risks and suffers the full force of climate change which directly impacts his production and his family’s income!
Buy Direct from the Producer and promote the short circuit
At La Plantation, we grow our own peppers and spices and we also federate a network of 70 small family farms that cultivate spices for us in many regions of Cambodia. The fresh plants, spices or roots are delivered immediately after harvest to La Plantation where we produce them, ensuring that they are processed the same day in an optimal way to preserve the flavour and freshness of each product. Our Fair Trade certification (WFTO-World Fair Trade Organisation) guarantees the respect of the principles of fair trade and we commit ourselves to our small farmers to buy all their production at a fair price. In return, they undertake to respect the 10 WFTO principles, including: no child labour, equal treatment of men and women, respect for the environment, no use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, etc.
Traceability and freshness of spices, a real issue
We are always a bit horrified to see the spice stalls in the souks or markets. It is very beautiful to the eye to see these mountains of powdered spices of all colours! But it is inconceivable for the aroma and taste of these spices. In fact, a pepper or spice loses most of its flavour when it is exposed to unfavourable climatic conditions… We’ll explain: if you put it in the light, it loses its colour; if it is damp, it will become full of damp particles and risk going mouldy; if it is exposed to the air, its fragile and volatile essences will evaporate easily, not to mention the risks to food safety and hygiene… That’s why you need to buy spices that are hermetically packaged and protected from light and damp.
If you try to ask the seller in the market where the spice comes from and when it was harvested, you will be surprised by the answers. The still magical and distant world of spices makes you dream with its colours and smells, but beware: control authorities such as the DGCCRF report catastrophic results when it comes to the quality and traceability of spices, where a quarter of the products tested reveal anomalies in terms of origin, labelling or composition.
Similarly, in supermarkets, the labelling often surprises me, where the country of origin of the jar of pepper mentions “Vietnam, India or Brazil”. But if we don’t even know which country it really comes from, we have no idea when it was harvested; one year ago, two years ago or even five years ago?
From our farm… To your table, directly from the producer
At La Plantation, we package our spices immediately after production. If they are leaves or roots, they are stored whole or in petals and only ground into powder at the last moment before being packed in small sealed bags, then in cardboard tubes and immediately shipped by container in sealed cartons. These spices will be on your table three months later in Europe. A path in record time; from our farm to your table.
We produce each spice in small quantities, according to their harvesting seasons, and prefer to risk being out of stock, rather than overproducing and not selling the year’s production in the following months. This is a guarantee of the quality and freshness of the spices. You can see for yourself by opening a tube of our spices. And even before you open the bag, you can see the intensity of the aromas of our products!
Never buy a ground pepper!
Even if it seems convenient to use in the kitchen, never use ground pepper. You would be surprised if you had it analysed. What does it contain? Often a lot of things… And unfortunately not much pepper. Ask yourself about the price of ground pepper and you will find that it is often much cheaper than peppercorns… Odd, isn’t it? In fact, powdered peppercorns are made from industrial peppercorns (grown with intensive fertilisers) and have been emptied of their essential oils. So we’re talking about a depleted peppercorn that has nothing left but the shape and the name… So you can grind it into a powder and still call it pepper, but it doesn’t contain any flavour. When we are in a restaurant, we fight against the French service that wants to offer salt and pepper in a salt and pepper shaker… And no, pepper deserves better than that! A good original pepper deserves a quality mill with which you can choose the size of the pepper grind according to your taste. There is still a long way to go and we are counting on you to help us support the appellation pepper, such as Kampot Pepper, each of which has been harvested, sun-dried and meticulously selected by hand, by our teams of selectors.
Where to buy my spices?
Your nose, your eyes and your taste buds are your three allies in finding your best spices. Be choosy in your choice of spices and buy directly from the producer when possible or get advice from your grocer who has selected his producers. Preferably, as explained above, do not buy your spices in bulk but prefer hermetically sealed packages protected from light (avoid glass jars). And look closely at the label. Granted, it can be hard to read all the small print on the label. It is important to know the country of origin at least, look for organic, Fair Trade or other certification logos. This is always a guarantee of quality. And smell, taste… That’s why it’s better to buy directly from the producer.
The fresher the spice, the better it is and you can easily see this by putting your nose in the spice jar. The flavours should be present and the colour bright. For Black Kampot Pepper, the grains should be over 4 millimetres in size, with a beautiful shiny black colour and a characteristic aroma of mint and eucalyptus. On the palate, a good pepper should not burn you, but the flavours should develop and linger in the mouth, with the distinctive but not burning pepper note.
Our pledge of ultimate quality
At La Plantation, in the interests of absolute transparency, we add the plot of origin and the date of harvest or production. We can analyse the complete traceability of the spice from the farm to your table at any time!
Let yourself go in the use of spices
Chefs are wonderful promoters of spices and don’t hesitate to include a little spice from appetizer to dessert. At home, have fun grinding a little Red Kampot Pepper into your chocolate mousse or strawberries, adding a clove of Wild Cardamom to your gin, putting a little Cinnamon on your lamb shoulder… Our blog is full of spice recipe ideas, with a new article every week. You will also find complete recipes in our two volumes of spicy Cooking Books.
Happy spicy cooking… And we look forward to your photos of recipes cooked with La Plantation spices! And don’t hesitate to send us your other questions, we’ll be happy to answer them in a future article!