Gernot Katzer’s Spice Pages “present solid information on (currently) 117 different spice plants.”

Emphasis is on their usage in ethnic cuisines, particularly in Asia; furthermore, I discuss the history, chemical constituents and etymology of their names. Last but not least, there are numerous photos featuring the live plants or the dried spices.

The entry on coriander, for example, has the name in 60 different languages. Nice pictures, too. (Via MetaFilter.)


  1. It’s a great site, isn’t it? I’ve seen this one before – it’s known among translators.
    A shame they missed out ‘cilantro’!
    The link tells me it is an iffy link and to pass on the information that there is a better link.

  2. But perhaps that’s just because it was a deep link (the second one).

  3. Tim May says

    Hey, I linked to this site back when we were discussing wasabi. Looking back, I guess I should have called attention to its multilingual nature, which impressed me at the time.
    They didn’t miss out cilantro – it’s entered under coriander, but cilantro (coriander leaves) is in the English index.

    In Latin America and also in the USA, coriander leaves are commonly known by the name cilantro. This word has the same origin as coriander, and it is difficult to explain the differring vowel. Maybe cilantro is directly derived from a Latin variant with light vowel, e.g., Medieval Latin celiandrum. Another explanation claims that the Spanish name was first culantro, later changed to cilantro for some reason; in any case, culantro exists in today’s Mesoamerican Spanish, but usually denotes not coriander but a similar smelling herb, long coriander. Confusingly, on some Caribbean islands, long coriander is known as cilantro and coriander as cilantrillo.

    The thing with the link… I don’t really understand HTML, but I think I can see what’s going on. The site’s in a frame (even when it’s set to “no frames”), and they’ve got around the problem of being unable to link to things inside frames with Javascript… you can get to the page you’re looking at using the address you see in your address bar (really the address of the frame, with an argument telling it what page to look at), but if you do it’ll criticise you, and say you should use the address of the page in the frame. If you do actually go to that page, the Javascript will open up the frame around it so you end up with the same address anyway, so the whole thing seems fairly pointless, but there you go. Possibly the “optimal” address is preferred because it will get you to the right place if Javascript is disabled.

  4. I was interested by the putative genetic basis for coriander appreciation. I’ve frequently observed that people tend to either love or hate the flavour; indifference doesn’t seem to be an option.

  5. I had a friend who was a Spanish major who was in the “hate it” fraction. He spent a year in Spain and claims that the Spanish put cilantro in absolutely everything.

  6. Michael Farris says

    Fresh cilantro is hard to come by in Poland, but (mostly thanks to Vietnamese immigrants) it’s not impossible anymore.
    The site mentions that even those with a strong initial dislike of cilantro (not me, I loved it from the get go) can learn to like it thru exposure.
    A few years ago I was raving about the stuff to a Polish friend, whose face took on an unmistakable look of disgust when he actually tried some (I would have expected that face if I’d offered him a fresh fried beetle and couldn’t imagine anyone not liking cilantro). But after just three or four times, he managed to develop a taste for it and now can’t imagine pho (Vietnamese rice noodle soup) without an ample sprinkling of chopped cilantro on top (you don’t even want to know what he first thought of fish sauce, another condiment he now can’t imagine Asian food without).

  7. Michael Farris says

    I’ll also mention that the kerfuffle he talks about with cumin and carroway in German is also true in Poland, with the horrible, terrible result that cumin is essentially unavailable (since ‘kminek’ is carroway and there’s no generally accepted way to refer to to cumin.

  8. Lars Mathiesen says

    Cuminum sp. is Da spidskommen, Sw spiskummin = ‘food cumin’ (the {d} in the Danish word is spurious, or rather a device to denote the (inexplicably) shortened vowel). Carum carvi is plain kommen/kummin (and mostly used in cheese and on baked goods, also as flavoring for snaps).

  9. Thanks for bumping this; I’m glad to see the site is still going, though at a different URL (I’ve updated the links accordingly).

  10. Lars Mathiesen says

    Alas the main index has not been updated for four years, not a good sign. I’m going to send him some Danish spice names anyway, let’s see what happens. (Specifically Da allehånde = ‘of all kinds’ for allspice seems to be in a group of its own since it doesn’t contain a morpheme for ‘spice’. Also it’s a frozen

    Also he claims that Danish smørrebrød is made with white bread. Barbarian! (Sometimes is it, for mild cheeses and shrimp specifically, but black rye bread is de rigeur).

  11. David Marjanović says

    Also it’s a frozen

    Suddenly allerhand makes sense.

  12. Lars Mathiesen says

    Then you’ll like the Danish intensifier aller used with superlatives, den allerbedste = ‘the very best,’ etymologically of course ‘the best of all’. This is part of the current language with no signs of obsolescence, but I am not sure if people not corrupted by linguistic knowledge connect it with the determiner/pronoun/adjective al/alt/alle.

    Aller-aller-aller-sødeste mor, det er alt for varmt, må vi ikke godt få en is?

  13. Lars Mathiesen says

    It looks like aller- doesn’t combine freely in German, or maybe the dictionary doesn’t bother to list very many uses.

    BTW, Google Translate handles my example pretty well, it can even count. I’m guessing the old corpus-based system would have been stumped. Madre muy, muy, muy dulce, hace demasiado calor, ¿no deberíamos tomar un helado?

  14. Trond Engen says


    Also Norwegian.

    Allerkjærasten min is a formulaic ballad element, like my true love in English.

    Of a somewhat newer date is the punk/new wave era punk/new wave band The Aller Værste!.

  15. David Marjanović says

    Supersuperlative aller- is fully productive.

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