A Gift From Terra Spice

Monday, August 25, 2008

When I was at Taste3, I had the pleasure of getting to know Judy Shertzer, a woman with a knowledge of nutmeg, an affinity for anise, a taste for turmeric, a cunning for cumin.

I could keep going, but I'll save you and get to it.

Judy is one of the awesome people of Terra Spice; a company that sells wholesale (only wholesale, sorry readers) any number of spices, rare salts, peppers, extracts, mushrooms and other culinary treasures that most would consider lucky to possess to a number of restaurants, caterers, hotels and etc.

Her spices are quality and flavored many of the meals that we had during the conference, such as the end dinner at Mondavi winery which had a delightfully kicky Cuban theme. As we chatted on one of the group buses, she spun stories of exotic spices I had never heard of such as fermented black garlic and fennel pollen. I was enamored by her encyclopedic grasp of the subject of herbs and spices and by her ebullience for the subject which seemed to pepper those on the bus with equal intrigue.

After the conference she e-mailed me and asked if I would like to try any spices in particular. I humbly inquired about the fermented garlic (duh) and some wattleseed which I had been dying to try. She smiled over e-mail and acquiesced to my meager request (well wattleseed, by price, is not meager) and promised to send a sample.

-Two Weeks Later!-

Reception rung me up at work and alerted me that a package had arrived. I dashed around the corner, possibly taking out a few children or something clunky in the way and arrived at the front desk. I grabbed the package and tore at it like a starving supermodel with a sammich after Fashion Week.

Inside was more than I expected:

-Two heads of fermented black garlic
-Toasted and ground wattle seed
-Muscovado sugar
-Tahitian vanilla extract
-Thai long peppercorns
-Lucknow Fennel Seeds

I. was. dumbstruck.This was a veritable cornucopia of rare spices. Spices that are crazy difficult to get a hold of; especially the fennel, wattle seed, and black garlic! Way back when you could have a man killed for a handful of peppercorns, with consideration for today's market for black garlic you could easily have an annoying neighbor pistol whipped or something. Not easy to come by is black garlic. I was beside myself with pleasure. My boss, a scratch cook of great measure himself, poured over the box of fragrant goods which was quickly enveloping the office with scents of an Indian bazaar.

He and I bit into the tips of the peppercorns, not aware of it's incendiary properties. We both dashed to the nearest water cooler moments later, and moments after that dared others in the office to try a nip. My own burning pain = not fun. Burning others = Awesome.

As soon as I got home I bottled and jarred and sealed everything in order to keep everything fresh. I plan to go through each of these spices in future posts and provide some recipes should you be able to obtain any of them, which I encourage you do. So keep an eye out, the first recipe is coming soon and it's spelled c-u-p-c-a-k-e.

By the by, if you want to get in touch with Judy she encourages you to e-mail her at: judy[at]terraspice[dot]com


  1. Hi,

    Interesting to read this article! Never heard of black garlic or wattleseed :p

  2. Interesting. I'm trying to look up info on black garlic on the web and coming up with pretty much nothing. Will be interesting to learn the uses and flavoring.

  3. Catherine--search for "black garlic" with the quotes. I found this: http://www.alibaba.com/catalog/12015441/Aged_Black_Garlic.html

  4. Never knew about fermented garlic being used for cooking. And wattleseed? Need to google that. I wish you had put more photographs of the goodies you received!

  5. "My own burning pain = not fun. Burning others = Awesome."

    It's all fun and games till someone gets hurt, then it's freaking hilarious!!

    :-) LOL

  6. Oh. My. What an incredible gift you received! (And your quote about pain for others cracked me up!)


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