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I have split this bibliography in three parts: First, books dealing with spices exclusively or at least predominantly; second, cookbooks in general. The last point covers all sort of scientific sources, be they philological, chemical or pharmaceutical.

I should like to emphasize that many of the statements made in my spice descriptions are not taken from the literature cited here, but rather are the result of observation and experience during a journey that led me through Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Northern India. Sometimes, my observations contradict the literature; in these cases I usually give precise information on the region where I observed the unconventional spice usage.

Books about spices

Unfortunately, I do not know many books dealing with this matter. The following list encompasses every single book I could get hold on.

J. Andrews, Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums
The most reliable, complete and beautiful book about chiles! Andrews has researched a remarkable amount of lore about chiles and presents a large collection of facts from different fields of chile research. Being an artist herself, she has portrayed 34 chile cultivars in beautiful and botanically accurate pictures.

University of Texas Press, USA 1984, ISBN 0292704674.

C. Beck (Ed.), S. Prodolliet (Ed.), J. Schneider (Ed.) H. Znoj (Ed.), R. Büchel (Ed.), M. Galizia (Ed.), PfefferLand (PepperLand)
A collection of essays, each of which concentrates on one spice or flavouring (some of which, for good reason, do not appear on this page). The essays were written by ethnologists from the University of Bern (Switzerland) and, although written with academic accuracy, can become quite personal and enthusiastic concerning a particular herb or spice. I like this book a lot.

Peter Hammer Verlag, Wuppertal 2002 (Germany), ISBN 3872949241.

D. Bown, Encyclopedia of Herbs & Their Uses
An exhaustive review of culinary and medical plants. The book describes innumerous species and cultivars, gives photos for most of them and explains cultivation, harvest and usage.

Dorling Kindersley Publishers, 1995, ISBN 0789401843

A. Dalby, Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices
An amazingly informative book on the history of aromatic plants used for cooking, incense and perfumery. Written by a historian and linguist (and, it seem, avid cook), this great work is a must have for those interested in ancient spices and spice trade.

University of California Press, USA 2001, ISBN 0520236742

D. DeWitt, P. Bosland Peppers of the World: An Identification Guide
The book features photos of almost 800 different chile cultivars from Europe, Asia, Africa and America, most of which were grown from seeds by the authors. There’s few botanical or culinary information, but the pictures are of outstanding quality.

Ten Speed Press, USA 1997, ISBN 0898158400

M. Fansa, G. Katzer, J. Fansa, Chili, Teufesdreck und Safran (Chile, Devil’s Dung and Saffron)
This volume is connected to the eponymous spice exhibition in the Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch in Oldenburg/Germany. It contains short scientific articles about some aspects of spices; a second part reproduces much of the material shown in the exhibition.

Verlag Die Werkstatt (Deutschland 2007), ISBN 3895335797.

R. Göök, Das Buch der Gewürze (The Book of Spices)
The well-known author of several specialty cook books is well informed about cooking styles and spices of Europe, Asia, Africa and America. This book, however, focuses less on recipes or usage than on history; the history of many tropic spices since the age of exploration is presented in detail. Göök’s treatment of spices from the Mediterranean or even temperate Europe is less complete, but still very informative.

München, 1977 (out of print)

I. Hemphill, The Spice and Herb Bible: A Cook’s Guide
Care should be taken about all books that call themselves a Bible, but in this case, it is fully justified. Australian spice merchant Hemphill ( describes an incredibly large number of herbs and spices in detail, explains their history and production, and gives valuable culinary advice. I rate this book among the very best ever written about the subject, comparable to Stobart (whose focus is, however, different).

R. Rose, USA 2001, ISBN 0778800423

G. Katzer, J. Fansa, picantissimo
Picantissimo is a kind of printed version of this web site, although all texts have been written from scratch. The book features new extended treatment of history and botany of spices, and the culinary sections have been greatly expanded in scope.

Verlag Die Werkstatt (Germany, 2007), ISBN 389533572X.

H. Melchior, H. Kastner, Gewürze (Spices)
This aged but still valuable book is mainly intended for people professionally interested in food chemistry and describes methods for determining the origin or quality of nearly all spices then important for the German market.

Verlag Paul Paray (Germany, 1974), ISBN 3 489 68914 3

M. Miller, The Great Chile Book
Miller, a restaurateur in Santa Fe, sets forth to present all main chile cultivars grown in Central and South America. Each chile is described in a short text, but more important are the mostly life-sized photographs of each fresh or dried chile, which makes identification of unknown chiles rather easy. In a short recipe section, the author demonstrates use of chiles, mostly by his own version of traditional Mexican dishes, but sometimes by new creations of his own.

Ten Speed Press, Berkley, California, 1991; ISBN 0-89815-428-6

J. Norman, Spices
The most important tropical spices are presented with short text and beautiful large-format illustrations, featuring the plant, the dried spice and possibly preparations made therefrom. Apart from the (to my taste) rather small text-to-picture ratio, the book is recommendable. It contains recipes from all over the world, but predominantly Asia and North Africa.

Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 1990

A German translation appeared 1991 (AT Verlag Aarau, Switzerland, ISBN 3-85502-3955-6)

E.L. Ortiz, The Encyclopedia of Herbs, Spices, and Flavourings
In a style very similar to the preceding (well, same publisher!), this book discusses about 60 herbs and spices plus a variety of other flavourings, e. g., soy sauces, sugars, flower essences, diary products and coffee beans. A large and well-done chapter on ethnic cuisines further enhances the book.

Dorling Kindersley Ltd, London, 1992

A German translation appeared 1993 (Christian Verlag, München, ISBN 3-88472-240-9)

J. Passmore, The Encyclopedia of Asian Food and Cooking
The author, known from several cookbooks on Asian cooking, has spent long years in Far East and presents a wealth of about 600 different ingredients, shortly but thoroughly explained, accompanied by 400 tasty recipes.

William Morrow and Co, Inc, (USA, 1991), ISBN 0-688-10448-7

J. Seidemann, Würzmittel-Lexikon (Dictionary of Flavourings)
A scientific dictionary of spices and flavourings, which deals in great scope (600 pages) with spices, flavourings and spice mixtures of all continents. Unfortunately, the book suffers from extreme carelessness during the production process: thus, many chemical formulae are false, proper names are often misspelt and ethnographic details are sometimes wrong.

Behr’s Vlg (Deutschland, 1997), ISBN: 3-86022-332-1

F. Siewek, Exotische Gewürze (Exotic Spices)
Similar in scope and selection to Melchior, yet less informative but on the other side nearly two decades younger, this book is indented to the general public. Contrasting the title, it is not restricted to exotic spices, but deals also with herbs and spices important for European cuisine. Brief information about origin, cultivation, harvest, postprocessing, qualities, aroma compounds and culinary use is given.

Birkhäuser Verlag (Germany, 1990), ISBN 3-7643-2293-4

E. Small, Culinary Herbs
An extensive reference work informing about more than 150 different herbs (in variable scope). For each plant, small gives historical anecdotes (often associated with Native American traditions), a concise botanical description and a list of constituents; furthermore, he discusses cultivation issues (in North American climate), nutrition and health aspects and summarizes present and future commercial potential.

NRC Research Press, 1997; ISBN: 0660166682

J-C. Spahni, M. Bruggmann Die Gewürzstrasse (The Spice Route)
The history of spices, especially their trading from the European Middle Ages to the century, is discussed in great detail and illustrated by numerous large-scale photos. About ten tropical spices are treated more extensively with respect to botany, origin, cultivation and culinary use.

Silva Verlag, Zürich 1992; ISBN 3-908485-04-5

T. Stobart, Herbs, Spices and Flavourings
Stobart’s book is a must for the connoisseur or gourmet. Extremely experienced in many cuisines of the world, the author does not confine himself to collect and present information, but he critically evaluates a huge lot of different spices and flavouring agents. His conclusions are sometimes bold, mostly subjective but always thought-provoking. Thanks God, the English edition has been reprinted, and this great book is again available.

International Wine and Food Society, London, 1970 (a German translation appeared 1972)

Grub Street, 1998; ISBN 1898697884

T. Stobart, The Cook’s Encyclopedia
A most useful work, written in Stobart’s incomparable style, dealing with almost anything edible. Stobart discusses not only spices and flavourings, but also edible animals, vegetables, drinks, regional specialties and cooking procedures. Furthermore, the book contains many useful recipes illustrating the procedures outlines in the text. Grub Street (1998); ISBN 1902304004
J. Turner, Spice: The History of a Temptation
An interesting history of spice trade and spice use, from antiquity to the European Middle Ages. As an historian, Turner investigates what makes spices interesting in different epochs, and comes up with unconventional answers.

Alfred A. Knopf (New York), 2004; ISBN 0375407219

P. Willard, Saffron: The Vagabond Life of the World’s Most Seductive Spice
The author describes her personal relation to saffron and presents some vivid glimpses at the history of this unique spice.

Beacon Press (Boston), 2001; ISBN 0807050091


If I complained that there are few books about spices specifically, the situation is quite contrary with cookbooks. No one can have a firm overview on all publications of this kind. The following list contains books I consider very well written; most of them deal with exotic cuisines (from the viewpoint of a Westerner).

This selection is due to my personal preferences – I do not doubt that other cooks have other favourite books. To me, diversity and authenticity are the two key criteria. If one of my readers would like to suggest a good book to me: Please do so.

V. Bhumichitr, R. Stowell Vatch’s Thai Cookbook
Authentic food from all over Thailand. The collection covers not only the well-known, but also more regional recipes.

Pavilion Books (1998), ISBN: 186205195X

F. Dunlop, Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking
This book brings you the renowned flavour of Sichuan cuisine (sichuan cai [四川菜]). After a competent introduction to Sichuan cooking (much of which would also apply to other Chinese regions), the author gives some 250 recipes which she has personally collected in Sichuan province. Some of these are autochthonous, while others are better seen as Sichuan versions (or adaptations) of pan-Chinese foods. All recipes are named in English, romanized Chinese and Chinese logographs.

W. W. Norton & Company (2003), ISBN: 0393051773

J. Fansa Dem Geschmack auf der Spur. Eine Gewürzweltreise. (Tracking Tastes. A Global Spice Journey)
The book can be viewed as a recipy collection to complement picantissimo, closing a much-complained gap. The recipes partly stem from other cookbooks by the same publisher, and partly from the author and his friends (also from me).

Verlag Die Werkstatt (Deutschland 2008), ISBN 389533605X.

M. Jaffrey, Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking
Besides Sahni, Jaffrey is the single most popular writer of authentic Indian cookbooks for Western readers. Although stemming from Northern India, Southern Indian food is well represented in her collection of about 150 recipes. Compared to Sahni, Jaffrey’s recipes are less sumptuous, but still very tasty.

Barrons Educational Series; ISBN 0812065484 (1995).

H. v. Holzen, The Food of Bali and The Food of Indonesia
The first of these is the only monograph on Balinese cuisine! Holzen, who owns a restaurant in Bali, knows perfectly well what he is talking about. Bali has become his second home, and he is full of enthusiasm about its food. In the second volume, he covers cookery of the rest of Indonesia, from Banda Aceh to Ambon. Each book contains about 80 recipes.

(1) H. v. Holzen, L. Arsana The Food of Bali, Periplus Editions (HK), 1994, ISBN 0-945971-96-6

(2) H. v. Holzen, L. Arsana The Food of Indonesia, Periplus Editions (HK), 1995, ISBN 962-593-008-6

D. Kennedy, The Cuisines of Mexico
This cookbook has established itself a kind of standard for Mexican cooking, at least in the US; it contains about 180 recipes from all provinces. The author has even be honoured by the Mexican government for promoting Mexican culture and lifestyle in the US!

Harper & Row, USA 1985. ISBN 0-06-091561-7

T. Mallos, The Complete Middle East Cookbook
This book contains more than 500 recipes from Western and Central Asia, from Greece to Afghanistan; the focus is on Greece, Cyprus and Turkey. Short introductions to all chapters explain basics of the respective cooking style.

US edition: Charles E Tuttle Company, 1993 (Japan/USA), ISBN 0-8048-1982-3

Original edition: Lansdowne Publishing, Sydney, 1979

C. Marks, The Indonesian Kitchen and The Exotic Kitchens of Indonesia: Recipes from the Outer Islands
While the first book mostly covers the Muslim cookery of Sumatra and Jawa, the second brings a wealth of exotic and hard-to-find recipes from literally every major island: Food from the Batak people in Sumatra, from the various peoples of Sulawesi, from the Moluccas and from the Lesser Sunda Islands (about 230 recipes). A must for all lovers of Indonesian food!

(1) C. Marks, M. Soeharjo The Indonesian Kitchen, Macmillan Publishing 1984, ISBN 0-689-70667-7

(2) C. Marks The Exotic Kitchens of Indonesia, M. Evans and Company New York, 1993, ISBN 0-87131-737-0

J. Passmore, Asia the Beautiful Cookbook,
In size and style comparable to Solomon, but with more emphasis on China, Indonesia and Malaysia. Most beautiful photos from the respective countries.

Weldon Owen Pty Limited, USA, 1990, ISBN 0002551152

W. Pochljobkin [Похлёбкин], Nationale Küchen: Die Kochkunst der sowjetischen Völker (National Cuisines: The culinary art of the Soviet Peoples)
This amazing book (produced in the 80s and translated to German in the People’s Republic of Germany) gives recipes from all parts of the then Soviet Union. The author, a culinarily interested ethnologist, collected them from the Baltic, East Europe, Russia, Transcaucasia and Central Asia. Each region is introduced with a historical overview. A shame that this great book has not been reprinted since the fall of the Iron Curtain!

Original title Natsionalnye kukhni nashikh narodov [Национальные кухни наших народов] National Cuisines of Our Peoples.
The German translation appeared in Verlag für die Frau, Leipzig, 1984.

There might even be an English translation of that book: V.V. Pokhlebkin Russian Delight: A Cookbook of the Soviet Peoples (translated by T. Prout), Macmillan (1984), ISBN 0330266128. I am not sure, however, whether this is the same book, and I don’t know whether it is currently in print.

J. Sahni, Classic Indian Cooking and Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking
Together, both books present about 500 recipes from all parts of India, although it must be admitted that Northern Indian recipes dominate; furthermore, there are very detailed introduction chapters about cooking techniques, Indian vegetables and spices. The recipes are very authentic; the author seems to have spent half of her life in Indian kitchens!

Classic Indian Cooking (ISBN 0688037216, 1980) and Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking (ISBN 0688049958, 1985), both published by William Morrow & Company.

D. Seed, The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces
Indispensable for all lovers of Italian noodle dishes! The book features 100 recipes from all parts of Italy and therefore reflects the whole diversity of Italian cuisine.

Ten Speed Press (1987), ISBN 0898152321

C. Solomon, The Complete Asian Cookbook
A truly magnificent book. Solomon succeeds in competently presenting cooking styles from India to the Philippines (800 recipes). As the author has relatives in both Burma and Sri Lanka, the reader will get first-hand information from these two virtually unknown cuisines; on the other hands, the chapters about Indochinese countries are much slimmer. Thus, the work is somewhat complementary to Passmore.

US edition: Charles E Tuttle Company, 1993 (Japan/USA), ISBN 0-8048-1791-X

Original Edition: Lansdowne Publishing, Sydney, 1976, 1992

T. Wangmo and Z. Houshmand, The Lhasa Moon Tibetan Cookbook
A nice introduction to the cookery of Tibet. The author, herself a Tibetan refugee, owns a restaurant in San Francisco. The recipes are basic, without any unnecessary fuzz.

Snow Lion Publications, 1998 (New York), ISBN 1-55939-104-9

Dictionaries, Scientific Literature

K.T. Achaya, Indian Food: A Historical Companion
Great for all lovers of Indian food: Achaya describes not only the development from Harappa to Moghul cuisine, but also the relation between food and religion or medicine and gives an introduction to regional Indian cuisines of the past and present. Moreover, the book contains much linguistic material.

Oxford University Press (Delhi), 1994; ISBN 0195628454

P. Barham, The Science of Cooking
A popular yet nevertheless very recommendable book explaining the physics and chemistry of the kitchen in a very simple but not oversimplified way. The author explains fundamental theory and demonstrates applications by detailed discussion of selected recipes (some simple and some rather complex). Other than McGee, Barham can be read without any scientific background.

Springer-Verlag 2001; ISBN 3540674667

A German translation (Die letzten Geheimnisse der Kochkunst The last secrets of culinary arts) also appeared in Springer-Verlag, 2001; ISBN 3540009086

G. Drosdowski, Duden. Das Herkunftswörterbuch (Duden: The Etymological Dictionary)
The best known etymological dictionary of German, but certainly not the best.

Bibliogr. Inst., Mannheim (1997); ISBN: 3411209070

F. Coulmas, The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems
An encyclopedia covering all matters related to scripts: From fundamental basics of linguistics to specialized knowledge about particular scripts.

Blackwell Publishers, 1999; ISBN 063121481X

P. Daniels (ed), W. Bright (ed), The World’s Writing Systems
This is a great masterpiece of scholarship. This unbelievably complete work contains rather detailed descriptions of practically all extant and most extinct writing systems. The descriptions are theoretically sound, but also very practical; after reading a chapter, deciphering corresponding texts is perfectly feasible.

Oxford University Press, 1996; ISBN 0195079930

D. Frohne, H.J. Pfänder, Giftpflanzen (Poisonous Plants)
A state of the art review of toxic plants, written for pharmacist, physicians, toxicologists and biologists. The discussion centers on central European plants, but quite many toxic tropical plants are also treated.

Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft, Germany 1997, ISBN: 3804714668

D. Frohne, U. Jensen Systematik des Pflanzenreiches (Systematics of the Plant Kingdom)
A textbook on systematic botany with special emphasis on chemotaxonomy. Aimed at biologists and pharmacists.

G. Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart-Jena-New York (1992), ISBN 3437204866

W. Gemoll, Griechisch–Deutsches Schul- und Handwörterbuch (Greek–German school dictionary)
A Classical Greek to German dictionary, formerly used at the high school level, but now mostly restricted to universities.

Oldenbourg, München (1991); ISBN: 3486134019

F. Kluge, Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache (Etymological Dictionary of the German Language)
A very good German etymological dictionary; complementary to Pfeifer.

de Gruyter, Berlin (1998); ISBN: 3110163926

H. McGee, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore
Two truly phantastic books on scientific aspects of culinary art, aimed at the general public. In the first volume, McGee describes the properties of all elementary foods: Milk, meat, cereals and vegetables, presenting facts knowledge of which does make life easier for cooks. In the second volume, McGee is less general and presents both results of own investigations (emulgated sauces, browning reactions) and extensive literature surveys on several controversial topics.

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen, Reprint edition (1997), Collier Books; ISBN: 0684843285

The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore, Reprint edition (1992), MacMillan Publishing Company; ISBN: 0020098014

O.-A.Neumüller, Römpps Chemie-Lexikon (Römpp’s Chemistry Encyclopedia)
A well-known and well-reputed (in German-speaking countries) dictionary of chemistry (6 volumes)..

Franck’sche Verlagshandlung, W. Keller & Co, Stuttgart (1979), ISBN 344004510-2

W. Pfeifer, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Deutschen. Über 8000 Einträge. (Etymological Dictionary of German)
Another great German etymological dictionary, similar to Kluge, but with enough differences to make it complementary.

DTV, München (1997); ISBN: 3423325119

G. Usher, A Dictionary of Plants used by Man
This amazing work lists all plants usage of which has been reported to the author. It seems to be carefully researched and contains thousands of entries: Plants used for food, medicine, construction material or ornamental.

CBS Publishers & Distributors (India, 1984; first ed. 1971)

PROSEA Handbook:: Plant Resources of South East Asia
A modern scientific review on important plants of South East Asia. Not all PROSEA volumes have yet been published; when ready, the series will deal with about 6000 plants used as food, cash crop, timber, medicine, luxury or in other ways. The PROSEA Project has made the full texts of the PROSEA Handbook available online.

Prosea 12 Medicinal and poisonous plants, 1999, ISBN 979-8316-27-4

Prosea 13 Spices, 1999, ISBN 979-8316-34-7

Prosea 19 Essential-oil plants, 1999, ISBN 979-8316-00-2

All volumes are available from Backhuys Publishers, Leiden/NL.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
A large English dictionary with detailed etymological explanations and a list of Indo–European roots.

Houghton Mifflin Co (Trd), 1992; ISBN: 0395448956

Foreign plant names in part stem from the literature cited, in part were provided by readers of this page and in part were found in the internet, mainly by using search engines that allow restricting the document language.

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