Tracking the Rise of Turmeric and the Popularity of Your Favorite Spices

By Mike Pomranz |

© Julie Woodhouse f / Alamy

Cleaning out the kitchen cupboards is always a bit of an adventure. Like the deepest trenches of the oceans, one area far in the back always seems to be home to a few mysterious creatures—spice jars, possibly unlabeled, that have been around for more years than you’ve even lived in your current apartment, dragged along between moves in some self-righteous attempt at not being wasteful. If this has happened to you, know you’re not alone: The popularity of spices simply changes throughout the years.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, in 1966, Americans used 1.2 pounds of spices per year (hopefully on more than one meal). By 2012, that number had grown to 3.4 pounds. But beyond these overall statistics, the government also has numbers on the annual availability of individual spices throughout this period—information recently discovered by a writer over at FiveThirtyEight.

With these numbers in hand, the site was able to create graphs showing the percentage change in availability of different spices from 1966 to 2012. Pepper, for instance, has seen steady growth, while nutmeg has remained relatively stable.  Turmeric struggled in the early '90s before skyrocketing to stardom since the turn of the millennium. 

Granted, “availability” does not correspond directly with consumption or popularity, but these graphs do paint a broad picture on what was happening with spices at any given time. If you’re looking for a new spice to cook with or are simply one of those “data is beautiful” fanatics, these spice graphs will certainly give you a reason to waste part of your day. Check out the graphs here.

[h/t First We Feast]

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