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Top Unusual Spices
Although it's quick and simple, a list can be just as educational as it is easy to read. That's the idea behind TravelsinTaste.com's new "Lists" feature, which includes lists of some of the country's most exciting food trends, innovative ingredients, unusual restaurants, intriguing cocktails and more. Our editors have scoured America's kitchens, markets and menus in search of the most up-to-date, unusual items for your reading -- and dining – pleasure, then published them in a convenient, easy-to-chew list format. Scan, savor and enjoy!

Oregano, pepper and cinnamon are all common spices that we likely use on a regular basis. But there are hundreds of other spices used around the world—some that many of us may have never even heard of.

These unique spices, although less commonly used, can give dishes an exotic flair.

4. Epazote
This herb has been quite common in Mexican cuisine for thousands of years—the Aztecs used it for both cooking and medicinal purposes. The spice has a very strong licorice-like taste and an odor that is sometimes likened to gasoline. Despite the fact that the plant is actually poisonous in large quantities, its distinct flavor is used to season common Mexican dishes such as beans, soups and quesadillas. Epazote is sold at most Latin markets, but New Yorkers can actually find it in their own backyard—the herb grows as a weed in places like Central Park.

3. Fenugreek
This traditional Indian spice is mainly cultivated in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Fenugreek is the small, stony seeds that are harvested from the pod of a bean-like plant. It is available whole or as a dull yellow powder. The spice has a pungent smell and a slightly bitter earthy flavor. Fenugreek is commonly used to make curry powders, but can also be used in chutneys and to enhance the flavors in vegetables or meats.

2. Machalepi
Also known as St. Lucie Cherry Kernels, this is a Greek spice cultivated from the Mahlab trees that grow wild in the Mediterranean region. The spice has a rose-scented fragrance and a bitter, almond-like taste. Machalepi is often used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking to add a subtle fruitiness to pastries, breads and even cheeses.

1. Saffron
This native Mediterranean spice is the most expensive spice in the world. Saffron is the stigma of the saffron crocus flower and has to be hand-harvested. The bright orange spice has a pungent honey-like smell and taste. Although most Saffron is now produced in Spain, it is often used in Mediterranean and Asian cuisines. The spice is commonly added to seafood dishes, risottos and paella to enhance the flavor.

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