Orris Root Powder: Flavor Profile
Orris root, which you might hear referred to as “the perfume spice,” is the root of the iris flower. The flower, of course, is known for its vibrant and aromatic purple blooms. And the root is equally as pungent, having been used in perfumes and incense for thousands of years.
In culinary use, Orris has a strong flavor. It has bold notes of flower and licorice, and therefore, it’s not typically a stand-alone spice. Rather, Orris root works best in combination with other pungent and aromatic spices. You’ll find it used in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s an ingredient in ras el hanout, for example, a flavorful Moroccan blend that’s used to spice many of the country’s dishes.
Orris Root: Common Uses
Orris has traditionally been used in herbal medicine and perfumery, although it does have some culinary uses. Typically, it’s blended with other spices to make ethnic spice blends. And it’s also a flavoring agent for spirits. Common uses include:
- Spice Blends – The pungent violet flavor of orris root lends itself to many Middle Eastern spice blends. Yet, it’s often used sparingly.
- Potpourri – An aromatic, orris root is widely used in potpourri blends to deliver a strong, flowery profile.
- Perfumery – Orris root has been used in perfumes as far back as the Egyptians. And that remains true today. Orris root was said to be a secret ingredient in Chanel No. 5 perfume.
- Seasoning Spirits – The orris root is commonly infused in gin and vodka to create a flowery, fresh flavor.
Orris Root: History
The flowers used to make orris root are native to the eastern Mediterranean, as well as India and North Africa. The iris flowers have long been a popular ornamental, named for the rainbow goddess Iris, thanks to their exquisite beauty.
The powder of the root has been used in perfumery since ancient times. Both the Greeks and Romans used it in perfume and incense blends, and ancient healers like Pliny the Elder used it for medicinal purposes. The flower was so popular in Florence during the Middle Ages that it was incorporated into the city’s coat of arms.
Although Orris root powder was used in cooking throughout the 16th and 17th century, it was much more common in perfumery. The only region that continues to utilize it widely is North Africa, where it’s found in many popular spice blends.
Cultivation and Production
Orris root is produced from the rhizome of the iris flower, which is the ginger-like root. The iris flower is native to the Mediterranean and typically features a violet flower that almost smells like grape soda.
The plants take three years to mature, at which point, the rhizomes are harvested, peeled and powdered. The peeling process is very delicate and time-consuming. Special care must be paid in peeling to protect the flavor of the root.
Once peeled, the roots are dried and then ground into a fine powder. Orris root powder is white in color, it has a strong violent scent, and it typically has a smooth, silky texture similar to talc powder.
About Our Orris Root Powder
Orris root is most widely produced in North Africa, with Morocco and Egypt playing a central role in its production. Burma Spice works with iris growers in Egypt who produce orris powder.