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Do spices and herbs sourced from the foothills of the Himalayas such as Black Cardamom, Ginger, Pepper, etc have higher potency or flavor profile?

Compared to hills, they would lack nutrition, but how does a lack of abundant nutrition and a tough climate result in the potency and flavor profile?

Would love to learn about your research findings as well as personal experiences.

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    Also note that buying your spices from a good importer rather than a supermarket will increase the potency considerably.
    – Tetsujin
    Dec 6, 2022 at 12:00
  • I would say the potency is less from mountain areas. The kasmiri chilli powder I use is a pleasantly mild chilli powder.
    – Neil Meyer
    Dec 7, 2022 at 19:41

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This is only a partial answer concerning pepper, but it is known that coffee plants grown in higher altitudes have lower caffeine content [1]. This is due to the lower abundance of insects, against which the coffee plants protects itself with caffeine (which is an insecticide).

It seems there are studies on the effect of piperine (the active ingredient in black pepper, piper nigrum) as insecticide as well [2]. Also, there is the well known effect of capsaicin in capsicum plants (chilis) that also serve as a deterrent against mammal consumption (but not against birds, which is the evolutionary intent, so to speak, as to spread the seeds further).

Together, I think it might be possible to conclude that pepper grown in higher altitudes/harsher climates might be milder actually, due to lower pressure on the plant to protect itself against consumption. If the flavour profile overall, on the other hand, is more potent or developed, is probably a subjective taste.

Also, consider the sought-after Kampot pepper is grown in an area very close to the sea in a humid climate, pretty much the opposite of an arid mountain climate.

[1]: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996917307858#:~:text=Caffeine%20and%20CGA%20contents%20decreased,1%20100%20m%E2%88%92%201). [2]: https://academic.oup.com/jee/article-abstract/70/1/18/2212311

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In general, the benefit of "mountain grown" spices is not anything inherent to altitude, but rather that being grown in the Himalayas necessarily means that the plants are hand-cultivated rather than factory-farmed. This results in a higher-quality product because of the greater attention paid to each harvested spice.

Additionally, Black Cardamom in particular is native to the Himalayas and as such can be expected to grow better in that environment. The other spices you mention are native to the lowlands, though, and would not have this same benefit.

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