Herb and Spice Guide
There are a lot of plants called “sage”, but the herb commonly used in cooking is Salvia officinalis, or more simply garden sage, common sage, or culinary sage. It is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae and native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world.
It is good with stuffing, pork roast, sausage, poultry, and hamburgers, according to my elder relatives.
Artemisia dracun-culus, also known as “estragon”, is a species of perennial herb in the sunflower family. It is widespread in the wild across much of Eurasia and North America. One subspecies, Artemisia dracunculus var. Sativa, is cultivated for use of the leaves as an aromatic culinary herb. In some other subspecies, the characteristic aroma is largely absent.
It is said to be good with fish sauces, egg and cheese dishes, green salad, and chicken.
The most common variety of thyme is Thymus vulgaris. Thyme is of the genus Thymus of the mint family (Lamiaceae), and a relative of the oregano genus Origanum.
The ancient Egyptians used it for embalming. The ancient Greeks thought it was a source of courage.
It is used in cooking beef, veal, lamb, pork, fish, soups, chowder, oysters, eggs, and cheese.
Petroselinum cris-pum is a species of flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to southern Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Malta, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. It is naturalized elsewhere in Europe, and widely cultivated as a herb, a spice, and a vegetable.
Where it grows as a biennial, in the first year it forms a rosette of tripinnate leaves (compound leaves in which the leaflets are themselves bipinnate; also called “thrice-pinnate”. tetrapinnate) 3.9–9.8 inches long with numerous 0.4–1.2 inch leaflets, and a taproot used as a food store over the winter.
Parsley is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American cooking. Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish. In central Europe, eastern Europe and southern Europe, as well as in western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top. Root parsley is very common in central, eastern and southern European cuisines, where it is used as a snack or a vegetable in many soups, stews, and casseroles.
Anethum graveolens is an annual herb in the celery family Apiaceae. It is the only species in the genus Anethum. Dill is widely grown in Eurasia where its leaves and seeds are used as a herb or spice for flavoring food.
Dill grows to 16–24 inches, with slender hollow stems and alternate, finely divided, softly delicate leaves 4–8 inches long. The ultimate leaf divisions are 0.04–0.08 inches broad, slightly broader than the similar leaves of fennel, which are threadlike, less than 0.04 inches broad, but harder in texture. The flowers are white to yellow, in small umbels 0.8–3.5 inches in diameter. The seeds are 0.16–0.20 inches long and 0.04 inches thick, and straight to slightly curved with a longitudinally ridged surface.
It is used with fish, cottage cheese, potatoes, tomatoes, and used for making kosher pickles.
Ocimum basilicum is also called great basil or Saint-Joseph’s-wort. It is a culinary herb of the family Lamiaceae, the mint family. It is also called the “king of herbs” and the “royal herb”. The name “basil” comes from the Greek basilikón phutón, “royal, kingly plant”.
Basil is possibly native to India, and has been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. It was thoroughly familiar to the Greek authors Theophrastus and Dioscorides. It is a tender plant, best known as a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in Southeast Asian cuisines of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Taiwan. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.
There are many varieties of Ocimum basilicum, as well as several related species or species hybrids also called basil. The type used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil or Genovese basil, as opposed to Thai basil (O. basilicum variety thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. × citriodorum), and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), which are used in Asia. While most common varieties of basil are treated as annuals, some are perennial in warm, tropical climates, including holy basil and a cultivar known as “African blue basil”.
Basil is most commonly used fresh in recipes. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavor, and what little flavor remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavor, like hay.
It is good with peas, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, lamb, duck, fish, eggs, salad, and cheese.
It can reduce stress and help prevent breast cancer, and promotes sound sleep.
Bay leaf re-fers to the aro-matic leaves of several plants used in cooking, including Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis, Lauraceae). Fresh or dried bay laurel is used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine and beans in Brazilian cuisine. The fresh leaves are very mild and do not develop their full flavor until several weeks after picking and drying.
California bay leaf—the leaf of the California bay tree (Umbellularia californica, Lauraceae), also known as California laurel, Oregon myrtle, and pepperwood, is similar to the Mediterranean bay laurel, but has a stronger flavor.
Indian bay leaf or malabathrum (Cinnamomum tamala, Lauraceae) is somewhat similar in appearance to the leaves of bay laurel, but is culinarily quite different, having a fragrance and taste similar to cinnamon, but milder.
Indonesian bay leaf or Indonesian laurel (salam leaf, Syzygium polyanthum, Myrtaceae) is not commonly found outside Indonesia; this herb is applied to meat and, less often vegetables.
West Indian bay leaf, the leaf of the West Indian bay tree (Pimenta racemosa, Myrtaceae), is used culinarily and to produce the cologne called bay rum.
If eaten whole, Laurus nobilis are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste. As with many spices and flavorings, the fragrance of the bay leaf is more noticeable than its taste. When dried, the fragrance is herbal, slightly floral, and somewhat similar to oregano and thyme. Myrcene, which is a component of many essential oils used in perfumery, can be extracted from the bay leaf. They also contain eugenol.
Bay leaves were used for flavoring by the ancient Greeks. They are a fixture in the cooking of many European cuisines, particularly those of the Mediterranean, as well as in the Americas. The leaves also flavor many classic French dishes. The leaves are most often used whole (sometimes in a bouquet garni) and removed before serving, as they can be abrasive in the digestive tract.
Cooked in ham and beans, chili, or other bean soups it will prevent gas. Scattered in a pantry it will repel meal moths, flies, cockroaches, mice, and silverfish. Spread around a bedroom it will get rid of bedbugs.
The leaves discourage the growth of mold.
They are good with soups, poached fish, and stew.
Origanum vulgare is a flowering plant in the mint family “Lamiaceae”. It is native to temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region.
Oregano is a perennial herb, growing from 7.9–31.5 inches tall, with opposite leaves 0.39–1.57 inches long. The flowers are purple, 0.12–0.16 inch long, produced in erect spikes. It is sometimes called wild marjoram, and its close relative O. majorana is known as sweet marjoram.
Many subspecies and strains of oregano have been developed by humans over centuries for their unique flavors or other characteristics. Tastes range from spicy or astringent to more complicated and sweet. Simple oregano sold in garden stores as Origanum vulgare may have a bland taste and larger, less-dense leaves, and is not considered the best for culinary use, with a taste less remarkable and pungent. It can pollinate other more sophisticated strains, but the offspring are rarely better in quality.
The related species, Origanum onites (Greece, Turkey) and O. Syriacum (West Asia), have similar flavors. A closely related plant is marjoram from Turkey, which differs significantly in taste though, because phenolic compounds are missing from its essential oil. Some varieties show a flavor intermediate between oregano and marjoram.
Its leaves can be more flavorful when dried than fresh. It has an aromatic, warm, and slightly bitter taste, which can vary in intensity. Good quality oregano may be almost strong enough to numb the tongue, but cultivars adapted to colder climates often have a lesser flavor. Factors such as climate, season, and soil composition may affect the aromatic oils present, and this effect may be greater than the differences between the various species of plants. Among the chemical compounds contributing to the flavor are carvacrol, thymol, limonene, pinene, ocimene, and caryophyllene.
Oregano’s most prominent modern use is as the staple herb of Italian-American cuisine. Its popularity in the U.S. began when soldiers returning from World War Two brought back with them a taste for the “pizza herb”, which had probably been eaten in southern Italy for centuries. There, it is most frequently used with roasted, fried, or grilled vegetables, meat, and fish. Oregano combines well with spicy foods popular in southern Italy. It is less commonly used in the north of the country, as marjoram generally is preferred.
The herb is widely used in cuisines of the Mediterranean Basin, the Philippines, and Latin America, especially in Argentinian cuisine.
In Turkish cuisine, oregano is mostly used for flavoring meat, especially for mutton and lamb. In barbecue and kebab restaurants, it can be usually found as a condiment, together with paprika, salt, and pepper.
The dried and ground leaves are most often used in Greece to add flavor to Greek salad, and is usually added to the lemon-olive oil sauce that accompanies fish or meat grills and casseroles.
Oregano is used in the southern Philippines to eliminate the odor of carabao or water buffalo when boiling it, while simultaneously imparting flavor.
Lamiaceae or Labiatae is a family of flowering plants commonly known as the mint or deadnettle family. Many of the plants are aromatic in all parts and include widely used culinary herbs, such as basil, mint, rosemary, sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, hyssop, thyme, lavender, and perilla. Some species are shrubs, trees (such as teak), or, rarely, vines. Many members of the family are widely cultivated, not only for their aromatic qualities but also their ease of cultivation, since they are readily propagated by stem cuttings. Besides those grown for their edible leaves, some are grown for decorative foliage, such as Coleus. Others are grown for seed, such as Salvia hispanica (chia), or for their edible tubers, such as Plectranthus edulis, Plectranthus esculentus, Plectranthus rotundifolius, and Stachys affinis (Chinese artichoke).
The species mentioned in the original cookbook are spearmint and peppermint, neither of which is used in any of these recipes, although mint itself is.
They are used in jellies, fruit juices, candies, frosting, pies, ice cream, and chocolate desserts.
Marjoram (Ori-ganum majorana, Majorana hortensis Moench, Major-ana majorana) is a somewhat cold-sensitive perennial herb or undershrub with sweet pine and citrus flavors. In some Middle Eastern countries, marjoram is synonymous with oregano, and there the names sweet marjoram and knotted marjoram are used to distinguish it from other plants of the genus Origanum. It is also called pot marjoram, although this name is also used for other cultivated species of Origanum.
The leaves are smooth, simple, petiolated (the leaves are attached to the stem by stalks), ovate to oblong-ovate, 0.2–0.6 inches long, 0.1–0.3 inches wide, with obtuse apex, entire margin, symmetrical but tapering base, and the veins connected like a network. The texture is extremely smooth due to the presence of numerous hairs.
Marjoram is cultivated for its aromatic leaves, either green or dry, for culinary purposes; the tops are cut as the plants begin to flower and are dried slowly in the shade. It is often used in herb combinations such as herbes de Provence and za’atar. The flowering leaves and tops of marjoram are steam-distilled to produce an essential oil that is yellowish in color, darkening to brown as it ages. It has many chemical components, some of which are borneol, camphor, and pinene.
Marjoram is used for seasoning soups, stews, dressings, and sauces.
Allspice, also called pimenta, Jamaica pimenta, or myrtle pepper is the dried unripe fruit (berries, used as a spice) of Pimenta dioica, a midcanopy tree native to the Greater Antilles, southern Mexico, and Central America. It is now cultivated in many warm parts of the world. The name “allspice” was coined as early as 1621 by the English, who thought it combined the flavor of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
Several unrelated fragrant shrubs are called “Carolina allspice” (Calycanthus floridus), “Japanese allspice” (Chi-monanthus praecox), or “wild allspice” (Lindera benzoin). “Allspice” is also sometimes used to refer to the herb costmary (Tanacetum balsamita).
Allspice is one of the most important ingredients of Caribbean cuisine. It is used in Caribbean jerk seasoning (the wood is used to smoke jerk in Jamaica, although the spice is a good substitute), in moles, and in pickling; it is also an ingredient in commercial sausage preparations and curry powders. Allspice is also indispensable in Middle Eastern cuisine, particularly in the Levant, where it is used to flavor a variety of stews and meat dishes. In Arab cuisine, for example, many main dishes call for allspice as the sole spice added for flavoring.
In the United States, it is used mostly in desserts, but it is also responsible for giving Cincinnati-style chili its distinctive aroma and flavor. Allspice is commonly used in Great Britain, and appears in many dishes, including cakes. Even in many countries where allspice is not very popular in the household, as in Germany, it is used in large amounts by commercial sausage makers. In the West Indies, an allspice liqueur is produced under the name “pimento dram” due to conflation of pimenta and pimento.
Anise (Pimpinella anisum), also called aniseed, is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae. It is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. Its flavor has similarities with some other spices, such as star anise, fennel, and liquorice.
Anise is an herbaceous annual plant growing to three feet or more tall. The leaves at the base of the plant are simple, 3/8–2 inches long and shallowly lobed, while leaves higher on the stems are feathery pinnate, divided into numerous small leaflets. The flowers are white, approximately 1/8 inch in diameter, produced in dense umbels. The fruit is an oblong dry schizocarp, 1/8–1/4 inch long, usually called “aniseed”.
The seeds, whole or ground, are used for preparation of teas and tisanes (alone or in combination with other aromatic herbs), as well as in a wide variety of regional and ethnic confectioneries.
The Ancient Romans often served spiced cakes with aniseed called mustaceoe at the end of feasts as a digestive. This tradition of serving cake at the end of festivities is the basis for the tradition of serving cake at weddings.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herb-aceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to the Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and requires temperatures between 68–86° and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive. Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes and propagated from some of those rhizomes in the following season.
When not used fresh, the rhizomes are boiled in water for about 30–45 minutes and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep-orange-yellow powder commonly used as a coloring and flavoring agent in many Asian cuisines, especially for curries, as well as for dyeing. Turmeric powder has a warm, bitter, pepper-like flavor and earthy, mustard-like aroma.
It reaches a little over a yard tall. Highly branched, yellow to orange, cylindrical, aromatic rhizomes (underground stems) are found. The leaves are alternate and arranged in two rows. They are divided into leaf sheath, petiole, and leaf blade. From the leaf sheaths, a false stem is formed. The petiole is 20–45 inches long. The simple leaf blades are usually 30–45 inches long and rarely up to 91 inches. They have a width of 15–18 inches and are oblong to elliptic, narrowing at the tip.
Turmeric is used widely as a spice in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. Various Iranian khoresh dishes are started using onions caramelized in oil and turmeric, followed by other ingredients.
Turmeric can improve a person’s mood and memory, according to recent studies, and may prevent Alsheimer’s. It also relieves pain because of its anti-inflamatory properties. A small study done at Johns Hopkins University indicated that it may prevent colon cancer if used with quercetin, which is in onions, apples, and cabbage.
Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum is also known as Coriander or Chinese parsley. It is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.
Most people perceive the taste of cilantro as a tart, lemony taste, but a smaller group, of about 4%-14% of people tested, think cilantro tastes like bath soap, as linked to a gene which detects aldehyde chemicals also present in soap.
It is native to regions spanning from southern Europe and northern Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft plant growing to twenty inches tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in small umbels, white or very pale pink, asymmetrical, with the petals pointing away from the center of the umbel longer (0.20–0.24 inches) than those pointing toward it (only 0.039–0.118 inches long). The fruit is a globular, dry schizocarp 0.12–0.20 inches in diameter.
It was taken to British North America in 1670, and was one of the first spices cultivated by early settlers. The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many South Asian foods such as chutneys and salads; in Chinese and Thai dishes; in Mexican cooking, particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish; and in salads in Russia and neighboring countries. In Portugal, chopped cilantro is used in the bread soup Açorda, and in India, chopped cilantro is a garnish on Indian dishes such as dal. As heat diminishes their flavor, cilantro leaves are often used raw or added to the dish immediately before serving. In Indian and Central Asian recipes, cilantro leaves are used in large amounts and cooked until the flavor diminishes. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds. The word “coriander” in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant. The plant is more commonly called “coriander” in Britain.
The seeds have a lemony citrus flavor when crushed, due to terpenes linalool and pinene. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavored.
Mace and Nutmeg
Mace is the spice made from the reddish seed covering (aril) of the nutmeg seed. Its flavor is similar to nutmeg but more delicate; it is used to flavor baked goods, meat, fish, vegetables, and in preserving and pickling.
In the processing of mace, the crimson-colored aril is removed from the nutmeg seed that it envelops and is flattened out and dried for ten to fourteen days. Its color changes to pale yellow, orange, or tan. Whole dry mace consists of flat pieces; smooth, horny, and brittle about 1.6 inches long.
The most important commercial species is the common, true, or fragrant nutmeg, Myristica fragrans (Myristicaceae), native to the Banda Islands in the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia. It is also cultivated on Penang Island in Malaysia, in the Caribbean, especially in Grenada, and in Kerala, a state formerly known as Malabar in ancient writings as the hub of spice trading, in southern India. In the seventeenth century work Hortus Botanicus Malabaricus, Hendrik van Rheede records that Indians learned the usage of nutmeg from the Indonesians through ancient trade routes.
Nutmeg and mace have similar sensory qualities, with nutmeg having a slightly sweeter and mace a more delicate flavor. Mace is often preferred in light dishes for the bright orange, saffron-like hue it imparts. Nutmeg is used for flavoring many dishes, and nowadays is mostly found in Western supermarkets in ground or grated form. Whole nutmeg can also be ground at home, and graters specifically designed for grating nutmeg have been in existence, according to U.S. publication The Journal of Antiques & Collectibles, since before 1650.
Ginger (Zingiber offic-inale) is a flowering plant whose rhizome, ginger root or simply ginger, is widely used as a spice or a folk medicine.
It is a herbaceous perennial which grows annual stems about a yard tall bearing narrow green leaves and yellow flowers. Ginger is in the family Zingiberaceae, to which also belong turmeric (Curcuma longa), cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum), and galangal. Ginger originated in the tropical rain forests from the Indian subcontinent to Southern Asia where ginger plants show considerable genetic variation. As one of the first spices exported from the Orient, ginger arrived in Europe during the spice trade, and was used by ancient Greeks and Romans. The distantly related dicots in the genus Asarum are commonly called “wild ginger” because of their similar taste.
Ginger produces clusters of white and pink flower buds that bloom into yellow flowers. Because of its aesthetic appeal and the adaptation of the plant to warm climates, it is often used as landscaping around subtropical homes. It is a perennial reed-like plant with annual leafy stems, about a yard tall. Traditionally, the rhizome is gathered when the stalk withers; it is immediately scalded, or washed and scraped, to kill it and prevent sprouting. The fragrant perisperm of the Zingiberaceae is used as sweetmeats by Bantu, and also as a condiment and sialagogue (it makes your mouth water).
Ginger produces a hot, fragrant kitchen spice. Young ginger rhizomes are juicy and fleshy with a mild taste. They are often pickled in vinegar or sherry as a snack or cooked as an ingredient in many dishes. They can be steeped in boiling water to make ginger herb tea, to which honey may be added. Ginger can be made into candy or ginger wine.
Fresh ginger can be substituted for ground ginger at a ratio of six to one, although the flavors of fresh and dried ginger are somewhat different. Powdered dry ginger root is typically used as a flavoring for recipes such as gingerbread, cookies, crackers and cakes, ginger ale, and ginger beer. Candied ginger, or crystallized ginger, is the root cooked in sugar until soft, and is a type of confectionery. Fresh ginger may be peeled before eating. For longer-term storage, the ginger can be placed in a plastic bag and refrigerated or frozen.
Ginger is good for easing nausea, which is why your grandma gave you ginger ale when you had an upset stomach. It regulates blood flow, which may lower blood pressure for those with high blood pressure, as well as raising blood pressure in people who have fainting spells from low blood pressure.
Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. They are native to the Maluku Islands (or Moluccas) in Indonesia, and are commonly used as a spice. Cloves are commercially har-vested primarily in Bangladesh, In-donesia, India, Madagascar, Zanzibar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania. Cloves are available throughout the year.
The clove tree is an evergreen that grows up to 8–12 yards tall, with large leaves and red flowers grouped in terminal clusters. The flower buds initially have a pale hue, gradually turn green, then transition to a bright red when ready for harvest. Cloves are harvested at a quarter to a half inch long, and consist of a long calyx that terminates in four spreading sepals, and four unopened petals that form a small central ball.
Cloves are used in the cuisine of Asian, African, and the Near and Middle East countries, lending flavor to meats, curries, and marinades, as well as fruit such as apples, pears or rhubarb. Cloves may be used to give aromatic and flavor qualities to hot beverages, often combined with other ingredients such as lemon and sugar. They are a common element in spice blends such as pumpkin pie spice and speculoos spices.
In Mexican cuisine, cloves are best known as clavos de olor (cloves of odor), and often accompany cumin and cinnamon. They are also used in Peruvian cuisine, in a wide variety of dishes as carapulcra (a Peruvian stew of pork and dehydrated potatoes) and arroz con leche (rice with milk).
A major component of clove taste is imparted by the chemical eugenol, and the quantity of the spice required is typically small. It pairs well with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, red wine and basil, as well as onion, citrus peel, star anise, or peppercorns.
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of several tree species from the genus Cinnamomum. Cinnamon is used mainly as an aromatic condiment and flavoring additive in a wide variety of foods. The aroma and flavor of cinnamon derive from its essential oil and principal component, cinnamaldehyde, as well as numerous other constituents, including eugenol.
Cinnamon has been known from remote antiquity. It was imported to Egypt as early as 2,000 BC. It is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Some folks think it came from China, but they confuse it with cassia. Cinnamon was so highly prized among ancient nations that it was regarded as a gift fit for monarchs and even for a god; a fine inscription records the gift of cinnamon and cassia to the temple of Apollo at Miletus. Its source was kept mysterious in the Mediterranean world for centuries by the middlemen who handled the spice trade, to protect their monopoly as suppliers.
Cinnamon is an evergreen tree characterized by oval-shaped leaves, thick bark, and a berry fruit. When harvesting the spice, the bark and leaves are the primary parts of the plant used. Cinnamon is cultivated by growing the tree for two years, then cutting the stems at ground level. The following year, about a dozen new shoots form from the roots, replacing those that were cut. A number of pests such as Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, Diplodia spp., and Phytophthora cinnamomi (stripe canker) can affect the growing plants.
The stems must be processed immediately after harvesting while the inner bark is still wet. The cut stems are processed by scraping off the outer bark, then beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the inner bark, which is then pried off in long rolls. Only 1/50 inch of the inner bark is used; the outer, woody portion is discarded, leaving yard long cinnamon strips that curl into rolls called “quills” on drying. The processed bark dries completely in four to six hours, provided it is in a well-ventilated and relatively warm environment. Once dry, the bark is cut into two to four inch lengths for sale. A less than ideal drying environment encourages the proliferation of pests in the bark, which may then require treatment by fumigation. Fumigated bark is not considered to be of the same premium quality as untreated bark.
Cinnamon bark is used as a spice. It is principally employed in cookery as a condiment and flavoring material. It is used in the preparation of chocolate, especially in Mexico. Cinnamon is often used in savory dishes of chicken and lamb. In the United States, cinnamon and sugar are often used to flavor cereals, bread-based dishes, such as toast, and fruits, especially apples; a cinnamon-sugar mixture is sold separately for such purposes. It is also used in Turkish cuisine for both sweet and savory dishes. Cinnamon can also be used in pickling and Christmas drinks such as eggnog. Cinnamon powder has long been an important spice in enhancing the flavor of Persian cuisine, used in a variety of thick soups, drinks, and sweets.
It reduces blood sugar in people with type II diabetes. It also reduces cholesterol.
Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, com-monly known as the “saffron crocus”. The vivid crimson stigmas and styles, called threads, are collected and dried to be used mainly as a seasoning and coloring agent in food. Saffron, long among the world’s most costly spices by weight, was probably first cultivated in or near Greece. Crocus sativus is probably a form of C. cartwrightianus, that emerged by human cultivators selectively breeding plants for unusually long stigmas in late Bronze Age Crete. It slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.
Saffron’s taste and iodoform or hay-like fragrance result from the chemicals picrocrocin and safranal. It also contains a carotenoid pigment, crocin, which imparts a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes and textiles. Its recorded history is attested in a seventeenth century BC Assyrian botanical treatise compiled under Ashurbanipal, and it has been traded and used for over four millennia. Iran now accounts for approximately 90% of the world production of saffron.
The saffron crocus, unknown in the wild, probably descends from Crocus cartwrightianus. It is a triploid that is “self-incompatible” and male-sterile; it undergoes aberrant meiosis and is hence incapable of independent sexual reproduction—all propagation is by vegetative multiplication via manual “divide-and-set” of a starter clone or by interspecific hybridisation.
Crocus sativus thrives in the Mediterranean maquis, an ecotype superficially resembling the North American chaparral, and similar climates where hot and dry summer breezes sweep semi-arid lands. It can nonetheless survive cold winters, tolerating frosts as low as 14° and short periods of snow cover. Irrigation is required if grown outside of moist environments such as Kashmir, where annual rainfall averages 39–59 inches; saffron-growing regions in Greece (20 inches annually) and Spain (16 inches) are far drier than the main cultivating Iranian regions. What makes this possible is the timing of the local wet seasons; generous spring rains and drier summers are optimal. Rain immediately preceding flowering boosts saffron yields; rainy or cold weather during flowering promotes disease and reduces yields. Persistently damp and hot conditions harm the crops, and rabbits, rats, and birds cause damage by digging up corms. Nematodes, leaf rusts, and corm rot pose other threats.
Chives is the common name of Allium schoenoprasum, an edible species of the Allium genus. Its close relatives include the garlic, shallot, leek, scallion, and Chinese onion.
A perennial plant, it is widespread in nature across much of Europe, Asia, and North America. It is the only species of Allium native to both the New and the Old Worlds.
Chives are a commonly used herb and can be found in grocery stores or grown in home gardens. In culinary use, the scapes (long, leafless flower stalk coming directly from a root) and the unopened, immature flower buds are diced and used as an ingredient for fish, potatoes, soups, and other dishes. The edible flowers can be used in salads.
Chives are a bulb-forming herbaceous perennial plant, growing to 12–20 inches tall. The bulbs are slender, conical, 3/4–1 1/4 inch long and 1/2 inch broad, and grow in dense clusters from the roots. The stems are hollow and tubular, up to 20 inches long and 1/16–1/8 inch across, with a soft texture, although prior to the emergence of a flower they may appear stiffer than usual. The grass-like leaves, which are shorter than the stems, are also hollow and tubular, or round in cross-section which distinguishes it at a glance from garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). The flowers are pale purple, and star-shaped with six petals, 1/2–3/4 inches wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence (the complete flower head of a plant including stems, stalks, bracts (a modified leaf or scale, typically small, with a flower or flower cluster in its axil), and flowers) of 10-30 together; before opening, the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract. The seeds are produced in a small, three-valved capsule, maturing in summer. The herb flowers from April to May in the southern parts of its habitat zones and in June in the northern parts.
Chives are repulsive to insects in general, due to their sulfur compounds, keeping pests away. However, their flowers attract bees, and they are at times kept to increase desired insect life.
Chives are grown for their stems and leaves, which are used for culinary purposes as a flavoring herb, and provide a somewhat milder flavor than those of other Allium species.
Chives have a wide variety of culinary uses, such as in traditional dishes in France, Sweden, and elsewhere. In his 1806 book Försök til en flora (Attempt at a Flora), Retzius describes how chives are used with pancakes, soups, fish, and sandwiches. They are also an ingredient of the gräddfil sauce with the traditional herring dish served at Swedish midsummer celebrations. The flowers may also be used to garnish dishes. In Poland and Germany, chives are served with quark cheese. Chives are one of the fines herbes of French cuisine, the others being tarragon, chervil and parsley. Chives can be found fresh at most markets year-round, making them readily available; they can also be dry-frozen without much impairment to the taste, giving home growers the opportunity to store large quantities harvested from their own gardens.
Paprika is a ground spice made from dried red fruits of the larger and sweeter varieties of the plant Capsicum annuum, called bell pepper or sweet pepper. The most common variety used for making paprika is tomato pepper, sometimes with the addition of more pungent varieties, called chili peppers, and cayenne pepper. In many languages, but not English, the word paprika also refers to the plant and the fruit from which the spice is made.
Although paprika is often associated with Hungarian cuisine, the peppers from which it is made are native to the New World and were later introduced to the Old World. Originating in central Mexico, paprika was brought to Spain in the sixteenth century. The seasoning is also used to add color to many types of dishes.
The trade in paprika expanded from the Iberian Peninsula to Africa and Asia, and ultimately reached Central Europe through the Balkans, then under Ottoman rule, which explains the Hungarian origin of the English term. In Spanish, paprika has been known as pimentón since the sixteenth century, when it became a typical ingredient in the cuisine of western Extremadura. Despite its presence in Central Europe since the beginning of Ottoman conquests, it did not become popular in Hungary until the late nineteenth century.
Paprika can range from mild to hot—the flavor also varies from country to country—but almost all plants grown produce the sweet variety. Sweet paprika is mostly composed of the pericarp, with more than half of the seeds removed, whereas hot paprika contains some seeds, stalks, placentas, and calyces. The red, orange or yellow color of paprika is due to its content of carotenoids.
The plant used to make the Hungarian version of the spice was grown in 1529 by the Turks at Buda, now part of Budapest, the capital of Hungary. Central European paprika was hot until the 1920s, when a Szeged breeder found a plant that produced sweet fruit, which he grafted onto other plants.
The first recorded use of the word “paprika” in English is from 1896, although an earlier reference to Turkish paprika was published in 1831. The word derives from the Hungarian word paprika, a diminutive of the Serbo-Croatian word papar meaning “pepper”, which in turn came from the Latin piper or modern Greek piperi. Paprika and similar words, peperke, piperke, and paparka, are used in various Slavic languages in the Balkans for bell peppers.
It is principally used to season and color rices, stews, and soups, such as goulash, and in the preparation of sausages, mixed with meats and other spices. In the United States, paprika is frequently sprinkled raw on foods as a garnish, but the flavor is more effectively brought out by heating it in oil.
Hungarian paprika, which is bright red, is claimed to be sweeter than paprika grown elsewhere, but claims about the alleged inferiority of non-Hungarian paprikas are not backed by scientific evidence: in the quantities used in a recipe, the difference in country of origin would be hard to detect.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and Chinese onion.
Garlic is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran, and has long been a common seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use. It was known to ancient Egyptians, and has been used both as a food flavoring and as a traditional medicine. China produces some 80% of the world supply of garlic.
Allium sativum is a bulbous plant. It grows up to 4 feet in height. It produces hermaphrodite flowers and is pollinated by bees, butterflies, and other insects.
Allium sativum grows in the wild in areas where it has become naturalized. The “wild garlic”, “crow garlic”, and “field garlic” of Britain are members of the species Allium ursinum, Allium vineale, and Allium oleraceum, respectively. Identification of the wild progenitor of common garlic is difficult, due to the sterility of its many cultivars which may all be descended from the species Allium longicuspis, which grows wild in central and southwestern Asia.
In North America, Allium vineale (known as “wild garlic” or “crow garlic”) and Allium canadense, known as “meadow garlic” or “wild garlic” and “wild onion”, are common weeds in fields. So-called elephant garlic is actually a wild leek (Allium ampeloprasum), and not a true garlic. Single clove garlic (also called pearl or solo garlic) originated in the Yunnan province of China.
Garlic is widely used around the world for its pungent flavor as a seasoning or condiment.
The garlic plant’s bulb is the most commonly used part of the plant. With the exception of the single clove types, garlic bulbs are normally divided into numerous fleshy sections called cloves. Garlic cloves are used for consumption (raw or cooked) or for medicinal purposes. They have a characteristic pungent, spicy flavor that mellows and sweetens considerably with cooking.
Other parts of the garlic plant are also edible. The leaves and flowers (bulbils) on the head (spathe) are sometimes eaten. They are milder in flavor than the bulbs, and are most often consumed while immature and still tender. Immature garlic is sometimes pulled, rather like a scallion, and sold as “green garlic”.
The main chemical in garlic is allicin, which has antibacterial, antivirus, antifungal, and antioxidant properties, and are very good for health. Garlic is also full of vitamins and nutrients like vitamins B1, B6, and vitamin C, manganese calcium, copper, and selenium, as well as others.
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae, native to a territory including Middle East and stretching east to India. Its seeds—each one contained within a fruit, which is dried—are used in the cuisines of many cultures in both whole and ground form. Although cumin is thought to have uses in traditional medicine, there is no high-quality evidence that it is safe or effective as a therapeutic agent.
Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. The cumin plant grows to 12–20 inches tall and is harvested by hand. It is an annual herbaceous plant, with a slender, smooth, branched stem that is 8–12 inches tall and has a diameter of 1 1/4–2 inches. Each branch has two to three subbranches. All the branches attain the same height, so the plant has a uniform canopy. The stem is colored grey or dark green. The leaves are 2–4 inches long, pinnate or bipinnate, with thread-like leaflets. The flowers are small, white or pink, and borne in umbels. Each umbel has five to seven umbellts. The fruit is a lateral spindle-shaped or ovoid 1/6–1/5 inches long, containing two fruits with a single seed. Cumin seeds have eight ridges with oil canals. They resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color, like other members of the Apiaceae (Umbelliferae) family such as caraway, parsley, and dill.
Likely originating in a region of the Eastern Med-iterranean called the Levant, cumin has been in use as a spice for thousands of years. Seeds excavated at the Syrian site Tell ed-Der were dated to the second millennium BC. They have also been reported from several New Kingdom levels of ancient Egyptian archaeological sites. In the ancient Egyptian civilization, cumin was used as spice and as preservative in mummification.
The ancient Greeks kept cumin at the dining table in its own container (much as pepper is frequently kept today), and this practice continues in Morocco. Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine. In India, it has been used for millennia as a traditional ingredient in innumerable recipes, and forms the basis of many other spice blends.
Cumin was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Several different types of cumin are known, but the most famous ones are black and green cumin, both of which are used in Persian cuisine.
Today, the plant is mostly grown in Southern Asia, Northern Africa, Mexico, Chile, and China. Since cumin is often used as part of birdseed and exported to many countries, the plant can occur as an introduced species in many territories.
Cumin is a drought-tolerant, tropical, or subtropical crop. It has a growth season of 100-120 days. The optimum growth temperature ranges are between 77° and 86°. The Mediterranean climate is most suitable for its growth. Cultivation of cumin requires a long, hot summer of three to four months. At low temperatures, leaf color changes from green to purple. High temperature might reduce growth period and induce early ripening. In India, cumin is sown from October until the beginning of December, and harvesting starts in February. In Syria and Iran, cumin is sown from mid-November until mid-December (extensions up to mid-January are possible) and harvested in June/July.
The main producers of cumin are China and India, which produces 70% of the world supply and consumes 90% of that (which means that India consumes 63% of the world's cumin). Mexico is another major producer. In total, around 300,000 tons of cumin per year are produced worldwide.
Cumin has many health benefits. It aids in digestion, improves the immune system, helps ward off insomnia, and is good for respiration disorders.