Herb and Spice of the Week – Summer Savory

April 23, 2015 at 5:26 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
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Summer savory

Summer savory

Summer savory (Satureja hortensis) is the better known of the savory species. It is an annual, but otherwise is similar in use and flavor to the perennial winter savory. It is used more often than winter savory, which has a slightly more bitter flavor.

This herb has lilac tubular flowers which bloom in the northern hemisphere from July to September. It grows to around 30 to 60 cm (0.98 to 1.97 ft) in height and has very slender, bronze-green leaves.

Summer savory is a traditional popular herb in Atlantic Canada, where it is used in the same way sage is elsewhere. It is the main flavoring in dressing for many fowl, mixed with ground pork and other basic ingredients to create a thick meat dressing known as cretonnade (cretonade) which may be eaten with turkey, goose and duck. It also is used to make stews such as fricot, and in meat pies. It is usually available year-round in local grocery stores in dried form and is used in varying proportions, sometimes added to recipes in large generous heaping spoonfuls (such as in cretonnade), and sometimes more subtly (as in beans, for which savory has a natural affinity). Summer savory is a characteristic ingredient of herbes de Provence, a fairly standard mixture of dried herbs sold in most US and Canadian stores which specialise in French foods. It is also widely used as a seasoning for grilled meats and barbecues, as well as in stews and sauces.

Summer savory is preferred over winter savory for use in sausages because of its sweeter, more delicate aroma. It plays an important role in Bulgarian cuisine, providing a strong and pungent flavor to the most simple and the most extravagant of dishes. Instead of salt and pepper, a Bulgarian table will have three condiments: salt, paprika, and savory. When these are mixed it is called “colorful salt” (sharena sol, шарена сол).

Summer savory is used in Romanian cuisine, especially in sarmale (stuffed cabbage or grape leaf rolls).

The plant is called Bohnenkraut in German, bonenkruid in Dutch, sarriette in French, santoreggia in Italian, ajedrea in Spanish, θρούμπι (throúbi) in Greek, cząber ogrodowy in Polish, чубрица (chubritsa) in Bulgarian, cimbru in Romanian, borsikafű in Hungarian and чубар (čubar) in Serbian.

Summer savory is raised from seeds, sown early in April, in shallow drills, 9 inches or a foot apart. Select a sunny situation and thin out the seedlings, when large enough, to 6 inches apart in the rows. It likes a rich, light soil.

The seeds may also be sown broadcast, when they must be thinned out, the thinned out seedlings being planted in another bed at 6 inches distance from each other and well watered. The seeds are very slow in germinating.

The early spring seedlings may be first topped for fresh use in June. When the plants are in flower, they may be pulled up and dried for winter use.

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Saigon Cinnamon

April 16, 2015 at 5:17 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
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Saigon Cinnamon

Saigon Cinnamon

Saigon cinnamon (Cinnamomum loureiroi, also known as Vietnamese cinnamon or Vietnamese cassia and Quế Trà My or Quế Thanh or ” Quế Trà Bồng” in Vietnam) is an evergreen tree in the genus Cinnamomum, indigenous to mainland Southeast Asia. Despite its name, it is more closely related to cassia (C. cassia) than to cinnamon (C. verum, “true cinnamon”, Ceylon cinnamon), though in the same genus as both. Saigon cinnamon has 1-5% essential oil in content and 25% cinnamaldehyde in essential oil, which is the highest of all the cinnamon species. Consequently, out of the three species, it commands the highest price.

The scientific name was originally spelled as Cinnamomum loureirii, but because the species is named after the botanist João de Loureiro, this is to be treated under the ICN as an orthographic error for the correctly derived spelling of loureiroi.

 
Saigon cinnamon is produced primarily in Vietnam, both for domestic use and export. The Vietnam War disrupted production, but since the beginning of the early 21st century Vietnam has resumed export of the spice, including to the United States, where it was unavailable for nearly 20 years. Although it is called Saigon cinnamon, it is not produced in the area around the southern city of Saigon, but instead in the central and Central Highlands regions of the country, particularly the Quảng Ngai Province of central Vietnam.

Saigon cinnamon is used primarily for its aromatic bark, which is quite similar to that of Cinnamomum cassia but with a more pronounced, complex aroma.

In Vietnamese cuisine, Saigon cinnamon bark is an important ingredient in the broth used to make a noodle soup called phở.

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Sage

April 9, 2015 at 5:28 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | 1 Comment
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Flowers of Salvia officinalis

Flowers of Salvia officinalis

Salvia officinalis (sage, also called garden sage, or common sage) is a perennial, evergreen subshrub, with woody stems, grayish leaves, and blue to purplish flowers. It is a member of the family Lamiaceae and is native to the Mediterranean region, though it has naturalized in many places throughout the world. It has a long history of medicinal and culinary use, and in modern times as an ornamental garden plant. The common name “sage” is also used for a number of related and unrelated species.

 
Cultivars are quite variable in size, leaf and flower color, and foliage pattern, with many variegated leaf types. The Old World type grows to approximately 2 ft (0.61 m) tall and wide, with lavender flowers most common, though they can also be white, pink, or purple. The plant flowers in late spring or summer. The leaves are oblong, ranging in size up to 2.5 in (6.4 cm) long by 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. Leaves are grey-green, rugose on the upper side, and nearly white underneath due to the many short soft hairs. Modern cultivars include leaves with purple, rose, cream, and yellow in many variegated combinations.

 

 

Culinary use

Sage leaves

Sage leaves

In Britain, sage has for generations been listed as one of the essential herbs, along with parsley, rosemary and thyme (as in the folk song “Scarborough Fair”). It has a savory, slightly peppery flavor. It appears in many European cuisines, notably Italian, Balkan and Middle Eastern cookery. In British and American cooking, it is traditionally served as sage and onion stuffing, an accompaniment to roast turkey or chicken at Christmas or Thanksgiving Day. Other dishes include pork casserole, Sage Derby cheese and Lincolnshire sausages. Despite the common use of traditional and available herbs in French cuisine, sage never found favor there.

Essential oil

Common sage is grown in parts of Europe for distillation of an essential oil, though other species such as Salvia fruticosa may also be harvested and distilled with it. The essential oil contains cineole, borneol, and thujone. Sage leaf contains tannic acid, oleic acid, ursonic acid, ursolic acid, carnosol, carnosic acid, fumaric acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, niacin, nicotinamide, flavones, flavonoid glycosides, and estrogenic substances.

Traditional medicine

Salvia and “sage” are derived from the Latin salvere (to save), referring to the healing properties long attributed to the various Salvia species. It has been recommended at one time or another for virtually every ailment by various herbals.

In traditional Tamil Siddha medicine, sage (Karpooravalli) is used for respiratory ailments like asthma and alleviating nasal discharge associated with upper respiratory infections. Sage leaves are crushed in boiling water and the fumes are inhaled.

In traditional Austrian medicine, S. officinalis herb has been used internally (as tea or directly chewed) for treatment of disorders of the respiratory tract, mouth, gastrointestinal tract, and skin.

Investigations have taken place into using sage as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease patients. Sage leaf extract may be effective and safe in the treatment of hyperlipidemia.

Health
A number of double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, balanced-crossover studies in healthy humans have demonstrated improved memory, attention/executive function, alertness and mood following single doses of cholinesterase-inhibiting sage extracts or essential oils. A single, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in a small cohort (n = 30) of Alzheimer’s disease patients also demonstrated improved cognitive functioning and behavioral function (Clinical Dementia Rating) following a 16-week administration of a Salvia officinalis alcoholic tincture.

According to Peter Rogers’ team at Bristol University, researchers have concluded that extracts of sage can enhance cognitive performance. This was contrasted to the similar effect of the caffeine found in tea and coffee.

 

 

The seeds of sage

The seeds of sage

In favorable conditions in the garden, S. officinalis can grow to a substantial size (1 square metre or more), but a number of cultivars are more compact. As such they are valued as small ornamental flowering shrubs, rather than for their herbal properties. Some provide low ground cover, especially in sunny dry environments. Like many herbs they can be killed by a cold wet winter, especially if the soil is not well drained. But they are easily propagated from summer cuttings, and some cultivars are produced from seeds.

Named cultivars include:

* ‘Alba’, a white-flowered cultivar
* ‘Aurea’, golden sage
* ‘Berggarten’, a cultivar with large leaves, which rarely blooms, extending the useful life of the leaves
* ‘Extrakta’, has leaves with higher oil concentrations
* ‘Icterina’, a cultivar with yellow-green variegated leaves
* ‘Lavandulaefolia’, a small leaved cultivar
* ‘Purpurascens’ (‘Purpurea’), a purple-leafed cultivar
* ‘Tricolor’, a cultivar with white, yellow and green variegated leaves

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Saffron

April 2, 2015 at 5:37 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
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Saffron – valuable stigmas, or threads, are painstakingly plucked, piled, and dried

Saffron – valuable stigmas, or threads, are painstakingly plucked, piled, and dried

Saffron (pronounced /ˈsæfrən/ or /ˈsæfrɒn/) is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the saffron crocus. Crocus is a genus in the family Iridaceae. Saffron crocus grows to 20–30 cm (8–12 in) and bears up to four flowers, each with three vivid crimson stigmas, which are the distal end of a carpel. The styles and stigmas 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, is native to Greece or Southwest Asia and was first cultivated in Greece. As a genetically monomorphic clone, it was slowly propagated throughout much of Eurasia and was later brought to parts of North Africa, North America, and Oceania.

The saffron crocus, unknown in the wild, probably descends from Crocus cartwrightianus, which originated in Crete; C. thomasii and C. pallasii are other possible precursors. The saffron crocus 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. If C. sativus is a mutant form of C. cartwrightianus, then it may have emerged via plant breeding, which would have selected for elongated stigmas, in late Bronze Age Crete.

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 7th-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 domesticated saffron crocus, Crocus sativus, is an autumn-flowering perennial plant unknown in the wild. Its progenitors are possibly the eastern Mediterranean autumn-flowering Crocus cartwrightianus, which is also known as “wild saffron” and originated in Greece. The saffron crocus probably resulted when C. cartwrightianus was subjected to extensive artificial selection by growers seeking longer stigmas. C. thomasii and C. pallasii are other possible sources.

It is a sterile triploid form, which means that three homologous sets of chromosomes compose each specimen’s genetic complement; C. sativus bears eight chromosomal bodies per set, making for 24 in total. Being sterile, the purple flowers of C. sativus fail to produce viable seeds; reproduction hinges on human assistance: clusters of corms, underground, bulb-like, starch-storing organs, must be dug up, divided, and replanted. A corm survives for one season, producing via this vegetative division up to ten “cormlets” that can grow into new plants in the next season. The compact corms are small, brown globules that can measure as large as 5 cm (2.0 in) in diameter, have a flat base, and are shrouded in a dense mat of parallel fibres; this coat is referred to as the “corm tunic”. Corms also bear vertical fibres, thin and net-like, that grow up to 5 cm above the plant’s neck.

The plant grows to a height of 20–30 cm (8–12 in), and sprouts 5–11 white and non-photosynthetic leaves known as cataphylls. These membrane-like structures cover and protect the crocus’s 5 to 11 true leaves as they bud and develop. The latter are thin, straight, and blade-like green foliage leaves, which are 1–3 mm in diameter, either expand after the flowers have opened (“hysteranthous”) or do so simultaneously with their blooming (“synanthous”). C. sativus cataphylls are suspected by some to manifest prior to blooming when the plant is irrigated relatively early in the growing season. Its floral axes, or flower-bearing structures, bear bracteoles, or specialised leaves that sprout from the flower stems; the latter are known as pedicels. After aestivating in spring, the plant sends up its true leaves, each up to 40 cm (16 in) in length. In autumn, purple buds appear. Only in October, after most other flowering plants have released their seeds, do its brilliantly hued flowers develop; they range from a light pastel shade of lilac to a darker and more striated mauve. The flowers possess a sweet, honey-like fragrance. Upon flowering, plants average less than 30 cm (12 in) in height. A three-pronged style emerges from each flower. Each prong terminates with a vivid crimson stigma 25–30 mm (0.98–1.18 in) in length.

 

 

 

Saffron contains more than 150 volatile and aroma-yielding compounds. It also has many nonvolatile active components, many of which are carotenoids, including zeaxanthin, lycopene, and various α- and β-carotenes. However, saffron’s golden yellow-orange color is primarily the result of α-crocin. This crocin is trans-crocetin di-(β-D-gentiobiosyl) ester; it bears the systematic (IUPAC) name 8,8-diapo-8,8-carotenoic acid. This means that the crocin underlying saffron’s aroma is a digentiobiose ester of the carotenoid crocetin. Crocins themselves are a series of hydrophilic carotenoids that are either monoglycosyl or diglycosyl polyene esters of crocetin. Crocetin is a conjugated polyene dicarboxylic acid that is hydrophobic, and thus oil-soluble. When crocetin is esterified with two water-soluble gentiobioses, which are sugars, a product results that is itself water-soluble. The resultant α-crocin is a carotenoid pigment that may comprise more than 10% of dry saffron’s mass. The two esterified gentiobioses make α-crocin ideal for coloring water-based and non-fatty foods such as rice dishes.

 

 

High quality red threads from Austrian saffron

High quality red threads from Austrian saffron

The various saffron crocus cultivars give rise to thread types that are often regionally distributed and characteristically distinct. Varieties (not varieties in the botanical sense) from Spain, including the tradenames “Spanish Superior” and “Creme”, are generally mellower in color, flavor, and aroma; they are graded by government-imposed standards. Italian varieties are slightly more potent than Spanish. The most intense varieties tend to be Iranian. Various “boutique” crops are available from New Zealand, France, Switzerland, England, the United States, and other countries—some of them organically grown. In the U.S., Pennsylvania Dutch saffron—known for its “earthy” notes—is marketed in small quantities.

 

 

 

Consumers may regard certain cultivars as “premium” quality. The “Aquila” saffron, or zafferano dell’Aquila, is defined by high safranal and crocin content, distinctive thread shape, unusually pungent aroma, and intense colour; it is grown exclusively on eight hectares in the Navelli Valley of Italy’s Abruzzo region, near L’Aquila. It was first introduced to Italy by a Dominican monk from Inquisition-era Spain. But the biggest saffron cultivation in Italy is in San Gavino Monreale, Sardinia, where it is grown on 40 hectares, representing 60% of Italian production; it too has unusually high crocin, picrocrocin, and safranal content. Another is the “Mongra” or “Lacha” saffron of Kashmir (Crocus sativus ‘Cashmirianus’), which is among the most difficult for consumers to obtain. Repeated droughts, blights, and crop failures in the Indian-controlled areas of Kashmir combine with an Indian export ban to contribute to its prohibitive overseas prices. Kashmiri saffron is recognisable by its dark maroon-purple hue; it is among the world’s darkest, which hints at strong flavor, aroma, and coloring effect.

 

 

 

Almost all saffron grows in a belt from Spain in the west to India in the east. The other continents, except Antarctica, produce smaller amounts. Some 300 t (300,000 kg) of dried whole threads and powder are gleaned yearly, of which 50 t (50,000 kg) is top-grade “coupe” saffron. Iran answers for around 90–93% of global production and exports much of it. A few of Iran’s drier eastern and southeastern provinces, including Fars, Kerman, and those in the Khorasan region, glean the bulk of modern global production. In 2005, the second-ranked Greece produced 5.7 t (5,700 kg), while Morocco and Kashmir, tied for third rank, each produced 2.3 t (2,300 kg).

In recent years, Afghan cultivation has risen. Azerbaijan, Morocco, and Italy are, in decreasing order, lesser producers. Prohibitively high labour costs and abundant Iranian imports mean that only select locales continue the tedious harvest in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland—among them the Swiss village of Mund, whose annual output is a few kilograms. Microscale production of saffron can be found in Tasmania, China, Egypt, England (the village of Burnham Norton France, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, Turkey (mainly around the town of Safranbolu), California, and Central Africa.

To glean 1 lb (450 g) of dry saffron requires the harvest of 50,000–75,000 flowers; a kilogram requires 110,000–170,000 flowers. Forty hours of labor are needed to pick 150,000 flowers. Stigmas are dried quickly upon extraction and (preferably) sealed in airtight containers. Saffron prices at wholesale and retail rates range from US$500 to US$5,000 per pound, or US$1,100–11,000/kg, equivalent to £2,500/€3,500 per pound or £5,500/€7,500 per kilogram. In Western countries, the average retail price in 1974 was $1,000/£500/€700 per pound, or US$2,200/£1,100/€1,550 per kilogram. In February 2013, a retail bottle containing 0.06 ounces could be purchased for $16.26 or the equivalent of $4,336 per pound or as little as about $2,000/pound in larger quantities. A pound contains between 70,000 and 200,000 threads. Vivid crimson coloring, slight moistness, elasticity, and lack of broken-off thread debris are all traits of fresh saffron.

 

 

 

Crushed saffron threads are soaked in hot—but not boiling—water

Crushed saffron threads are soaked in hot—but not boiling—water

Saffron’s aroma is often described by connoisseurs as reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet. Saffron also contributes a luminous yellow-orange coloring to foods. Saffron is widely used in Indian, Persian, European, Arab, and Turkish cuisines. Confectioneries and liquors also often include saffron. Common saffron substitutes include safflower (Carthamus tinctorius, which is often sold as “Portuguese saffron” or “açafrão”), annatto, and turmeric (Curcuma longa). Saffron has also been used as a fabric dye, particularly in China and India, and in perfumery. It is used for religious purposes in India, and is widely used in cooking in many cuisines, ranging from the Milanese risotto of Italy, the paella of Spain, the bouillabaisse of France, to the biryani with various meat accompaniments in South Asia.

Saffron also has a long history of use in traditional medicine.

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Safflower

March 26, 2015 at 5:14 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
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Safflower

Safflower

Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.) is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual plant. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds. Plants are 30 to 150 cm (12 to 59 in) tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange, or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads containing 15 to 20 seeds per head. Safflower is native to arid environments having seasonal rain. It grows a deep taproot which enables it to thrive in such environments.

 

 

Safflower is one of humanity’s oldest crops. Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the Twelfth dynasty identified dyes made from safflower, and garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamun. John Chadwick reports that the Greek κάρθαμος (kārthamos) name for safflower occurs many times in Linear B tablets, distinguished into two kinds: a white safflower (ka-na-ko re-u-ka, ‘knākos leukā’), which is measured, and red (ka-na-ko e-ru-ta-ra, ‘knākos eruthrā’) which is weighed. “The explanation is that there are two parts of the plant which can be used; the pale seeds and the red florets.”

Safflower was also known as carthamine in the nineteenth century.

 

 

It is a minor crop today, with about 600,000 tons being produced commercially in more than sixty countries worldwide. India, United States, and Mexico are the leading producers, with Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, China, the Arab World, Argentina and Australia accounting for most of the remainder.

Other names include Sallflower, Beni, Chimichanga, or Carthamus tinctorius and in Pashto it is called Kareza (as it is found abundantly in Afghanistan and Tribal belts of Pakistan).

 

 

Traditionally, the crop was grown for its seeds, and used for coloring and flavoring foods, in medicines, and making red (carthamin) and yellow dyes, especially before cheaper aniline dyes became available. For the last fifty years or so, the plant has been cultivated mainly for the vegetable oil extracted from its seeds.

Safflower seed oil is flavorless and colorless, and nutritionally similar to sunflower oil. It is used mainly in cosmetics and as a cooking oil, in salad dressing, and for the production of margarine. It may also be taken as a nutritional supplement. INCI nomenclature is Carthamus tinctorius.

 

Carthamus tinctorius - MHNT

Carthamus tinctorius – MHNT

Safflower seed is also used quite commonly as an alternative to sunflower seed in birdfeeders, as squirrels do not like the taste of it.

 

 

There are two types of safflower that produce different kinds of oil: one high in monounsaturated fatty acid (oleic acid) and the other high in polyunsaturated fatty acid (linoleic acid). Currently the predominant edible oil market is for the former, which is lower in saturates than olive oil, for example. The latter is used in painting in the place of linseed oil, particularly with white paints, as it does not have the yellow tint which linseed oil possesses.

In dietary use, high–linoleic safflower oil has also been shown to increase adiponectin, a protein that helps regulate blood glucose levels and fatty-acid breakdown. During a 16-week, double-blind controlled study conducted at The Ohio State University, researchers compared high-linoleic safflower oil (SAF) with conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). They studied post-menopausal women who had high blood sugar and wanted to lose weight. These participants showed an average reduction of 6.3 percent belly fat and an average of 20.3 percent increase in the important belly fat hormone, adiponectin.

Hornstra et al analyzed a group where safflower oil replaced animal fats in the diets of people who had had a heart attack. The group receiving extra safflower oil in place of animal fats had a significantly higher risk of death from all causes, cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. As expected, increasing omega-6 linoleic acid from safflower oil in the Sydney Diet Heart Study significantly reduced total cholesterol; however, these reductions were not associated with [reduced] mortality outcomes. Moreover, the increased risk of death in the intervention group presented fairly rapidly and persisted throughout the trial. An updated meta-analysis of polyunsaturated fatty acid intervention trials showed trends toward increased risks of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease from increasing omega-6 linoleic acid intakes suggesting that the cardiovascular benefits of polyunsaturated fatty acids may be attributable to omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.

In culinary use, safflower oil compares favorably with other vegetable oils with its high smoke point.

 

Safflower purchased at a market

Safflower purchased at a market

Safflower flowers are occasionally used in cooking as a cheaper substitute for saffron, and were sometimes referred to as “bastard saffron”.

In coloring textiles, safflower’s dried flowers are used as a natural textile dye. The pigment in safflower is the benzoquinone-derived chemical carthamin and it is classified as a quinone-type dye. It is a direct dye which is also known as CI Natural Red 26. Yellow, mustard, khaki, and olive are the most common colors in textiles. Even bright reds and purples can be reached using alkaline processing. Indians used this red dye as their official red tape on legal documents. All hydrophilic fibers (all natural fibers, such as cotton, wool, etc.) may be dyed with this plant. Polyamide textiles can also be dyed without a mordant agent because of its wool-like chemical structure. Polyester, polyacrylonitrile, and others which are hydrophobic synthetic fibers can be dyed only in the presence of a mordant.

Safflower concentrate is an ingredient of the carbonated soft drink Tizer and some types of Sunkist.

Ancient Egyptians found the flower pleasing to the eye and included it in garlands placed on mummies. Dried safflower flowers honglanhua,caohonghua,(cihonghua) are used in traditional Chinese medicine to alleviate pain, increase circulation, and reduce bruising.They are included in herbal remedies for menstrual pain and minor physical trauma.In India,the flowers are used for their laxative and diaphoretic properties,and are also used for children’s complaints of measles, fevers and eruptive skin conditions.

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Rosemary

March 19, 2015 at 5:32 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
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Rosemary in flower

Rosemary in flower

Rosmarinus officinalis, commonly known as rosemary, is a woody, perennial herb with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers, native to the Mediterranean region. It is a member of the mint family Lamiaceae, which includes many other herbs. The name “rosemary” derives from the Latin for “dew” (ros) and “sea” (marinus), or “dew of the sea”. The plant is also sometimes called anthos, from the ancient Greek word ἄνθος, meaning “flower”. Rosemary has a fibrous root system.

 

 

Rosemary is an aromatic evergreen shrub that has leaves similar to hemlock needles. The leaves are used as a flavoring in foods such as stuffings and roast lamb, pork, chicken and turkey. It is native to the Mediterranean and Asia, but is reasonably hardy in cool climates. It can withstand droughts, surviving a severe lack of water for lengthy periods. Forms range from upright to trailing; the upright forms can reach 1.5 m (5 ft) tall, rarely 2 m (6 ft 7 in). The leaves are evergreen, 2–4 cm (0.8–1.6 in) long and 2–5 mm broad, green above, and white below, with dense, short, woolly hair. The plant flowers in spring and summer in temperate climates, but the plants can be in constant bloom in warm climates; flowers are white, pink, purple or deep blue.

 

 

Rosemary is used as a decorative plant in gardens where it may have pest control effects. The leaves are used to flavor various foods, such as stuffings and roast meats.

 

Flowering rosemary

Flowering rosemary

Since it is attractive and drought-tolerant, rosemary is used as an ornamental plant in gardens and for xeriscape landscaping, especially in regions of Mediterranean climate. It is considered easy to grow and pest-resistant. Rosemary can grow quite large and retain attractiveness for many years, can be pruned into formal shapes and low hedges, and has been used for topiary. It is easily grown in pots. The groundcover cultivars spread widely, with a dense and durable texture.

Rosemary grows on friable loam soil with good drainage in an open, sunny position. It will not withstand waterlogging and some varieties are susceptible to frost. It grows best in neutral to alkaline conditions (pH 7–7.8) with average fertility. It can be propagated from an existing plant by clipping a shoot (from a soft new growth) 10–15 cm (4–6 in) long, stripping a few leaves from the bottom, and planting it directly into soil.

 

 

Dried Rosemary

Dried Rosemary

Fresh or dried leaves are used in traditional Italian cuisine. They have a bitter, astringent taste and a characteristic aroma which complements many cooked foods. Herbal tea can be made from the leaves. When roasted with meats or vegetables, the leaves impart a mustard-like aroma with an additional fragrance of charred wood compatible with barbecued foods.

In amounts typically used to flavor foods, such as one teaspoon (1 gram), rosemary provides no nutritional value. Rosemary extract has been shown to improve the shelf life and heat stability of omega 3-rich oils which are prone to rancidity.

 

 

Rosemary oil is used for purposes of fragrant bodily perfumes or to emit an aroma into a room. It is also burnt as incense, and used in shampoos and cleaning products.

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Peppermint

March 12, 2015 at 5:18 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | 1 Comment
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Peppermint

Peppermint

Peppermint (Mentha × piperita, also known as M. balsamea Willd). is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. The plant, indigenous to Europe and the Middle East, is now widespread in cultivation in many regions of the world. It is found wild occasionally with its parent species.

 

 

 

Peppermint typically occurs in moist habitats, including stream sides and drainage ditches. Being a hybrid, it is usually sterile, producing no seeds and reproducing only vegetatively, spreading by its rhizomes. If placed, it can grow anywhere, with a few exceptions.

Outside of its native range, areas where peppermint was formerly grown for oil often have an abundance of feral plants, and it is considered invasive in Australia, the Galápagos Islands, New Zealand, and in the United States in the Great Lakes region, noted since 1843.

 

 

 

Peppermint generally grows best in moist, shaded locations, and expands by underground rhizomes. Young shoots are taken from old stocks and dibbled into the ground about 1.5 feet apart. They grow quickly and cover the ground with runners if it is permanently moist. For the home gardener, it is often grown in containers to restrict rapid spreading. It grows best with a good supply of water, without being water-logged, and planted in areas with part-sun to shade.

The leaves and flowering tops are used; they are collected as soon as the flowers begin to open and can be dried. The wild form of the plant is less suitable for this purpose, with cultivated plants having been selected for more and better oil content. They may be allowed to lie and wilt a little before distillation, or they may be taken directly to the still.

 

 

Peppermint flowers.

Peppermint flowers.

Pliny the elder, 79 AD, an ancient Roman author, natural philosopher and naval and military commander wrote Naturalis Historia, it tells us that the Greeks and Romans crowned themselves with peppermint at their feasts and adorned their tables with its sprays, and that their cooks flavored both their sauces and their wines with its essence.

It is the oldest and most popular flavor of mint-flavored confectionery and is often used in tea and for flavoring ice cream, confectionery, chewing gum, and toothpaste. Peppermint can also be found in some shampoos, soaps and skin care products.

Menthol activates cold-sensitive TRPM8 receptors in the skin and mucosal tissues, and is the primary source of the cooling sensation that follows the topical application of peppermint oil.

Peppermint flowers are large nectar producers and honey bees as well as other nectar harvesting organisms forage them heavily. A mild, pleasant varietal honey can be produced if there is a sufficient area of plants.

 

 

 

Peppermint oil has a high concentration of natural pesticides, mainly pulegone (Found mainly in Mentha arvensis var. piperascens Cornmint, Field Mint, Japanese Mint and to a lesser extent-6,530 ppm in Mentha x piperita subsp. nothosubsp. piperita, and menthone.

The chemical composition of the essential oil from peppermint (Mentha x piperita L.) was analyzed by GC/FID and GC-MS. The main constituents were menthol (40.7%) and menthone (23.4%). Further components were (+/-)-menthyl acetate, 1,8-cineole, limonene, beta-pinene and beta-caryophyllene.

 

 

 

Freeze-dried leaves.

Freeze-dried leaves.

Peppermint has a long tradition of use in folk medicine and aromatherapy. Peppermint is commonly thought to soothe or treat symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, indigestion, irritable bowel, and bloating, although most of these effects have not been adequately demonstrated in human research.

The aroma of peppermint has been studied for its possible effect to enhance memory and alertness, although other research contests this.

Peppermint oil ingestion by capsules for four weeks may relieve irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms via an effect on pain sensing fibers.

According to the German Commission E monographs, peppermint oil (as well as peppermint leaf) has been used internally as an antispasmodic (upper gastrointestinal tract and bile ducts) and to treat irritable bowel syndrome, catarrh of the respiratory tract, and inflammation of the oral mucosa. Externally, peppermint oil has been used for myalgia and neuralgia. According to Commission E, peppermint oil may also act as a carminative, cholagogue, antibacterial, and secretolytic, and it has a cooling action.

Enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules (Colpermin) have been used as an orally administered antispasmodic premedication in colonoscopy. The capsules were found beneficial in reducing total procedure time, reducing colonic spasm, increasing endoscopist satisfaction and decreasing pain in patients during colonoscopy.

When peppermint oil antacid products dissolve too quickly, they can sometimes cause heartburn and nausea.

Due to the menthol constituent, topical use of peppermint oil around the facial or chest areas of infants and young children, especially around the nose, can induce apnea, laryngeal and bronchial spasm, acute respiratory distress with cyanosis, or respiratory arrest.

Peppermint oil is also used in construction and plumbing to test for the tightness of pipes and disclose leaks by its odor.

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Pepper

March 5, 2015 at 6:33 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
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Black and white peppercorns

Black and white peppercorns

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately 5 millimetres (0.20 in) in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed. Peppercorns, and the ground pepper derived from them, may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit) and white pepper (ripe fruit seeds).

 

 

Black pepper is native to south India, and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. Currently Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pepper, producing 34% of the world’s Piper nigrum crop as of 2008.

Dried ground pepper has been used since antiquity for both its flavour and as a traditional medicine. Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice. It is one of the most common spices added to European cuisine and its descendants. The spiciness of black pepper is due to the chemical piperine, not to be confused with the capsaicin that gives fleshy peppers theirs. It is ubiquitous in the modern world as a seasoning, and is often paired with salt.

 

The 6 variants of Pepper

The 6 variants of Pepper

Black pepper
Black pepper is produced from the still-green unripe drupes of the pepper plant. The drupes are cooked briefly in hot water, both to clean them and to prepare them for drying. The heat ruptures cell walls in the pepper, speeding the work of browning enzymes during drying. The drupes are dried in the sun or by machine for several days, during which the pepper around the seed shrinks and darkens into a thin, wrinkled black layer. Once dried, the spice is called black peppercorn. On some estates, the berries are separated from the stem by hand and then sun-dried without the boiling process.

Once the peppercorns are dried, pepper spirit & oil can be extracted from the berries by crushing them. Pepper spirit is used in many medicinal and beauty products. Pepper oil is also used as an ayurvedic massage oil and used in certain beauty and herbal treatments.

White pepper
White pepper consists of the seed of the pepper plant alone, with the darker-colored skin of the pepper fruit removed. This is usually accomplished by a process known as retting, where fully ripe red pepper berries are soaked in water for about a week, during which the flesh of the pepper softens and decomposes. Rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit, and the naked seed is dried. Sometimes alternative processes are used for removing the outer pepper from the seed, including removing the outer layer through mechanical, chemical or biological methods.

Ground white pepper is often used in cream sauces, Chinese and Thai cuisine, and dishes like salad, light-colored sauces and mashed potatoes, where black pepper would visibly stand out. White pepper has a slightly different flavor than black pepper, due to the lack of certain compounds present in the outer fruit layer of the drupe, but not found in the seed. A slightly sweet version of white pepper from India is sometimes called Safed Golmirch (Hindi), Shada golmorich (Bengali), or Safed Golmirch (Punjabi).
Green pepper
Green pepper, like black, is made from the unripe drupes. Dried green peppercorns are treated in a way that retains the green color, such as treatment with sulphur dioxide, canning or freeze-drying. Pickled peppercorns, also green, are unripe drupes preserved in brine or vinegar. Fresh, unpreserved green pepper drupes, largely unknown in the West, are used in some Asian cuisines, particularly Thai cuisine. Their flavor has been described as spicy and fresh, with a bright aroma. They decay quickly if not dried or preserved.

Wild pepper
Wild pepper grows in the Western Ghats region of India. Into the 19th Century, the forests contained expansive wild pepper vines, as recorded by the Scottish physician Francis Buchanan, (also a botanist and geographer) in his book, A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar (Volume III). However, deforestation resulted in wild pepper growing in more limited forest patches from Goa to Kerala, with the wild source gradually decreasing as the quality and yield of the cultivated variety improved. No successful grafting of commercial pepper on wild pepper has been achieved to date.

Orange pepper and red pepper
Orange pepper or red pepper usually consists of ripe red pepper drupes preserved in brine and vinegar. Ripe red peppercorns can also be dried using the same color-preserving techniques used to produce green pepper.

Pink pepper and other plants used as pepper
Pink pepper from Piper nigrum is distinct from the more-common dried “pink peppercorns”, which are actually the fruits of a plant from a different family, the Peruvian pepper tree, Schinus molle, or its relative the Brazilian pepper tree, Schinus terebinthifolius. A pink peppercorn (French: baie rose, “pink berry”) is a dried berry of the shrub Schinus molle, commonly known as the Peruvian peppertree. As they are members of the cashew family, they may cause allergic reactions including anaphylaxis for persons with a tree nut allergy.

 

Pepper before ripening

Pepper before ripening

The bark of Drimys winteri (“Canelo” or “Winter’s Bark”) is used as a substitute for pepper in cold and temperate regions of Chile and Argentina where it is easily available.

In New Zealand the seeds of Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum), a relative of black pepper, are sometimes used as pepper and the leaves of Pseudowintera colorata (mountain horopito) are another replacement for pepper.

Several plants in the United States are used also as pepper substitutes, such as Lepidium campestre, Lepidium virginicum, shepherd’s purse, horseradish, and field Pennycress.

 
Like many eastern spices, pepper was historically both a seasoning and a folk medicine. Long pepper, being stronger, was often the preferred medication, but both were used. Black Pepper (or perhaps long pepper) was believed to cure illness such as constipation, diarrhoea, earache, gangrene, heart disease, hernia, hoarseness, indigestion, insect bites, insomnia, joint pain, liver problems, lung disease, oral abscesses, sunburn, tooth decay, and toothaches. Various sources from the 5th century onward also recommend pepper to treat eye problems, often by applying salves or poultices made with pepper directly to the eye. There is no current medical evidence that any of these treatments has any benefit; pepper applied directly to the eye would be quite uncomfortable and possibly damaging. Nevertheless, black pepper, either powdered or its decoction, is widely used in traditional Indian medicine and as a home remedy for relief from sore throat, throat congestion, cough etc.

Pepper is known to cause sneezing. Some sources say that piperine, a substance present in black pepper, irritates the nostrils, causing the sneezing; Few, if any, controlled studies have been carried out to answer the question.

Piperine is under study for its potential to increase absorption of selenium, vitamin B, beta-carotene and curcumin as well as other nutrients. As a folk medicine, pepper appears in the Buddhist Samaññaphala Sutta, chapter five, as one of the few medicines allowed to be carried by a monk.

Pepper contains phytochemicals, including amides, piperidines, pyrrolidines and trace amounts of safrole which may be carcinogenic in laboratory rodents.

Piperine is under study for a variety of possible physiological effects, although this work is preliminary and mechanisms of activity for piperine in the human body remain unknown.

 
Pepper gets its spicy heat mostly from piperine derived both from the outer fruit and the seed. Black pepper contains between 4.6% and 9.7% piperine by mass, and white pepper slightly more than that. Refined piperine, by weight, is about one percent as hot as the capsaicin found in chili peppers. The outer fruit layer, left on black pepper, also contains important odour-contributing terpenes including pinene, sabinene, limonene, caryophyllene, and linalool, which give citrusy, woody, and floral notes. These scents are mostly missing in white pepper, which is stripped of the fruit layer. White pepper can gain some different odours (including musty notes) from its longer fermentation stage. The aroma of pepper is attributed to rotundone (3,4,5,6,7,8-Hexahydro-3α,8α-dimethyl-5α-(1-methylethenyl)azulene-1(2H)-one), a sesquiterpene originally discovered in the tubers of cyperus rotundus, which can be detected in concentrations of 0.4 nanograms/L in water and in wine: rotundone is also present in marjoram, oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme, and geranium, as well as in some Shiraz wines.

Pepper loses flavor and aroma through evaporation, so airtight storage helps preserve its spiciness longer. Pepper

Handheld pepper mills

Handheld pepper mills

can also lose flavor when exposed to light, which can transform piperine into nearly tasteless isochavicine. Once ground, pepper’s aromatics can evaporate quickly; most culinary sources recommend grinding whole peppercorns immediately before use for this reason. Handheld pepper mills or grinders, which mechanically grind or crush whole peppercorns, are used for this, sometimes instead of pepper shakers that dispense pre-ground pepper. Spice mills such as pepper mills were found in European kitchens as early as the 14th century, but the mortar and pestle used earlier for crushing pepper have remained a popular method for centuries as well.

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Parsley

February 26, 2015 at 6:26 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | Leave a comment
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Parsley leaves and flowers

Parsley leaves and flowers

Parsley or garden parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is a species of Petroselinum in the family Apiaceae, native to the central Mediterranean region (southern Italy, Algeria, and Tunisia), 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 10–25 cm long with numerous 1–3 cm leaflets, and a taproot used as a food store over the winter.

Parsley is widely used in Middle Eastern, European, and American cooking. Curly leaf parsley is often used as a garnish. In central and eastern Europe and in western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top. Root parsley is very common in central and eastern European cuisines, where it is used as a snack or a vegetable in many soups, stews, and casseroles.

 

 

Parsley leaves

Parsley leaves

Garden parsley is a bright green, biennial, plant in temperate climates, or an annual herb in subtropical and tropical areas.

Where it grows as a biennial, in the first year, it forms a rosette of tripinnate leaves 10–25 cm long with numerous 1–3 cm leaflets, and a taproot used as a food store over the winter. In the second year, it grows a flowering stem to 75 cm tall with sparser leaves and flat-topped 3–10 cm diameter umbels with numerous 2 mm diameter yellow to yellowish-green flowers. The seeds are ovoid, 2–3 mm long, with prominent style remnants at the apex. One of the compounds of the essential oil is apiol. The plant normally dies after seed maturation.
Parsley grows best in moist, well-drained soil, with full sun. It grows best between 22–30 °C, and usually is grown from seed. Germination is slow, taking four to six weeks, and it often is difficult because of furanocoumarins in its seed coat. Typically, plants grown for the leaf crop are spaced 10 cm apart, while those grown as a root crop are spaced 20 cm apart to allow for the root development.

Parsley attracts several species of wildlife. Some swallowtail butterflies use parsley as a host plant for their larvae; their caterpillars are black and green striped with yellow dots, and will feed on parsley for two weeks before turning into butterflies. Bees and other nectar-feeding insects also visit the flowers. Birds such as the goldfinch feed on the seeds.
Leaf parsley
The two main groups of parsley used as herbs are curly leaf (i.e.) (P. crispum crispum group; syn. P. crispum var. crispum) and Italian, or flat leaf (P. crispum neapolitanum group; syn. P. crispum var. neapolitanum); of these, the neapolitanum group more closely resembles the natural wild species. Flat-leaved parsley is preferred by some gardeners as it is easier to cultivate, being more tolerant of both rain and sunshine, and has a stronger flavor, (though this is disputed while curly leaf parsley is preferred by others because of its more decorative appearance in garnishing. A third type, sometimes grown in southern Italy, has thick leaf stems resembling celery.
Another type of parsley is grown as a root vegetable, the Hamburg root parsley (P. crispum radicosum group, syn. P.

Root parsley

Root parsley

crispum var. tuberosum). This type of parsley produces much thicker roots than types cultivated for their leaves. Although seldom used in Britain and the United States, root parsley is common in central and eastern European cuisine, where it is used in soups and stews, or simply eaten raw, as a snack (similar to carrots).

Although root parsley looks similar to the parsnip, its taste is quite different from it. Parsnips are among the closest relatives of parsley in the family Apiaceae. A similarity of the name of parsnips to turnip is a folk misattribution, parsnip meaning “forked turnip”; it is not closely related to real turnips biologically.

 

Parsley is widely used in Middle Eastern, European, Brazilian and American cooking. Curly leaf parsley is used often as a garnish. Green parsley is used frequently as a garnish on potato dishes (boiled or mashed potatoes), on rice dishes (risotto or pilaf), on fish, fried chicken, lamb, goose, and steaks, as well in meat or vegetable stews (including shrimp creole, beef bourguignon, goulash, or chicken paprikash).

In central and eastern Europe and in western Asia, many dishes are served with fresh green, chopped parsley sprinkled on top. In southern and central Europe, parsley is part of bouquet garni, a bundle of fresh herbs used as an ingredient in stocks, soups, and sauces. Freshly chopped green parsley is used as a topping for soups such as chicken soup, green salads, or salads such as salade Olivier, and on open sandwiches with cold cuts or pâtés.

Persillade is a mixture of chopped garlic and chopped parsley in French cuisine.

Parsley is the main ingredient in Italian salsa verde, which is a mixed condiment of parsley, capers, anchovies, garlic, and bread soaked in vinegar. It is an Italian custom to serve it with bollito misto or fish. Gremolata, a mixture of parsley, garlic, and lemon zest, is a traditional accompaniment to the Italian veal stew, ossobuco alla milanese.

In England, parsley sauce is a roux-based sauce, commonly served over fish or gammon.

Root parsley is very common in Central and Eastern European cuisines, where it is used as a snack or a vegetable in many soups, stews, and casseroles, and as ingredient for broth.

In Brazil, freshly chopped parsley (salsa [ˈsawsɐ]) and freshly chopped scallion (cebolinha [sebuˈɫĩɲɐ]) are the main ingredients in the herb seasoning called cheiro-verde ([ˈʃejɾu ˈveʁdʒi], literally “green aroma”), which is used as key seasoning for major Brazilian dishes, including meat, chicken, fish, rice, beans, stews, soups, vegetables, salads, condiments, sauces and stocks. Cheiro-verde is sold in food markets as a bundle of both types of fresh herbs. In some Brazilian regions, chopped parsley may be replaced by chopped cilantro (coentro [ˈkwẽtɾu]) in the mixture.

Parsley is a key ingredient in several Middle Eastern salads such as Lebanesetabbouleh.

 

 

Freeze-dried parsley

Freeze-dried parsley

Parsley is a source of Flavonoid, and Antioxidants (especially luteolin), apigenin, folic acid, vitamin K, vitamin C, and vitamin A. Half a of tablespoon (a gram) of dried parsley contains about 6.0 µg of lycopene and 10.7 µg of alpha carotene as well as 82.9 µg of Lutein+Zeaxanthin and 80.7 µg of beta carotene.

Excessive consumption of parsley should be avoided by pregnant women. It is safe in normal food quantities, but large amounts may have uterotonic effects.

 

Herb and Spice of the Week – Juniper Berry

February 19, 2015 at 6:23 AM | Posted in Herb and Spice of the Week | 2 Comments
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Juniper berries, here still attached to a branch, are actually modified conifer cones.

Juniper berries, here still attached to a branch, are actually modified conifer cones.

A juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by the various species of junipers. It is not a true berry but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance. The cones from a handful of species, especially Juniperus communis, are used as a spice, particularly in European cuisine, and also give gin its distinctive flavor. According to one FAO document, juniper berries are the only spice derived from conifers, although tar and inner bark (used as a sweetener in Apache cuisines) from pine trees is sometimes considered a spice as well.

 
All juniper species grow berries, but some are considered too bitter to eat. In addition to J. communis, other edible species include Juniperus drupacea, Juniperus phoenicea, Juniperus deppeana, and Juniperus californica. Some species, for example Juniperus sabina, are toxic and consumption is inadvisable.
Juniperus communis berries vary from four to twelve millimeters in diameter; other species are mostly similar in size, though some are larger, notably J. drupacea (20–28 mm). Unlike the separated and woody scales of a typical pine cone, those in a juniper berry remain fleshy and merge into a unified covering surrounding the seeds. The berries are green when young, and mature to a purple-black colour over about 18 months in most species, including J. communis (shorter, 8–10 months in a few species, and about 24 months in J. drupacea). The mature, dark berries are usually but not exclusively used in cuisine, while gin is flavored with fully grown but immature green berries.

 
The flavor profile of young, green berries is dominated by pinene; as they mature this piney, resinous backdrop is joined by what Harold McGee describes as “green-fresh” and citrus notes. The outer scales of the berries are relatively flavorless, so the berries are almost always at least lightly crushed before being used as a spice. They are used both fresh and dried, but their flavor and odor are at their strongest immediately after harvest and decline during drying and storage.

 

Mature purple and younger green juniper berries

Mature purple and younger green juniper berries

Juniper berries are used in northern European and particularly Scandinavian cuisine to “impart a sharp, clear flavor” to meat dishes, especially wild birds (including thrush, blackbird, and woodcock) and game meats (including boar and venison). They also season pork, cabbage, and sauerkraut dishes. Traditional recipes for choucroute garnie, an Alsatian dish of sauerkraut and meats, universally include juniper berries. Besides Norwegian and Swedish dishes, juniper berries are also sometimes used in German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Hungarian cuisine, often with roasts (such as German sauerbraten). Northern Italian cuisine, especially that of the South Tyrol, also incorporates juniper berries.

Juniper, typically Juniperus communis, is used to flavor gin, a liquor developed in the 17th century in the Netherlands. The name gin itself is derived from either the French genièvre or the Dutch jenever, which both mean “juniper”. Other juniper-flavored beverages include the Finnish rye-and-juniper beer known as sahti, which is flavored with both juniper berries and branches. The brand Dry Soda produces a juniper-berry soda as part of its lineup. Recently, some American distilleries have begun using ‘New World’ varieties of juniper such as Juniperus occidentalis.

 

 

Juniper berry was first intended as a medication since juniper berries are a diuretic and were also thought to be an appetite stimulant and a remedy for rheumatism and arthritis. Native Americans are reported to have used the juniper berry as an appetite suppressant in times of hunger. Juniper berry is being researched as a treatment for diet-controlled diabetes, as it releases insulin from the pancreas, hence alleviating hunger. It is also said to have been used by some tribes as a female contraceptive.

 

 

A few North American juniper species produce a seed cone with a sweeter, less resinous flavor than those typically used as a spice. For example, one field guide describes the flesh of the berries of Juniperus californica as “dry, mealy, and fibrous but sweet and without resin cells”. Such species have been used not just as a seasoning but as a nutritive food by some Native Americans. In addition to medical and culinary purposes, Native Americans have also used the seeds inside juniper berries as beads for jewellery and decoration.

An essential oil extracted from juniper berries is used in aromatherapy and perfumery. The essential oil can be distilled out of berries which have already been used to flavor gin.

 

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