Two Wonderful Spices Of Fall And Winter
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Two Wonderful Spices Of Fall And Winter

The wonderful aroma of fall and winter spices. These spices are available all year however, their use is increased even more during the November and December holidays. What can make you feel more at home then the smell of a pumpkin or apple pie baking in the kitchen seeping with cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. What is a cup of eggnog without a sprinkle of nutmeg on top? Ginger is a strong, tasty spice included in many Asian and Indian recipes as well as the American favorite, ginger ale. Certain smells can trigger long ago family memories of Thanksgiving or Christmas at grandma's. These particular spices are just two of hundreds that have been with us forever and have rich, powerful histories.

Myristica fragrans (Nutmeg)

Nutmeg was a secret spice until the early fifteen hundreds when the Portuguese invader "Afonso de Albuquerque" conquered the Moluccas Islands and made it his mission to secure the trade routes from the "Spice Islands" in addition to spreading the word of Christianity. He forced the islanders to reveal the location of the once secret, Spice Islands. Once there, his fleet filled their ships with nutmeg and cloves. This was just one of many feats this "Military Genius" and Naval Commander accomplished during his lifetime.

It was used as incense during Roman Times. During the 1600's it considered an expensive spice in the Western part of the world. During my research I have found claims that this tree can reach over 50 feet in height and may produce its fruit for about 60 years. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, "The nutmeg fruit is a pendulous drupe, similar in appearance to an apricot. When fully mature it splits in two, exposing a crimson-coloured aril, the surrounding mace a single shiny, brown seed, the nutmeg."

Interestingly there have been claims that taken in large doses it can be a hallucinogen. It has been banned from some prisons because of that reason although, the effects also seem to include becoming sick as a dog and even convulsions, not fun. One should stick to a dash or two in eggnog, pumpkin pie and many other holiday recipes.

Zingiber offcinale (Ginger root)

Ginger has been used in many ways since ancient times. This is interesting since it is not found in the wild but grown from plants. Included in the plant family of ginger root are turmeric, and cardamom. It is also used in subtropical climates as landscaping plants since it's pink and white buds grow into yellow flowers. It is said to have originated from India although in the sixteen hundreds' the plants found themselves in; Africa, the Caribbean as well as in Asian countries. It's use in India can be traced back to the 4th century B.C. It was used in meat stews along with other spices. Ginger flavor is also added into curd products; teas, pastes as well as candy.

Throughout history ginger has also been known for its medicinal health benefits in many parts of the world. Helping upset stomachs, motion sickness as well as nausea, this wonderful spice is still used today as a remedy for these conditions by many. Unconfirmed uses of ginger that are being studied include; prevention of cancerous tumors, diabetic cataract and aiding the pain of arthritis. More intensive studies need to be conducted in these areas.

This spice is used in molasses cookies, pumpkin and apple pie as well as syrup for ice cream and mixed cocktails and punch. It can also be finely chopped and added to garlic, as a base for poultry and meat dishes. I have enjoyed ginger chicken, and ginger syrup mixed with soft tofu at Asian restaurants, wonderful flavor!

May all you readers enjoy these spices among many others with your old and new holiday recipes during this festive season. Knowing a little more about their history will hopefully add a little more "spice" to your enjoyment.


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