kitchen has always been a place where people would gather – at birthday
parties, celebrations, holidays, and family gatherings. The act of breaking
bread around a table is more than just a tasty experience, it is a way to provide
nurturing and show love. We see these same traits reflected around the globe in
many different cultures.
When we prepare a meal for special occasions,
especially during the holiday season, there are always certain spices that feature
in our winter dishes. So, let’s talk about herbs and spices. Generally, herbs come
from the green leaves of plants or vegetables. Spices come from other
parts of plants and trees. For example, cinnamon comes from the hard outer
cover of cinnamon plants. The spice ginger comes from the part of the ginger
plant that grows underground!
It is hard to imagine, in an era where spices can be found in almost every supermarket, how valuable they once were. Wars were fought, fortunes made and lost, new worlds discovered, and civilizations built for the spice trade. Spices were central to all important aspects of life: beauty (as perfume), health (as medicine), spiritual life (via their role in ritual), and, of course, sustenance (as a seasoning). From the regal orange pistils of saffron to the warm, woody bark that rendered cinnamon, they made food memorable and delicious. The fact that they came from faraway places added value. Exotic spices evoked foreign lands and stirred the imagination.
Historically, the lack of fresh produce in the winter months led people to rely more on spices. The winter months can be characterized by the rich, filling, and warming fragrances created by a selection of classic spices known as winter spices, or also commonly referred to as pie spices. Included under this title are anise, allspice, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger.
take a deeper dive into these spices! Each spice is explained below along with
a suggested use.
Native to Sri Lanka, cinnamon can also be found in India, Myanmar, and South America. This popular spice is brown in color, has a fragrant aroma, and a warm sweet flavor.
Cinnamon can help in relieving
indigestion and nausea. The next time you feel sick or
overwhelmingly full from a huge meal, try some cinnamon tea! Just simmer three
or four cinnamon sticks in two cups of water and sweeten with some honey.
Cloves are the unopened flower buds of the clove tree. Native to Indonesia and India, the clove tree produces flower buds in clusters. These clusters are pale in color at first, then become green, and then bright red when ready for harvesting.
Have you run out of candles this holiday season? Let cloves be your hero by sticking some into oranges and placing them around the house as decorative air-fresheners. You might also want to try chewing on a clove to get rid of bad breath, but do not swallow it! If you find yourself with muscle or joint pains, roast some cloves for a couple minutes, wrap them in a towel and apply to sore spots for relief.
Nutmeg is the spice made from a seed that grows on a tropical evergreen tree. The tree is native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. The spice nutmeg has a distinctive pungent fragrance and a warm slightly sweet taste. Did you know that the name nutmeg is also applied in different countries to other fruits or seeds, including Jamaica, Brazil, Peru, and Madagascar.
helps digestion, settles stomach aches and helps you fall asleep. Just add a
small pinch of ground nutmeg to a cup of warm ginger tea to help with stomach
problems. On nights you can’t fall asleep, heat up some milk and sprinkle in
some ground nutmeg.
Native to southeastern Asia, ginger’s use in India and China has been known from ancient times. The spice has a slightly biting taste and is used, usually dried and ground, to flavor breads, sauces, baked goods, and many other foods. In Japan, slices of ginger are eaten between dishes or courses to clear the palate.
helps increase circulation and relieves congestion and nausea. Make ginger tea
to help reboot your system. Steep one or two teaspoons of freshly grated
ginger or ½ teaspoon of powdered ginger in a cup of boiling water for 10
minutes. But beware, ginger can be pretty spicy! You can always make things
sweeter with a touch of honey.
Peppermint is a hybrid mint, a cross between watermint and spearmint. Native to Europe and the Middle East, the plant is cultivated all over the world. Peppermint has a strong sweetish odor and a warm pungent taste with a cooling aftertaste. Mint flowers are often dried and used to flavor candy, desserts, beverages, and other foods. Its essential oil is also widely used.
Peppermint can be very helpful as it stimulates digestion, eliminates nausea and toxins, and helps freshen your breath. If taking after-dinner mints or mint gum is not enough, try a cup of freshly brewed mint tea. Take two cups of fresh mint leaves and steep them in a pot of boiling water for a good 8-10 minutes and enjoy!
as you plan your holiday menu, which of these winter spices will make the cut and
appear in your favorite dishes? The benefits of using these spices go beyond
simply tasting great, but also provide plenty of health benefits too!
High Touch High Tech wishes you and your family a happy, healthy, warm, and spicy holiday season! And if you would like to keep the kiddos busy with some FUN, at-home science experiments during the holiday season, check out our STEM Gingerbread House Building Challenge. Find a list of what you need and instructions here: https://sciencemadefun.net/downloads/gingerbread_engineer.pdf