A few weeks ago, I wrote about black pepper and its origin. So this week, I decided to take on a couple other spices that are used quite frequently this time of year. The first spice is one that is …
A few weeks ago, I wrote about black pepper and its origin. So this week, I decided to take on a couple other spices that are used quite frequently this time of year. The first spice is one that is usually seen adorning a delicious baked ham for Christmas.
Of course I am speaking of cloves, those little, hard, brown darts that you don't want to step on in the dark. Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, [Syzygium aromaticum], an evergreen native to Indonesia. The flower buds initially have a pale hue, gradually turn green, then transition to a bright red when ready for harvest.
A major component of the clove taste is imparted by a chemical called eugenol, and the amount of the spice required is typically small to get the desired effect. Cloves pair well with another spice used quite often, cinnamon.
Cinnamon is a spice obtained from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree. Originating in southeast Asia from the family of trees in the genus Cinnamomum, cinnamon is one of the most widely used spices from cinnamon toast in the morning to cinnamon mocha lattes in the afternoon.
Now neither of these spices can be grown in your backyard around here, but there are a few spices or flavorings that are growing right now here in Sullivan County.
Birch, is a flavoring that has been around forever yet is hardly used. I can remember chewing birch twigs as a kid while outside playing. Black birch is the most flavorful of the birch trees and the one used for the making of birch beer. Almost all the birch beer made today is of the soda variety and contains no alcohol.
Birch beer has a taste similar to root beer and besides making soda, birch is hardly used at all anymore. Birch sticks can be used like cinnamon sticks as a flavoring for certain dishes and beverages. Birch is not as strong as cinnamon, so you will need to have more birch on hand, but luckily it grows locally.
Another beneficial bark in your backyard is willow bark. Now willow bark is not really a flavoring, it is more like an herbal medicine. The use of willow bark dates to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when people were advised to chew on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation.
Willow bark has been used throughout the centuries and continues to be used today for the treatment of pain, headache, and inflammatory conditions, such as bursitis and tendonitis. The bark of white willow contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid).
In combination with the herb's powerful anti-inflammatory plant compounds, called flavonoids, salicin is thought to be responsible for the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of the herb. In fact, in the 1800s, salicin was used to develop aspirin. White willow appears to bring pain relief more slowly than aspirin, but its effects may last longer.
Even though white willow contains the most, salicin, it can also be found in the common weeping willows around here. And you may even know someone that has a white willow as they can grow here, even though they are native to Europe. I guess that is why beavers like willow so much.
If you are going to be as busy as a beaver, you might want some willow bark tea, to sooth your aches and pains.