Herbs and Spices for Health

Inner health and vitality the natural way.

Fenugreek Health Benefits

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Herbs, Spicesfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Fenugreek or Trigonella foenum-graecum is grown world wide from an annual plant of the Fabaceae family.

fenugreek methi plant

The fenugreek (methi) plant grows to around 30cm and likes full sun.

The plant grows to a height of around 60cm or 2 feet and produces white flowers with long yellow seed pods.

Fenugreek History

It is believed that the fenugreek plant was found originally from the Mediterranean through the Middle East to the Indian Subcontinent. Charred fenugreek seeds which show an indication of being added to cooked food have been found in Iraq which were dated to 4,000BCE.  The Egyptians in their embalming process used fenugreek.  Dried seeds were discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun the Egyptian boy king.

The Greeks on the other hand found fenugreek to be excellent fodder for their cattle and for this reason it became known by the Latin name foenum graecum which means Greek Hay.  It is easy to see how the present name fenugreek descended from the Latin.

In medicinal terms, fenugreek was seen by Hippocrates, the father of medicine, as a soothing herb.  One of its uses was to treat burns.  Pedanius Dioscorides the physician and botanist who wrote the De Materia Medica, a 5 volume encyclopedia on things medical which was used for 1,500 years after it was published in the first century AD, used fenugreek to treat inflammation of the genitals.

Fenugreek Cultivation

Today fenugreek is grown mainly in Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, India, Iran, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Spain and Turkey.  India is by the far largest producer of fenugreek where it is known as methi.  Certain states or provinces within India are more prevalent as producers and they include: Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh.  Of these Rajasthan is the highest producer accounting for 80 per cent of the total for India.

Aesthetic bunch of fenugreek greens

Green fenugreek leaves or methi leaves are a rice source of iron.

Fenugreek Health Benefits

As mentioned earlier, fenugreek has been known to have health benefits throughout history.  As with much of natures’ pharmacy, scientists are still working to discover the efficacy of many herbs and spices and whether the effectiveness is merely popular belief or fact.  Fenugreek health benefits that are supposed to be true are as follows:

Qasuri methi dried

Keep some dried fenugreek leaves in the pantry to add a little zest to your cooking.

Fenugreek in the Kitchen

The seeds and the leaves of fenugreek can be used equally well and provide a similar taste.  These can be used to add a zest of spice to dishes and work well with other herbs and spices.  The dry or frozen leaves retain a similar taste to the fresh leaves and therefore you can always have some on hand to spice up a dish.  The flavours are a complex combination of sweetness and bitterness.  To reduce the bitterness of the seeds it is advisable to roast them in the frying pan with a bit of oil to start when beginning to the meal preparation and then add the leaves toward the end of the preparation so that there is a consistent flavour throughout.

Fenugreek in the Garden

Make sure you get good quality seeds from your plant shop.

The fenugreek seed needs good fertile well drained soil.  If you are starting in the winter then make sure they are either indoors or somewhere not exposed to frost.  The seeds need to be just under a centrimetre deep and then well covered.  The seeds should be spaced around 10cm apart and you can expect them to grow to around 30cm tall.  The seedlings should emerge after a week to a week and a half.  Flowering should start from about mid summer.

Once they are growing you may notice a sweet maple like smell in the garden.  Fenugreek is actually used as an ingredient in synthetic maple syrup.

I hope we have been able to help you understand a bit more about fenugreek.  As always we would love to hear your thoughts on fenugreek so feel free to use the comments below.

Be aware that the health benefits outlined about fenugreek are general in nature and may not work the same for everyone.  If you want to use fenugreek to combat a medical complaint, your medical professional should be consulted.

Organic Fenugreek Seed Powder Jar

Fenugreek Seed Capsules

Mint – Do we have Pluto to thank for this popular herb?

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Spicesfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Mint is such a big part of our lives and has been for thousands of years. Where does it come from, how has been


The mint plant has opposing leaf pairs and will take over your garden if not contained.

used in the past and what can it do for you?

Mint in History

The use of mint has been documented back to ancient times.  Greek mythology explains that the creation of mint was actually the result of jealousy.  It is said that the nymph Minthe attracted the eye of Pluto, God of the underworld.  As opposed to Pluto the planet.  The New Horizons Spacecraft photos have shown so far no sign of the


It is said that the nymph Minthe attracted the eye of Pluto,

God of the underworld.  As opposed to Pluto the planet.



herb.  So Pluto the underworld God had a soft spot for Minthe or Mintho and this was noticed by his wife Persephone (Proserpine) who, as it was, had been brought down to rule the underworld with Pluto by force. Persephone became very jealous and to put an end to this she turned Minthe or Mintho into a plant.  The plant was very fragrant but it was a plant nevertheless.

Throughout the ages mint has been a valuable commodity and featured in religious rite as well as in the kitchen. The ancient Assyrians used it in the worship of their fire god.  The Bible mentions that mint was one of the herbs that could be used to pay taxes.

Its culinary benefits were known to the Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians as far back as 1,000 BCE.  It was used to flavour food and wine.  The Jews would have mint leaves strewn on the floor of their synagogues so that as the faithful trampled them, they would release their scent and the air would be sanitised.  Breathing in this air loaded with the disinfectant scented air, the lungs and then the bloodstream would be purified.  No doubt the smell would be more pleasant than a crowded synagogue in summer.

The original or base varieties of mint were Spearmint and Water Mint.  Peppermint was not described until the 1690s in England.


Remnant of a bygone age when Mitcham, Surrey produced the best quality mint in the world.

The culinary and medicinal value of peppermint was recognised and it was added to the London Pharmacopoeia in 1721.  By 1750 the herb was being commercially grown in Mitcham, Surrey which is just southwest of London near Wimbledon.  The purpose of cultivating the mint was to harvest the oils from the leaves and stems.  These were used not only for cooking but also in personal care products.  By the end of the 1700s there were around 100 acres given over to growing mint in Mitcham but until 1805 the fresh product still had to be transported to London for oil extraction.  By 1850 there were 500 acres planted in mint and it was accepted that the mint oil produced in Mitcham was the finest in the world.

The mantle of foremost mint oil producer has now firmly moved to the United States.  After its introduction there in 1855, it has mushroomed to thousands of acres being planted from Florida to Canada.  The foremost states producing mint oil are: California, Indiana, Michigan, Oregon and Washington, with Washington being the highest.

How Does Mint Grow?

The mint plant grows in most climates and is a creeping plant.  It is a perennial herb and grows all year round. It likes cool moist places and can often be found near water such as lakes, creeks and ponds.  I likes partial shade but some varieties don’t mind full sunlight.  Mint, being a creeper can be quite invasive.  It throws out runners on which roots develop and will take over if not kept in check.  The best method is to plant it in the garden in a bottomless pot so that it can root nicely but be kept contained.  It is also a good companion plant as it repels unwanted insects whilst attracting the ones you want around your other plants.  To plant the mint it is best to take a runner from another plant which has started to throw out roots.  This way you know exactly what you are getting as growing


A lovely refreshing mint tea.

from seeds can be a bit hit or miss.

The leaves, and stems of the leaves, are those that give the mint flavour and can be readily trimmed from your growing plant to add to your cooking.  The plant grows very quickly so you will find you don’t need a garden full of plants to support your needs.  Trimming the plant regularly will encourage fresh growth.

Mint in the kitchen

Mint is a very versatile herb and goes with nearly all kinds of food.  It mixes well and compliments many of the other herbs and spices incuding: parsley, coriander(cilantro), basil, dill, cumin, sumac, garlic, ginger, and curry powder or paste.  The list is endless and really only limited by your will to experiment.  Try using it with: apples, apricots, berries, cherries, chocolate, cocktails, dates, figs, jellies, Lamb, limes, oranges, pears, plums, pork chops, potatoes, sauces, and summer melons.

When choosing mint leaves look for those that are nice and green with no curling or dark marks.   Leaves can be stored for a few days in the fridge by wrapping them in a damp paper towel and then sealing them into a plastic bag.  They should be kept in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.

Mint can be used at the beginning of cooking to let the flavour truly infuse into your creation, or toward the end as a garnish.  Which ever way you use it, be sure to chop the leaves immediately before adding to the dish as the leaves will start to droop and blacken around the edges very quickly after cutting.

Mint for Health

It has long been accepted that mint has has health benefits.  What are they specifically?  As far as nutrition goes, mint is rich in Vitamins A and C as well as manganese and iron.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that it is effective in the following areas:


Add mint to almost any meal as it is with this chicken Maryland.

Indigestion – The calming effect of mint helps to relax the stomach muscles while at the same time promoting the production of bile.  This is effective for many stomach related complaints as it helps the stomach and digestive system to work effectively.  This also helps expectant mothers with morning sickness.

Pain – Mint has a cooling affect that when added topically to an area, cools it and makes it feel a little numb. This has the effect of reducing the ache or pain.  If the fumes of mint are inhaled it has the effect of relaxing and calming the whole body and can be effective in fighting nausea and headaches.

Oral Hygiene – Because of the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of mint, it is great to use for oral hygiene.  To combat tooth decay and bad breath you can chew on some fresh mint leaves to ensure your tongue, teeth and mouth are free of bad germs.  This is why mint is so much a part of oral products such as toothpaste and breath fresheners.

Coughs and Colds – The menthol in mint is an active agent in opening up your air passages.  It also is an expectorant so can release and allow you to eject phlegm from your system.  Breathing in the vapour from a drop of mint oil in hot water can free up the passages as well as allow the anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties to go to work on the germs that cause these complaints.

Asthma and Hayfever – Because mint is rich with the antioxidant rosmarinic acid, it is effective against leukotrienes which are instrumental in producing  allergic reactions such as rhinitis, better known as hayfever.  It is also effective for asthma sufferers.

Menstrual Cramps – Mint helps to purify the blood and this goes a long way to helping with this condition.  Just a mint tea will be enough to make a difference.

Immune System – The vitamins and minerals in mint make it an effective way of boosting the immune system.

Cancer – Perillyl alcohol a strong phytochemical contained in mint has been shown to be effective against, skin, lung and colon cancer in animal tests.  Human tests are still being conducted, however, there is nothing lost in adding mint to your diet in the mean time.

Skin – The anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties of mint are very helpful in fighting pimples and acne.  The antioxidants give the skin a youthful glow.

If you intend to use mint as a health remedy of any sort please first consult your medical professional.  The observations are general and may vary from person to person.

Mint is such a big part of our lives, I would love to hear how you use it.  If you have any ideas you wish to share please feel free to comment.

Thank you.

Yogi Refreshing Mint Vital Energy Tea

Choice Organic Green Moroccan Mint Tea

Rosemary – A delicious food addition plus rosemary oil for hair growth.

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Herbsfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

In the bush form the, shrub can reach heights between 1.5 metres (5 feet) and 2 metres (6 feet 7 inches) tall.

Rosemary, or Rosmarinus officinalis is a member of the the mint family.  The shrub like plant has pointy needle like leaves and can either grow upright as a bush or as a ground cover trailing over rough terrain.  In the bush form the, shrub can reach heights between 1.5 metres (5 feet) and 2 metres (6 feet 7 inches) tall.

The rosemary plant is native to the Mediterranean and Southern Asia where it is a perennial evergreen.  It can also survive in cooler climates being very hardy and drought resistant.  The pointy leaves range between 2cm (0.6in) to 4cm (1.6in) in length.  The rosemary bush can flower at various times throughout the year with flowers ranging in colour from white, pink, purple to deep blue.

Rosemary History

There is quite a bit of myth and legend tied up with rosemary.

In Greek mythology it is said that Aphrodite emerged from the sea draped in rosemary, which if you think about it would have to have been a rather prickly affair.  Being the Goddess of pleasure and all the good stuff I’m sure she knew what she was doing.  The Latin translation for rosemary is “dew of the sea” , ros = dew and marinus = sea.

Aphrodite emerged from the sea draped in rosemary


In Christian stories it is said the shrub was named for the virgin Mary.  Whilst taking a rest, it is said she threw a blue rug over some creeping rosemary which was blooming with white flowers.  After taking her rest on the spongy plant her rug was removed to show blue flowers.  It was henceforth known as the “Rose of Mary”.


The rosemary bush can flower at various times throughout the year with flowers ranging in colour from white, pink, purple to deep blue.

Throughout history rosemary has been associated with remembrance, fidelity, friendship and love.  It was common at weddings in the middle ages and also at funerals where sprigs were placed around the body.  This could also have been to help with the smells of decomposition.  Perhaps for a similar reason, the French used to burn juniper berries with rosemary in hospitals to correct vitiated air and clear it of infections.

There is a belief that rosemary aided with memory which was believed to have originated with the ancient Greeks.

Rosemary has also been credited with protective properties.  In the great plague it was believed to have offered protection against this deadly disease.  This caused the value of rosemary to escalate to never heard of amounts. Whether it was efficacious or not, we may never know.

Travellers on the road would often wear rosemary in their hats to ward off witches and other miscreants that might threaten them as they made their way.  If one takes into account that garlic was also often carried for similar reasons pertaining to werewolves and the like, it seems a handcart would have become necessary to carry it all.

Rosemary in the Kitchen

Aside from assigning imagined or real properties to rosemary, it has been a welcome addition to food for quite some time now.  The leaves of the plant are used in either dry or fresh form.  The astringent taste of the leaves helps to complement many cooked foods.  The aroma it gives off also adds to the sensory experience.  The taste goes very well with cooked meats and vegetables. Being quite woody, it lends itself very well to barbecues where the charred woody taste adds to the whole effect.  Rosemary is a very popular ingredient in Italian cooking and is part of the signature flavour of many of their wonderful dishes.

As well as cooked food, rosemary is also a poplar herbal tea.

Rosemary Essential Oil


Rosemary essential oil is one of the most potent of the essential oils.

Rosemary essential oil is one of the most potent of the essential oils and we will discuss below some of the benefits this oil gives to your health.  It has been known for quite some time to; aide memory, help with digestion and also relieve muscular aches and pains.

For men it is interesting to note that there is anecdotal evidence to suggest the benefits of rosemary oil for hair growth.  It has been said to arrest hair loss and graying by rubbing the oil intro the scalp.

Rosemary for Health

So what benefits can we expect from the rosemary plant?

Promotion of hair growth – This will be good news for those men out there and even women who are concerned about or are experiencing hair loss.  The effects of rubbing rosemary essential oil into your scalp can increase micro-circulation in the scalp which promotes healing, encourages more rapid hair growth as well as new hair growth. Whilst rosemary oil is found in many shampoos, it is not in the amounts that would be of any use in promoting new or existing hair growth.


good news for those men out there and even women

who are concerned about or are experiencing hair loss


Memory Stimulant – Using rosemary to aide in memory stimulation has been practised as far back as the ancient Greeks who would wear it when taking exams.  This has been proven to be effective in university studies where rosemary has helped to stimulate memory function and make people generally more alert.  It has also been shown that effective use of aromatherapy using rosemary and lemon has helped with elderly patients suffering from Alzheimers’ and dementia.   Breathing in vapour of the two mixed together each morning has shown good results.

Liver Detox –  Rosemary has been found in studies to increase bile flow.  This stimulation of the gallbladder that produces the bile goes a long way to promoting the metabolising and detoxification of fat.  The additional bile flow also helps to reduce plasma liver enzymes which can prompt type 2 diabetes.  The higher production of bile from the gallbladder also ensures that correct peristaltic muscle action is promoted which ensures that nutrients travel through the gut in a constant manner without any toxic back tracking.

Lowering Cortisol Levels – Cortisol is a hormone that is released by the body, generally in times of stress.  It increases blood sugar levels as well as suppressing the immune system.  It is basically part of the adrenaline system that give us the fight or flight ability.  Obviously sustained periods of of high cortisol in the system is not a good thing. In tests is it was found that rosemary and lavender oil aromatherapy not only reduced the amount of cortisol in the system but also enhanced free radical scavenging.  This protects the body from oxidative stress related diseases.

How do you use rosemary essential oil?

Hair Growth or Re-growth – Put five drops of rosemary essential oil on your scalp and massage it in.  Do this after shower or bath.

Pain Relief – Add 2 drops of rosemary essential oil to 2 drops of peppermint oil and then 1 teaspoon of coconut oil. Rub this over the affected area to relieve joint or muscle pain.

Gallbladder – To improve gallbladder function, take 3 drops of rosemary oil and mix with a quarter teaspoon of coconut oil.  Rub this over the area of your gallbladder which is located on your right side/front near bottom of your rib cage.

Prostate – To relieve prostate aggravation, take 2 drops of rosemary oil, half a teaspoon of coconut oil and apply it behind the testicles.


A potted rosemary plant will generally stay the size of the pot.

Memory – To give you that extra memory enhancement, take 3 drops of rosemary oil and mix with half a teaspoon of coconut oil.  Either rub this on the upper neck or diffuse it in your room for at least an hour a day.

The findings above are general and may vary from person to person.  If you are hoping to alleviate a particular condition or ailment, please be sure consult with your medical professional first.

Growing the Rosemary Plant

The rosemary plant is very easy to grow and also propagates well from a cutting. To plant rosemary cuttings what I found works well is just nipping the end off a branch, maybe 3cm (1.2 inches) to 5cm (2 inches) in length and leaving it in a glass of water on a windowsill for a week or two.  It will start throw a root out at which point you can put it into soil, either a pot or straight into the garden.  Be sure to avoid damp areas as they are drought resistant and don’t require or like a lot of water.

Thank you for visiting us here at Healthy Spices and Herbs.  If you have anything you would like to share about rosemary please feel free to leave a comment.  We would love to hear how you use it and what results you get.

Organic Rosemary Leaf Powder Jar

Organic Rosemary Leaf Whole Jar


Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Herbsfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Basil shoots after 12 days. Grow your own basil and have a fresh supply on hand all the time.

Basil is an herb of the mint family and comes from the Ocimum basilicum plant. Basil is also known as St. Josephs’ Wort.  The word Basil comes from the Greek word “basileus”, meaning King.  No doubt there may be some mythology tied up with this, or simply that many consider basil the king of herbs. There are two main types, being Sweet Basil and Thai Basil.  You can find around 160 derivatives or cultivars of the basil plant, but they all derive from the two basic strains above.  The basil plant itself or Ocimum basilicum grows to a maximum of 130cm (51 inches), although some varieties only get to height of 30cm (12 inches).  The leaves of the basil plant are light green, quite silky and are around 3 to 11 cm (1.2 to 4.3 in) in length.  In most cases the basil plant is a relatively hardy annual plant although in tropical climates it can be a perennial, giving several years of produce.

It is the leaves of the plant that are mainly used for culinary purposes, however, in some Asian countries the seeds which are quite gelatinous are used in drinks such as: sherbet, faluda or hột é.

Basil Herb History

Basil has been in use for around 5,000 years.  It is believed to have originated in India where it was seen as a sacred herb.  Once known as the Toolsee Plant, it was planted around temples as well as being laid around the dead at funerals.  It was believed to be a protector, so no holy event was complete without the inclusion of basil or Toolsee.  In other countries like; Malaysia, Iran and Egypt it is also laid around the dead, but this is more an expression of love rather than as a protector.

Basil has also had many negative connotations in history as well.  In ancient Greece for example, the planting of basil was traditionally accompanied by lots of cursing and shouting.  This has lead to the French expression of semer le basilic (sow basil) which means to slander.  The ancient Greeks and Romans also believed that basil signified poverty, misfortune and disharmony.  In their view the plant would only grow where such conditions prevailed.

In Crete the herb was seen as a way of keeping the devil out and was placed on windowsills as a deterrent against his influence.  I suppose this is not too dissimilar to the Hindus’ using it for its protective properties.

Chastity was another thing that basil was supposed to be a good indicator for.  The leaves of the plant would whither in the hands of all but the pure.

Breathing in too much Basil can

cause scorpions to grow in your brain

It seems strange but Basil has had so many varied properties attached to it in peoples’ beliefs.  It was thought to be a poison at one stage because the plant would not flourish next to the Rue plant (Ruta graveolens) which was known to be an enemy of poisons.  There was even a belief which seems to have originated with an English physician in the 1500s, that breathing in basil would result in an infestation of scorpions in the brain.  Maybe this was a case of something new being introduced so it can’t be good.  Let’s face it, when the Conquistadors first saw tomatoes they assumed them to be poisonous, what a shame if no one had ever got past that assumption.

Basil arrived in England in the 1500s and was taken by the English to the New World of North America in that same century.


Basil leaves are best used fresh as they lose their flavour fairly quickly. They can be refrigerated in a plastic bag for a few days.

Basil in the Cooking

The basil leaf is most often used in cooked foods and is added near the end of the process as the leaves lose much of their flavour if cooked for too long.  The smell of the basil leaf is quite pungent and strong, even sweet.  The taste is not too dissimilar to anise (aniseed).  The leaves whilst losing their flavour fairly quickly, can be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag for a few days or even frozen.  If freezing the leaves, it is advisable to blanch them in boiling water very quickly and then freeze them.

Basil can also be obtained in the dried form as well, but the flavour is quite different, almost like hay actually.

Basil can be grown in the garden much like other herbs and like other herbs it can also be grown indoors.  The pot should be well drained so that the soil can be moist but not wet so that the roots do not rot.  The advantage of having herbs like basil in a kitchen herb garden means that you always have access to the fresh leaf which can be trimmed off as required, washed and then added to the food being prepared.

The herb is extensively used in Italian food.  Sweet Basil is predominantly used and some of the subspecies you may find under Sweet Basil are: Genovese Basil, Purple Ruffles Basil, Mammoth Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Lemon Basil, Globe Basil, and African Blue Basil.  In Southeast Asia it is extensively used in:  Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China and Taiwan. The most commonly used varieties in Asia are:  Thai Basil, Lemon Basil and Holy Basil.

Basil Health Benefits

Like many of the spices and herbs we talk about here on Healthy Spices and Herbs, basil comes packed with some pretty impressive health benefits.  It is a rich or very good source of Vitamin A, C and K, Iron, Calcium and omega 3 fatty acids to mention the main ones.

The benefits of basil have been known through the ages.  The Ayurveda for example, which is traditional Hindu medicine notes that Tulsi which is Holy Basil, is efficacious for complaints such as: coughs, colds, flu, digestive gas


Veggie Wrap Rice Paper glass noodle lettuce carrot and Thai basil.

and bloating.  The essential oils are a strong antiseptic, effective against bacteria, parasites and fungi.

Today it is widely accepted that basil leaves are effective in promoting health as well as protecting the body in the following areas:

Anti-inflammatory: – The volatile essential oils in the leaf of the basil plant have shown to be effective in blocking the cyclooxygenase enzyme.  This essentially is the same thing that is done by many anti-inflammatories that are bought across the counter.  This more natural way gets my vote.

Cardio: Through beta carotene which gives the rich vitamin A and magnesium among a few other things, cell walls are protected from free radicals.  The build up of bad cholesterol (LDL) is prevented which improves and maintains blood flow.

Anti-bacteria: The essential oils in the basil leaf are effective as an anti-bacterial.  Its effectiveness against bacteria such as some of the pathogenic varieties makes it a natural alternative to antibiotics.

As always, results may differ from person to person.  This is not given as medical advice so much as a guide to eating more healthy foods.  If you are working to resolve a medical complaint please be sure to consult your medical professional.

Thank you for stopping by and  reading about basil.  If you already use this herb, perhaps you might like to share your favourite recipe.

Organic Basil Leaf Jar

NF Basil Citrus Le Stick Deodorant

Oregano Benefits Health and Taste Enjoyment.

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Herbsfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Oregano, also known as sweet marjoram is an herb of the mint family.  It is naturally found in the Mediterranean countries as well as Central Asia.  The plant itself is perennial although if it is planted in cooler climates it is grown


The oregano plant. A perennial in warmer climates and an annual in colder climates.

as an annual, being planted in early spring. The Oregano plant grows anywhere from 20cm (8 inches) to 80cm (32 inches) in height with leaves are spade shaped and grow in pairs opposing each other on the stem.

The olive green leaves are the part of the plant that is used the most for culinary as well as medicinal purposes.

Oregano History

According to Greek mythology, Aphrodite who was the goddess of all the good stuff like; love, beauty, procreation and pleasure, gave oregano to the people to make them happy.  The name oregano actually comes from the Greek phrase “Joy of the Mountains”.   Married couples would wear it in their hair to ensure a happy marriage.  The leaves of oregano were used to flavour food and it was believed that cows that grazed on oregano leaves gave tastier meat.  It was also discovered by Greek physicians that the herb had medicinal benefits for a variety of ailments and complaints.  Hippocrates noted that oregano and marjoram were effective as an antiseptic.

The Romans took many things from Ancient Greek culture, including the love for oregano.  They were instrumental in spreading this easily grown herb throughout their empire of Europe, Near Asia and North Africa.  They found that the herb added a wonderful flavour to meat, fish and even their wine.

As people moved around more, the herb found its way to China, probably via the Silk Road.  Oregano was one of the few herbs and spices available in middle age Europe and was used to liven up the pretty tasteless food that was on offer.  Its medicinal properties were also very valuable at this time.

Strangely enough, the herb did not make its way to North America until after the Second World War.  American soldiers who had served in the Italian War Theatre fell in love with the rich favour that it added to pizzas and other foods, and brought it home with them.

Oregano Plant Uses

Oregano has quite a pungent taste, perhaps a little more than marjoram and also not as sweet as marjoram.  There are two ways to buy oregano leaves, either fresh or dried leaves.  The dry leaves actually have a stronger flavour


Choose the brightly coloured unblemished leaves.

than the fresh ones and can be stored in a dry dark place for up to six months.  When selecting fresh leaves at your grocer, be sure to choose the brighter coloured unblemished leaves.  These can be stored in your refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to three days.

Foods that go well with oregano include: veal, lamb, fish, mushrooms, chicken, aubergine(egg plant), tomatoes, pork, beans, sausages, pizza, pasta etc.  Most foods really.

Dried oregano leaves are generally used in the cooking of various foods whereas the fresh leaves are more often sprinkled on top as a garnish.  Taste wise, if you are experimenting with the flavours be aware that you will need around three times the amount of fresh leaves to achieve the same level of taste as the more concentrated dry leaves.  When preparing the fresh leaves they need to be removed from the relatively woody stems, thoroughly washed and then rubbed between the palms of your hands to help release the oils of the leaves.

Oregano Medicinal Uses

As mentioned earlier, the Ancient Greeks found oregano to have health and medical benefits.  This was found to be true across a number of cultures around the world.  The use of oregano is either by ingestion of the leaves in either their fresh or dried state, or oil that is extracted from those leaves.  Some of the most common areas where oregano helps are:

Immune System: Oregano packs quite a punch with the antioxidants it contains.  In fact it contains around 42 times the amount found in apples and compares very favourably against most fruits, cereals, berries and vegetables.  The antioxidants are also beneficial in reducing the bad cholesterol (LDLs) and therefore are useful in combating heart disease.

Cancer: Carnosol, a phytochemical in oregano has been shown to be effective in arresting the growth and killing off cancer cells particularly in colon cancer.  It has also shown positive results in; leukemia, breast, skin and prostate cancers.

Anti-Inflammatory: This welcome news for sufferers of osteoporosis and arteriosclerosis.  The beta-caryophyllin (E-BCP) contained in oregano can fight inflammation.  This could also be useful for gout and metabolic syndrome.

Upper Respiratory Infections: The antiviral property in oregano can be helpful in relieving colds and flu.  The higher the carvacrol content the more effective it is.  Oregano can encourage sweating as a way of detoxification.


A sprig of oregano in a bottle of vinegar infuses to give a nice rich flavour.

Antibacterial and Anti-fungal: The anti-microbials in oregano; carvacrol and thymol, have been shown to be effective against; listeria, certain strains of candida and the super-bug MRSA.  Tests have shown that a dilution of 1:1000 of oregano essential oil in water is effective in killing the bug and can be in the form of water or vapor.  This means of course that boiling does not diminish its effectiveness.

Digestion and Congestion: Two or three drops of oregano in milk or juice can help to relieve indigestion.  It is also useful in decongesting sinuses as well as being an expectorant removing mucus from lungs, trachea and bronchi.  Pneumonia is also treatable by adding a few drops of oil to a steaming bowl of water and inhaling the steam.  This is more effective if you put towel over your head while leaning over the bowl to trap the steam.

Whooping Cough: This should work for all coughs, but rubbing the oil on the chest and also on the soles of the feet will relieve this complaint.  Diffusing sticks can also be effective in adding the oil to the surrounding air in a room.

Skin Conditions: The anti-microbial properties of oregano can make it very effective in fighting skin complaints such as acne, athletes foot and pimples.  Apply the oil topically to the affected area.

It is easy to see why the ancients found oregano to be so valuable in medical terms.  As well as being a wonderful


Greek Koukouvagia (“owl”), a dried bread made from barley with oil, tomato, cheese, oregano and olives. Real taverna food.

flavour addition to your culinary products, the health benefits come as a very welcome side effect.  Like most herbs, you can grow your own oregano plant(s) and take the fresh leaves as you need them.  They will survive in pots so can become part of any kitchen herb garden you might be thinking of starting.

Thank you for visiting us here.  We would of course love to hear any other uses you have for oregano, so please feel free to comment back.

Note:  The health benefits above are general findings and may not work in exactly the same way for everybody.  If you have any doubts please see a medical professional.

Organic Oregano Leaf Jar


Coriander (Also Known as Cilantro or Dhania) – Read some great Coriander Nutrition Facts.

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Spices · Tags: facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Coriander and Cilantro

Coriander, which is also known as Cilantro in the Americas and parts of Europe, Dhania in India or Chinese Parsley, is an herb in the Apiaceae family.  It occurs naturally across a band taking in Southern Europe and Northern Africa and stretching to South East Asia.

Coriander Plant

The coriander plant has umbrella shaped flower clusters which give a spherical shaped fruit.

The plant itself grows to a height of 50cm or 20in and is soft to touch.  The leaves differ from the bottom to the top of the plant but generally they resemble a variegated three leaf clover.  The flowers are either white or pinkish white and are in umbrella shaped bunches.  The resultant fruit is spherical in shape and up to half a centimeter in diameter (around 0.2 In).

The coriander plant is a very versatile one as all its parts are used.  The leaves of course are used in cooking, the seeds are used as a spice and even the root is used to add flavours to curries and the like.

Coriander History

The use of coriander or cilantro goes back to ancient times where it appears in Sanskrit writings.  The Bibles’ Book of Numbers compares coriander to Manna.  In tombs of the 21st Ancient Egyptian Dynasty, coriander seeds were preserved, even though they do not grow naturally in Egypt.  This leads to the conclusion that they must have been cultivated there or imported.  The name coriander is said to derive from the Greek word koriannon, which basically means a bug insect.  This is thought to refer to the plants’ smell.

The use of the coriander plant throughout history has been as a spice, an herb and also medicinal.  The late bronze age invaders of the British Isles brought coriander with them to not only flavour their barley gruel, but also to use along with cumin and vinegar to preserve their meat.

The British brought coriander to their American colonies in 1670 and the Spanish likewise brought it to Mexico and Peru where it very quickly became an important a part of local cuisine.

The Chinese believed coriander would enhance the chances of eternal life as well as agreeing with most other cultures that it had aphrodisiac properties.

Coriander Production

Many countries in the world produce coriander, whether it be for export or for their own local use. The main products from the plant are: Fresh leaves, dried leaves, freeze dried leaves, whole seeds, ground seeds (powder),

Coriander Leaves

The soft stems and leaves of the coriander.

oil and  oleoresin extracts.  The main producing countries are: India, Pakistan, Bulgaria, Canada, Morocco, and Romania.

Other than the obvious use of the leaves and seeds as food flavouring.  For example, in India, up to 40% of the worlds coriander supply is used in the making of curry powder.  Extracts are also used in the making of Gin and various liqueurs.  The product is also to be found in sausages, pickles, soft drinks, confectionery and snack foods.

Coriander or Cilantro Health Benefits

Throughout the ages it has been known that coriander has many health benefit properties.  Some have been a bit of a stretch maybe, such as eternal life.  But then again, it is ok to lie about your age, so who knows.  Eat up, I say.

Let’s look at the proven claims for coriander at least and you will see that it is another super food that really needs to become part of your diet.  The leaves and their seeds are quite different in their nutritional content.  The leaves and stems of the plant are rich in vitamin A, C and K.  They also have a moderate level of dietary minerals.  The seeds on the other hand are low in vitamins but have a high level of; calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, manganese and selenium.

So what health benefits are there from the coriander plant?

Cholesterol: The various acids found in coriander, including vitamin C ascorbic acid are very effective in fighting the bad cholesterol known as LDLs.  This goes a long way to preventing diseases such as stroke, cardiovascular heart disease as well as arteriosclerosis.  In addition, coriander is active in increasing the good cholesterol known as HDLs which help the body combat various ailments.


Coriander seeds are ground into powder.

Blood Pressure: Elements in coriander work with the nervous system to relax tension in the blood vessels thereby  reducing blood pressure.  This is another factor in working toward combating heart disease and stroke.

Anti-allergenic: Coriander has been proven to have anti-histamine properties and can be effective in with hay-fever or seasonal allergies.  The oil of the plant is also effective with skin allergies in those cases where you may have rubbed up against a plant that gives you a reaction.  It is a good idea to include it in your diet just for this reason as we don’t know what we are allergic to until we come into contact with it.  Just be aware that there are some who have an allergy to coriander so if you are not sure, start with small amounts in your cooking.

Salmonella: Coriander contains a compound called dodecenal which is twice as effective as an anti-biotic when combating the very dangerous salmonella bacteria.  By adding some coriander into your life you can be protected from this sometimes fatal and at best very uncomfortable disease.

Bones: Being very rich in calcium, coriander is an easy way of ensuring you get a meaningful dose to help with the health of your bones.  To avoid osteoporosis and other bone related complaints, particularly later in life, keep the calcium levels up with coriander.  The calcium content is higher in the center leaf.

Digestion: It has been found that coriander stimulates the enzymes and digestive juices required by the stomach to properly digest food.  It is effective in combating indigestion and can also be given in small amounts to children to combat colic.  Coriander can also be effective in fighting anorexia.   Diarrhea sufferers also benefit from the secretion of of digestive juices, in addition, diarrhea can be cured by the anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties of coriander.

Skin: Components in coriander contain anti-rheumatic and anti-arthritic properties which reduce swelling brought about by these complaints.  Coriander also helps with water retention as it triggers urination.  The anti-septic, anti-fungal and anti-oxidant properties also fight off fungus, dryness and eczema.

Anemia: Coriander is rich in iron and therefore is valuable in avoiding iron deficiency related complains such as: reduced cognitive functions, shortness of breath, heart palpitations and extreme fatigue.

Eyes: Beta-carotene in coriander leaves can combat various eye diseases and even reverse vision degradation that comes with age.  Anti-oxidants, phosphorous and vitamins A and C are effective in fighting macular degeneration and other vision disorders.  The disinfectant in coriander also fights conjunctivitis.

Diabetes: Coriander stimulates the secretion of insulin from the pancreas, which ensures that the correct level of insulin is in the blood stream.  The effect is that blood sugar levels are correctly controlled and diabetes sufferers are not subject to dangerous spikes of the blood sugar levels.


So we can see that coriander is another of those natures health cabinet type plants.  The benefits in health care are many and the unique taste addition to your meals will be appreciated.  If you are serving a large meal it may be a

Coriander garnish

Add coriander garnish to any dish to make it look good, but also to add that taste and stimulate those digestive juices.

good idea to add some coriander leaves to your appetiser or entree as a garnish.  It adds taste, but it also stimulates the gastric juices so that your stomach is ready for whatever you are about to throw at it.   This way your guests will feel no discomfort from a larger than usual meal.

Another thing you can easily do is have your own coriander plant in your herb garden or even just in a pot on your kitchen windowsill.  Every time you need a little garnish just trim some tips off give them a rinse and throw them in. That way they are always fresh.  You can often buy the little plants at your supermarket.

Just a word of warning.  The health benefits listed above are general observations and findings and may be more or less effective for each individual.  If you have any concerns, please consult your medical professional.

Thank you for reading about coriander.  If you have any suggestions of uses or recipes you would care to share please feel free.

Organic Coriander Seed Jar

Organic Coriander Seed Powder Jar

Product Review – Zip Grinders, Mega Crusher Clear Top.

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Product Review · Tags: , , facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Product: Zip Grinders – Mega Crusher Clear Top
Price:  $58.00  $17.45 (retail)
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com
Dimensions: Diameter 6.35cm (2.5 Inches) Height 8.9cm (3.5 Inches)
Pieces Included: 4 pieces plus a cleaning tool


The Zip Grinders, Large Spice and Herb Grinder

Warranty: 90 Days. However, if you register your product with Zip Grinders within the 90 Days, it becomes a lifetime warranty. ” Register by sending an email to support@zipgrinders.com along with your Amazon Order Number, Name, Address, Email, and Phone #.”

Our Rating: 9 out of 10

We all know that keeping herbs in their original form is the best way of keeping them fresh as well as being the most cost effective.  Why pay someone else to grind them when you can do it yourself and also leave it until the time you actually need it done.

Spice Grinder Review

We decided to have a look at some herb spice grinders to see if we could determine the best spice grinders out there.   There are various good offerings out there so it was hard to choose the best to review.

One that stood out for us though, is the Zip Grinders – Mega Crusher Clear Top.

This grinder is quite different from its competitors, so was worth a closer look.  Our first impressions were:


The grinder comes in four parts plus a pollen screen cleaner.

Compared to many of the grinders that we checked, the Zip Grinders – Mega Crusher Clear Top is true to its name.  The size warrants the title mega as it will take up to six heaped table spoons of content at a time.

Let’s just have a look at what makes up the grinder itself.

What is in the Box?

The grinder comes in four pieces that all fit together to form a cylinder.  The construction feels solid as the casing is made from aerospace grade aluminium.  Does this mean you can fly through your grinding?  Probably not, however,

the 49 diamond shaped teeth will certainly ensure that you do.  There is also a pollen catcher that will ensure that your ground contents remain pure.  This is accompanied by a pollen scraper tool with which you can clean the pollen catcher screen to maintain its effectiveness.  Overall the product felt very solid and robust and there was no feeling of it having a limited life.

Zip Grinders are so confident that they offer this guarantee:

“Order now and be protected by Zip Grinders “TRY-IT-OUT-AT-OUR-EXPENSE” customer SATISFACTION POLICY.
Try our product and if you are not satisfied, simply contact us within 365 days and we’ll refund your money.”

Why a grinder at all?

As we mentioned, buying spices and herbs in their natural state is preferred for two reasons.  Firstly, the freshness and potency is retained when spices are left in their natural state.  As soon as they are ground into powder they

start to lose their taste, smell and effectiveness.  Secondly, every time a process or value add takes place on a product, there is an additional cost involved.  This simply highlights the advantage of grinding your own spices and herbs as you need to use them.  If you grow and dry your own herbs this is also a very important tool for you to finish the process.

What did we test?


Remove the centre chamber to take a pocket version with you if need it while travelling.

We ground cumin seeds and found the powder was of a uniform and fine consistency.  We ground chili and found that we got nice even flakes.  Herbs from the garden that had been dried also ground up very well.  We found that by viewing the contents through the acrylic viewer we were able to stop the grind when we had achieved the fineness or coarseness we desired.  This is something we hadn’t been able to control in other grinders.  What we also found was that the centre piece was able to be used on its own so that you could actually take a pocket version of the grinder with you if you went camping or the like.



Our overall conclusion about this product was very favourable.  We gave it a 9 out of 10

Construction – The product has a very robust with a solid feel.  It is satisfying to hold and use as it feels like a good solid tool.

Functionality – The ability to view the contents and thereby control the amount of grind was good as we were able to prevent over-grinding wherever that might have been a problem.  The whole mechanism was very easy to clean so that it did not feel like a chore at the end of the process.  The pollen catcher is a good feature as it helps maintain the purity of the ground contents.  Providing a tool to scrape this clean was a nice touch.

Choice – The grinder comes in Black or Silver.

We found Zip Grinders to be a very customer focused company who were very interested in getting customer feedback on their products.

We hope you found this review helpful.

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Product Review – Olde Thompson 16-Jar Labeled Orbit Spice Rack Jars & Rack

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Product Reviewfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Product: Olde Thompson 16-Jar Labeled Orbit Spice Rack Jars & Rack
Price:  $49.99  $39.08 (retail)
Cheapest Place to Buy: Amazon.com
Jars: 16 filled and sealed jars of spice
Spices Included: Basil, Cinnamon, Coriander, Dill Weed, Ground Fennel, Ginger, Herbs Provence, Italian Seasoning, Marjoram, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Thyme.

My Rating: 9 out of 10

Kitchen Spice Storage

If you’re anything like me, you like to have your food interesting, exotic and tasty.  There is no doubt a place for bland food but thankfully I am rarely sick enough to need to be in that place.  So pile in the flavour and let’s create some taste sensations.

I don’t know about you but I like to be able to lay my hands on a needed spice immediately that I need it.  You

Olde Thompson 16 jar orbit spice rack

Olde Thompson 16 jar orbit spice rack.

know what it’s like, you have to keep stirring the pot on top of the stove with one hand while you reach for the spice bottle with the other.  It needs to be in easy reach of the stove top so you don’t miss a beat and burn the pot bottom. I’ve tried wall mounted spice racks without much luck, falling jars etc. as I try and reach for the right one.  Also I get nervous hanging stuff on walls, its such a commitment, hahaha.  Never mind worrying about beautiful tiles etc.

Olde Thompson Carousel Spice Rack

I liked the idea of a carousel spice rack which I could place on the kitchen bench or counter.  I can move it around if I want to, even put it away in the pantry if I wanted a clear bench.

The Olde Thompson 16 Jar carousel is worth looking at if you are going to go for this idea.

Jars Spinning Off

At first I was worried that I would be forever fielding jars that would spin off and make a break for it, whenever I spun the carousel to access a rear facing jar.  Being round I also worried the jars would have an unfair advantage in rolling their way to freedom.

I was pleasantly surprised with the snugness of the way the jars were seated down into the carousel.  I haven’t felt at any time that I should be worrying about them spinning off.  If of course you let your 5 year old have a go, you’re on your own.


On the whole, the feel of the Olde Thompson is pretty positive and satisfying.  The spices jars are made of glass


The round jars come pre-filled with each spice and a seal under the lid.

and the tops have a stainless steel look and feel.  The carousel itself is plastic but does not give the feeling of brittleness or weakness.   The jars being round I feel is a good touch, aesthetically and practically.  I know that spices should be kept dry but let’s face it, humidity is there and I have found in the past that square jars can be a trial when you have to try and find something small and long enough to scrape some errant spice powder out of a bottom corner.

Each of the jar lids has the name of the spice engraved into it which is a stylish touch.  In certain lights or angles the text can be a little hard to read.  They do have you covered in this case as you can for an extra $5.93 include a sheet of 48 spice name stickers which can be used to name the jars.  I have not used the stickers myself, so am not aware if they are meant for the lids or the jars them selves.


For an extra $5.93 you can get labels that can make it more readable, or indeed different spices you might refill with later.

Hint: If you are unfamiliar with spices, be sure to remove each lid to remove the seal one at a time.  There s the danger of having to match up named lids with un-named bottles otherwise.

The tops of jars I feel have been thoughtfully constructed.  As well as  being tastefully etched with the spice name and having a stainless look and feel.  They are also made to be used one handed.  When making that grab for the spice you need as you’re stirring away, it’s nice to have the round jar nestled in your palm and to be able to flick the lid open with your thumb nail.  No two handed operation required to put that extra dash of oregano into the mix.  I found this to be a great advantage, only having to check once visually that I had the right spice but from there on being able to keep my eyes on the task at hand.


The inside of the jar lid showing the freeflow and the controlled flow sides.


The split lids can be very easily operated with one hand.

A feature I liked too is the way the lid is split into two halves that open upwards.  One half is an open semi circle that allows the spice to flow out freely, the other half is made up of small holes to control the outflow.  Without looking you can tell the difference as there are raised parts to mirror the holes in the controlled flow side.  Nice touch.





Overall we were very impressed by this product.  It has been thoughtfully designed and soundly made.  The stand is plastic as we mentioned but is by no means flimsy.  The stainless tops of the jars and the carousel top give it a classy look which would look good on most bench or counter tops.

Overall for quality, aesthetics and functionality we gave this a 9 out of 10.

The cheapest place we found it was at Amazon.com.



Cumin – Cumin origin, cumin history and cumin good health.

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Spicesfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

The cumin or Cuminum cyminum plant is part of the Apiales family, a relative of parsley.

Cumin is produced by a flowering plant in the family of Apiaceae which is a relative of parsley.  Each of this plants flowers produce a single fruit which contains a single Cumin seed.  The plant grows to a height of around 25 cm with all its branches being of equal length, producing a canopy.  This plant was originally found from East Mediterranean to India and favours tropical to semi tropical climates.  There is one harvest a year.

Cumin in History

The use of Cumin as a spice and as a medicine dates back 5,000 years.   Excavations on ancient Egyptian sites have shown that it was used as a spice for medical purposes as well as in the mummification process.  The Bible also mentions cumin in both the Old and New Testaments.

The medical benefits of cumin which were documented by the ancient Greeks and Egyptians, were such that it was used in trading as a highly valued commodity.  The ancient Romans included cumin as part of their diet as well as using a paste derived from cumin to help lighten the skin complexion.

In India the spice has been a mainstay of the diet for thousands of years, its warm flavour and aroma adding a wonderful character to kormas, masalas and other gravies.

In Middle Ages Europe, cumin was one of the few spices that was fairly widely available.  It was said to enhance love and faithfulness and people would carry it in their pockets to weddings.  It was responsible for preventing lovers, spouses and chickens from wandering off.  Married soldiers were given a loaf of cumin bread when they set off for war.

The Portuguese and Spanish conquerors brought the plant to the Americas.

Cumin Production

There are three main types of cumin, there is the amber and white seeds which are the most common and the black seed which is common in Iran and has a sweeter aroma.

Cumin seeds

Cumin seeds pack a punch in flavour as well as in nutrients and health benefits.

Around four months after the plants are planted and they are starting to whither, it is time for the harvest.  The whole plant is pulled from the ground when the seed starts to change from a dark green to a yellowy brown colour.  The plants are laid out in the sun to dry and after some time are beaten with sticks to release the cumin seeds.  The seeds are then further dried in the sun or in driers if the conditions are too humid, until they reach 10% of their original moisture content.  Once they reach this point they are winnowed using winnow baskets to remove any dirt and chaff.

Cumin seeds can be stored and sold whole or ground.  The preference is to keep them whole as they then retain their spice qualities much better and for longer.

The main global producer of cumin is India which produces 70% of the world supply.  It also consumes around 90% of its own production so in actual fact consumes around 63% of the world cumin.  Other main producers include: Syria, Turkey and Iran.

Cumin in Cooking

Cumin is a staple ingredient in the dishes of; Mexico, the Middle East and India.  It is used to in such things as curry powder or just simply cooked into a meal in power or whole form.  Cumin can be added to most dishes to enhance the flavour.  Lightly roast them a little first and then add to rice, or fresh vegetables to give them a little of an exotic

Leyden Kaas (Cheese)

Leyden Kaas (Cheese), Komijnekaas or Dutch Herb Cheese. A taste sensation.

flavour.  I love Dutch Komijnekaas or Leyden Kaas(Cheese) or Dutch Herb Cheese as it is often called.  It is filled with cumin seeds and has a very addictive flavour.  When making a sandwich which includes regular cheese, I just sprinkle some cumin seeds on it and the flavour is the same for a fraction of the price of Herb Cheese.

When storing cumin be sure to keep it in a dark dry place, even freezing works.  Whole seeds are preferable to the ground variety as the flavour tends to dissipate much more quickly with powder.   However, powder may be required if you are making a fine paste or similar.

Cumin tea is also very popular in India and is very easy to make.  These 5 simple steps are:

  1. Take a teaspoon of cumin seeds and tip into a dry saucepan that is on a low heat.
  2. Leave the cumin seeds in the saucepan on low heat for about 5 seconds
  3. Tip a cup full of water onto the seeds and wait for it to boil, then simmer for 2 to 3 minutes
  4. Take the saucepan off the heat and cover it for 10 minutes
  5. Tip back into the cup and it is ready.  You can add either honey, salt, coriander, ginger etc. to your own taste.

Cumin Medicinal Properties

The tiny little cumin seed is actually a health powerhouse.  Its health benefits have been well documented down the ages and scientists today are finding that it does indeed have many health benefits.  The cumin benefits list reads as follows:

So we can see that cumin is another one of those wonder foods.  Little wonder it has featured so much in history and continues today to be a very important ingredient for tasty dishes as well as a way to stay naturally healthy.  I would love to hear how you use cumin in your life.  Myself I eat a lot of Indian food so it is used most days.

Organic Cumin Seed Powder Jar

Organic Cumin Seed Whole Jar

Nutmeg Spice History and Uses. – Where does nutmeg come from?

Peter Doornbos, · Categories: Spicesfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Nutmeg is the seed of the Myristica tree, more specifically the Myristica Fragrans which originated on Run or Banda Island, a small island in the Moluccas (Spice) Islands of Indonesia. The Myristica is an average size tree and once planted the first nutmeg wouldn’t be expected for another seven to nine years. Certainly a long term process and

Myristica Fragrans Tree

The Myristica fragrans tree starts producing nutmeg at around 7 – 9 years and reaches full production at 20 years.

investment seeing they don’t hit full production until twenty years but do keep on producing for 100 years.

Once the Myristica starts to bear fruit, they come in the form of a green pear like fruit. When they are cut open, much like you would cut an avocado, the nutmeg seed inside can be seen to be covered with a redish lacy substance called Mace. Mace is also a spice that is widely used and has similar taste qualities to the actual nutmeg seed or nut. This makes the Myristica tree unique in that it is the only tree to produce two spices.

Nutmeg Spice History

As mentioned above, Banda or Run Island was the sole source of Nutmeg until relatively recent times. The islanders traded Nutmeg with India and also Arab sailors. The latter were responsible for trading the spice with the Venetians who then distributed it into Europe. As with Cinnamon, the Arab traders would not disclose its origin, so no one in Europe could stage their own mission to obtain the spice and bypass the middlemen.

Nutmeg appears in writings of first century Rome and was used throughout Europe for the flavouring and preservation of food. It was believed to have properties that helped to ward off the great plague as well, so as you can imagine the value increased dramatically with the scarcity that ensued.

Alfonso de Albuquerque took the Asian trade hub of Malacca for Portugal in August of 1511. Once ensconced in the city he learned of the location of Banda Island and in November of that year sent a fleet of three ships with Malay guides to locate the island. They reached Banda in early 1512 and stayed a month, filling their holds with nutmeg, mace and cloves. They were unable to secure a monopoly trade but simply a participation trade.

In the early 1600s the Dutch mounted a serious campaign to oust the Portuguese from their Asian strongholds. Malacca was of course key to this and fell to the Dutch in 1641 and was then held peacefully for 183 years. The

Banda Islands

Banda Islands the strongly contested origin of the nutmeg.

Dutch then fought back and forth with the English for control of Banda Island. It was very brutal affair, first against the English and then the islanders themselves. The Dutch took total control and arranged the island into a series of plantations. Regular patrols went out and removed any trees that were planted outside of these plantations.

During the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, the Dutch relaxed their hold in Asia as they had other problems to solve. The English took this opportunity to take trees from Banda Island and replant them in other locations so as to never be excluded from the trade again. They took them to: Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Penang (Malaya), Bencoolen (Kota Bengkulu, Sumatra, Indonesia), later again they took them to Grenada (Caribbean) and Zanzibar (East Africa).

Nutmeg Production

There are two main harvest seasons for nutmeg which are January to March and June to August. The process is quite an easy one as it mainly involves picking up nuts from the ground. The green pear like fruit of the nutmeg

Nutmeg Fruit on Tree

The nutmeg fruit splits on the tree and the nut or seed falls to the ground.

splits open while still on the tree resulting in the nut falling to the ground. “Rodding” is also sometimes used to collect those fruit that are starting to split but have not yet fallen. This can produce a higher quality aril which is the Mace portion of the nut.
Once collected the nutmeg is dried in the sun. Depending on the size of the farm, and generally nutmeg is just part of the farms’ crop being planted among other trees and plants, the nutmeg will be delivered to the receiving station in one of three forms.
•  Undried green fresh nutmegs usually delivered within 24 hours of harvest
•  Dry Nutmegs, unshelled nuts
•  Grinders, dry and shelled nutmegs
The receiving station weighs the nuts, grades them and then pays the farmer according to the weight. They then are stored in a warm area to be kept dry, typically under a galvanised iron roof. Here they remain until an order is received, at which time they are then further graded. This involves first cracking the nut which is mostly done by machine now,  the shell coating being separated from the seed. The seeds are then floated in water. After stirring, those seeds that are still float are removed as defective, while those remaining on the bottom are “sound”. The “sounds” are then further graded manually for imperfections and then poured onto a metal sieve where they are massaged through the different sized holes to enable size consistent categories to be sorted.
Once graded the nuts are further inspected manually for breakages and other imperfections before being bagged for export.

Indonesia (75%) and Grenada (20%) are the main producers of the worlds nutmeg supply, with India, Malaysia ( Penang), Sri Lanka, Papua Niugini and other Caribbean Islands making up the rest.

Nutmeg Health Benefits

The health benefits of nutmeg have been well known down the ages.  From being an aphrodisiac to being a general health tonic, it is well worth having in your pantry. The way nutmeg benefits our bodies is as follows:

If taken in high enough quantities, nutmeg can have toxic or narcotic properties.  It was used in India and Indonesia as a snuff to obtain an intoxication effect.  It has been used by prisoners, college students and the like to obtain a “high” with hallucinations. The normal sprinkle that we put in our food would not even come close to this.  It was also used in the 19th century to induce miscarriages for unwanted pregnancies.

Cooking with Nutmeg

Nutmeg is used throughout the world to flavour food with its unique flavour.  In India it is used manly to flavour sweet dishes and is used in the making of Garam Masala, whereas in the Middle East it is used more in savoury dishes.

Europeans predominantly use it in potato dishes and also as an addition to processed meats.  In Holland it is sprinkled on vegetables such as beans, cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts to add that extra zesty taste.  Nutmeg is also found in Japanese curry powder, Norwegian buns called Kavring, mulled cider and wine as well as eggnog.  In Indonesia thinly cut slivers are cooked and crystallised to make a candy called manisan pala.  In Penang (Malasyia) it is used in the making of the delicious ais kacang.


So we can see that the humble nutmeg we buy, in either powder or nut form, is steeped in history as well as having many beneficial affects to our health.  If you are buying nutmeg whole nuts be sure you have the fine nutmeg grater you need to get the powder as fine as possible.  Thankfully nutmeg is now quite inexpensive compared to the days of the English, Dutch and Portuguese monopolies and very easy to get.  If you use nutmeg in your cooking now, we would love to hear your ideas if you care to share in comments below.

Thank you for stopping by and please check back to see what other Spices and Herbs we talk about.

Nutmeg Mill

Nutmeg Grater