Cooking with Nutmeg

Nutmeg is one of my favorite spices to use around the holidays. It comes from the nutmeg tree, an evergreen that is native to the spice Islands of Indonesia. Nutmeg was immediately popular, thanks to its warm depth, in the sixth century when it was first brought to southern Europe. It was soon spread across the continent throughout the next 500 years. Nutmeg was being produced and Trinidad, Granada, and the west Indies by the 1800s and being exported all over the world.

A nutmeg seed is around the same size of a walnuts, is shaped like an egg, and has a lacy red covering that is another spice itself called mace. The nutmeg tree takes a minimum of seven years to produce these spices.

Nutmeg has historically been used as an oral medicine to help with digestive concerns like diarrhea, nausea, and flatulence. It is also known to treat insomnia, headaches, fever, and bad breath. Nutmeg can be used topically to help treat toothaches and mouth sores. There has not been much research done on the health benefits and safety of nutmeg when using for these applications, though.

Some people warn against using nutmeg orally in amounts that are considered medicinal for women who are pregnant or lactating. It is feared that nutmeg can be an abortifacient.

There are many antioxidant properties that have been proven in nutmeg. A small study was done to look at the effects of using nutmeg protect the liver and testicles when therapy requires radiation. When nutmeg is taken in doses considered extremely high, it can potentially cause hallucinations or other psychoactive effects.

Nutmeg is a sweet and pungent culinary spice. A little bit of the spice can go a long way. Nutmeg is usually seen as a spice that is associated with the holidays, since it is often used in eggnogs in baked goods. In Italy and the Netherlands, nutmeg is often added to preserves, meats, sausages, and vegetables as a popular spice.

Regardless of whether you use nutmeg in its powdered form or whole seed, it should be kept in a jar that is tightly sealed and away from heat and light. The powdered spice can last for one year while the whole seed can last around four years.

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Consuming Herbs and Spices for Your Health

Many people throughout the United States have started taking spices and herbs in capsule or pill form as medicine that is nature-based has become more popular. This is a great way to get these herbs and spices you dislike the flavor of them yet still want the benefits of taking them as a supplement.

Perhaps you enjoy the flavors of the herbs and spices but simply do not have the opportunity to add them to your diet. If this is the case, you should certainly add the supplements to your daily regimen.

When possible, though, it is best to consume these herbs and spices as additions to your food. Since variety is supposed to be the spice of life, spices and herbs at that variety foundation in your cooking, and can transform your everyday foods into an exciting new culinary adventure.

The best way to figure out the herbs and spices you should use in your food, is to try them on your own. There are some general rules that can help you get started in using herbs and spices in your food, though:

  • Use herbs and spices that are fresh for the best flavor. Growing your own is the best way to have fresh herbs and spices. If you do not have room for a garden, try using your window to grow some pots of herbs. Otherwise, you can often find fresh herbs and spices at your local farmer’s market or natural food store.
  • Oftentimes, dried herbs have flavors that are muted because they lack the essential oils. To bring their flavor back, use your fingers or a mortar and pedestal to crush the dried herbs to release the oils just before cooking them. Another way to release the oils is to sauté them briefly on low heat in all of oil.
  • If you use herbs and spices that have been dried, always store them in a container that can be tightly covered and put them in an area away from moisture, heat, and light. Never put the storage container over a steaming pot to sprinkle in the herbs or spices as this will cause the spices to degrade over time as the steam enters the container. Rather, shake the spices into your hand, far away from the steam, then add it to the dish.
  • Most herbs and spices that are dried and ground will remain good for around six months.

Regardless of how you consume herbs and spices, just make sure that you do. By doing so, you will not only benefit the flavor of your dishes, but also your health.

 

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Healing Properties of Dill

There are many healing properties to dill. This herb is mostly use to flavor foods, but there are also many medicinal applications for this herb. Dill is native to the Mediterranean, Western Africa, and southern Russia. It has many medicinal applications for digestive upset and insomnia. In Scandinavia, dill is often used for culinary reasons.

Since ancient Roman and Greek times, dill seed and dill weed have been used medicinally. Dill seeds can be chewed to fight against bad breath. Dill leaves are antibacterial, and can help heal wounds and clean the mouth, as well as treat insomnia and upset stomach. Dill is often use these days to treat health issues such as coughs, colds, fever, and loss of appetite.

There have not been many scientific studies on the health benefits and use of deal. One study on animals, though, showed that dill help to reduce cholesterol, and though the results were not significant, a human clinical trial followed shortly after and showed reduced amounts of lipoprotein cholesterol. This same study, however, suggested that triglycerides may be mildly raised with the use of dill. Pregnant women should avoid consuming dill in high quantities since dill seeds have been shown to stimulate menstrual flow.

Dill, nutritionally, is a great source of vitamins and nutrients including manganese, iron, fiber, and calcium.

Fresh is the best way to buy dill since the fragrance and aroma of the fresh leaves provide better results than dry dill. When looking for fresh dill, search for leaves that are feathery and green. Fresh dill should be stored in the refrigerator but will only last a couple of days. Before putting it in the refrigerator, wrap the leaves loosely in a paper towel that is stamp, or put them directly into the container of water. Fresh dill can be frozen in containers that are airtight, or chopped up and mixed with water and ice cube trays. When properly stored, dry dill can last around six months in a glass container. It should be stored in a dark cool place.

Always search for dill that has been grown organically when possible, whether you are buying dried or fresh. Dill is a great herb to grow in your garden and can be grown indoors or outdoors. It is a versatile herb that can add flavor to many dishes.

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Using Cayenne Peppers for Your Health

Cayenne pepper is a hot and spicy vegetable from the chili pepper family. It gets its name from the town where it originated in South America. These peppers originated thousands of years ago in South and Central America. They were first used as decoration, but soon after began being used for culinary and medicinal uses. These peppers and others are now grown all over the world.

Herbalists suggest using cayenne to stimulate the circulatory system. It is also recommended to treat upper respiratory infections. A common way to prepare a remedy for sore throats is to mix cayenne with honey and lemon juice as a syrup.

Cayenne pepper is also known to boost the immune system. Not only is it anti-inflammatory, but it is also wonderful source of carotenoids such as beta-carotene, and antioxidant that is powerful. The high amounts of vitamin A and cayenne peppers is also known to help the functions of the immune system.

Not only is cayenne pepper a great source for vitamin A, it also provides dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin K, B6, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

You can use cayenne pepper dried or fresh. Fresh cayenne peppers are often used in the same way jalapenos are, chopped up and added to main courses, soups, sauces, and dips. If you remove the seeds, the spiciness of the peppers will be lowered. Remove the seeds while you wear gloves, and avoid any contact with your face and eyes to keep the painful irritants away from sensitive areas. Fresh, right cayenne peppers can also be dried. Place the clean peppers on a wire rack and leave them there until they are completely dry, around three weeks. You can store these dried whole peppers in a sealed container for up to a year keep them away from light.

Dried cayenne pepper can be used in almost any dish and is quite versatile. There are not many dishes that cayenne peppers cannot improve. Many people pair cayenne pepper with lemon juice and use it over most any vegetable. If you want to add a little bit of spice to your cocoa, try adding a little bit of cayenne pepper. Use a glass jar that can be tightly sealed to store your dried cayenne peppers away from direct sunlight. Doing so can help it last up to three years.

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Your Health and Spices

Spices and herbs play an important role in any diet that is anti-inflammatory because of the benefits they both offer as culinary staples. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Enhancing the flavors of food, which can possibly inspire reluctant eaters to eat foods that are nourishing that would otherwise be classified as bland or boring.
  2. Healthy compounds that can help alleviate symptoms of conditions that already exist and can lower the risk of disease.

There are many spices and herbs in the culinary world that have a wide array of anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant compounds that are valuable. When all those advantages are offered alongside the wonderful flavors and fragrances, it only makes sense to use these items in each meal that you cook.

Before we go further with this article, we need to go over some definitions. Spices and herbs come from plants that are used for medicine or flavoring, without adding calories to our diets. So, what is the difference between herbs and spices? Well, the green leafy portions of the plant are typically the herbs. The spices come from the other parts of the plant including the roots, bark, fruits, berries, and seeds.

Herbs and spices have been used for a long time throughout human history. As far back as 4000 BC, the European tribes that we now know as Germany and Denmark added a spicy kick to their cooked game by adding garlic mustard seeds. They perhaps also received some of the medicinal qualities of the spice.

America, these days, is among the few places in the world that still makes a distinction between the medicinal and culinary uses for spices and herbs. Most cultures will use the same words to describe the properties of the herbs and spices they use. Though we regularly hear the phrase about using food as our medicine, many Eastern cultures have been doing so for as long as history has been written.

Using spices and herbs in your daily diet is a great way to get many health benefits and food that is more flavorful. It doesn’t take much research to discover which herbs and spices can offer you the benefits you need in your diet.

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