Know Your Ingredient – Nutmeg

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Description

This is a brown-colored hard seed from the nutmeg tree that gives a spicy sweet taste. This originates from Indonesia but can also be found in the Caribbean (Grenada).

Nutrients and Health Benefits

Nutmeg has anti-oxidant, health promoting and disease preventing properties. It’s a good source of minerals like copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc. It has also B-complex vitamins and vitamin C, and folic acid, niacin, riboflavin and vitamin A.

Medical Use

In traditional medicine, it is used as anti-depressant, anti-fungal, aphrodisiac and carminative agent. It also aids digestion and prevents constipation.

Culinary Use

Nutmeg is a popular spice. It can be used in preparing many dishes and recipes. It can be used in making cakes and pastries, and can also be added in making smoothies. Nutmeg is considered a natural flavoring in baked goods, syrups, sweets and beverages.

Know Your Ingredient – Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm

Description
Lemon Balm is a herbal plant that belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. Its leaves are heart-shaped and deeply veined characterized by a mild lemon scent. It grows up to 150 cm tall. It produces white flowers during summer, which attracts the bees. The flavor of this herbal plant comes from its contents like citronellal, geranial, linalyl acetate and caryophyllene.

Nutrients
Lemon Balm contains phenolic compounds, rosmarinic, protocatechuic acids, caffeic, and flavonoids.

Health Benefits/ Medical Use
This herbal plant has been known to cure cold sores, stomach upset, sleep disorders, and even Alzheimer’s disease. It is also used to cure colic to breastfed babies. It also helps in maintaining a normal blood pressure. The leaves are known to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s a good treatment for flu, insomnia, indigestion, depression, and Herpes virus. It also acts a memory booster.

Culinary Use
Lemon Balm has a delicate lemon flavor and has been widely used in making dishes. It is a good garnish to fruit salads and drinks.

Know Your Ingredient – Cardamom

cardamom

Description

Cardamom is native to the evergreen rain forest of southern Indian Kerala state and grown in only a few tropical countries. The spice features three-sided pods with a thin, yet tough papery outer cover. Inside, tiny, deep-brown to black, aromatic seeds are arranged in vertical rows with each grain unsheathed again inside a very thin membrane. There are two types of cardamom pods: the green cardamom pod and the black cardamom pod. Generally, the plant can grow up to four meters in length.

Nutrients 

Cardamom is a good source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is also an excellent source of iron and manganese. In addition to that, it is rich in many vital vitamins, including riboflavin, niacin, vitamin-C that is essential for optimum health. It as well contains many essential volatile oils that include pinene, sabinene, myrcene, phellandrene, limonene, 1, 8-cineole, terpinene, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, linalyl acetate, terpinen-4-oil, a-terpineol, a-terpineol acetate, citronellol, nerol, geraniol, methyl eugenol, and trans-nerolidol.

Health Benefits/ Medical Use

Cardamom has antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and tonic properties. It also helps control heart rate and blood pressure. It is a good source of manganese which is a very powerful free-radical scavenger. It helps in red blood cell formation and cellular metabolism.

Culinary Use

Cardamom is being used as flavoring agent in both soups, foods, and revitalizing drinks. Many sweet dishes in Asian countries use cardamom.

Know Your Ingredients – Cumin

 Description
Cumin is an aromatic spice with a unique bitter flavor and strong, warm tang due to its abundant oil content. Cumin looks like caraway, which is oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color. However, cumin is hotter to the taste, lighter in color, and larger. Its seeds come in three colors: amber, black and white.

Nutrients
Per 2 teaspoon serving, cumin has 16% iron, 7% manganese, 4% copper, 4% calcium, 4% magnesium, 3% Vitamin B1 and 3% phosphorus.

Health Benefits and Medical Use
Aside from giving flavor to food, cumin has also many uses when it comes to health and disease prevention. It is a good source of iron for energy and immune function. Cumin seeds have also been noted to have good effects to the digestive system. It stimulates the production of pancreatic enzymes which are necessary for proper digestion and nutrient absorption. Furthermore, cumin seeds have anti-carcinogenic properties that help in the prevention of cancer.

Culinary Uses
Cumin matches well with beans, chicken, couscous, curry, eggplant, fish, lamb, lentils, peas, pork, potatoes, rice, sausages, soups, stews, and eggs.

Know Your Ingredient – Coriander

coriander

Description
Coriander is also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania. It is from the family Apiaceae that grows annually. It’s a soft plant that can grow up to 50 cm tall. The leaves have different shapes, largely lobed at the base of the plant, and small and downy higher on the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in tiny umbels, uneven, white or very pale pink in color, with the petals pointing away from the center of the umbel longer than those pointing toward it. The fruit is globular in shape and about 3-5 mm in diameter. Coriander has different description of its taste. Those who like it say it has a refreshing, lemony or lime-like flavor, while those who dislike it says it’s like soap and bugs.

Nutrients
In a 100g amount, coriander leaves are mainly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K, with reasonable content of dietary minerals. Even though seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, they have considerable amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese per 100 g.

Health Benefits
Coriander has linoleic acid and known to have components of essential oils that are used to treat skin inflammation. It has detoxifying and antiseptic properties used to cure skin disorders. They also reduce the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) deposition along the inner walls of the arteries and veins, which can lead to serious cardiovascular issues like artherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes. It is also helpful in curing diarrhea caused by microbial and fungal action, since components like Cineole, Borneol, Limonene, Alpha-pinene & beta-phelandrene have antibacterial effects. Coriander is also known to treat many disorders like diabetes, hypertension, mouth ulcers, conjunctivitis, menstrual problems, and small pox. It has also components that aids in digestion, bone development and eye care.

Culinary Uses
Coriander leaves and seeds are both used in culinary arts. The seeds are used as spices while the leaves are used as herbs. It is also used in all sorts of cuisines, from Latin American to Asian. In Mexico and the United States, fresh coriander leaves are frequently used as a garnish for salsas and spicy soups.

Know Your Ingredient – Sage

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General Description

Sage is a grayish green colored herb that has a soft, sweet flavor. It is grown and available anytime of the year. It had been declared as the “Herb of the Year” in 2001.

Nutrients and Health Benefits

Sage contains volatile oils and flavonoids that help maintain stability of oxygen-related metabolism. It also promotes better brain functioning and increases I.Q. It is ads, and also a rich source of carbohydrates, fiber, sugar, sodium, vitamins and minerals, fatty acids and amino acids.

Medical Use

Sage is found effective in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also lower bad cholesterol and increase mental performance. Diarrhea, heartburn, stomach pain and other gastrointestinal problems can be corrected by sage. Asthmatic people also use it as inhaler and some found it effective for dysmenorrhea, and reduction of hot flashes during menopause.

Culinary Use

Sage is used as a seasoning or a spice. It can be added in tomato sauce, or to omelets and frittatas. Pizzas are also sprinkled with sage. It can also be found in salads and in baked chicken.

Know Your Ingredients – Cinnamon

cinnamon stick powder

Description
Cinnamon is the brownish-reddish inner bark of the cinnamon tree, which when dried, rolls into a tubular form known as a quill. Cinnamon sticks are made from long pieces of bark that are rolled, pressed, and dried. Ground cinnamon is perhaps the most frequently used baking spice. It has a sweet, woody scent in both ground and stick forms.

Nutrients
Per 2 tsp of ground cinnamon, it has 46% manganese, 11% fiber, and 5% calcium.

Health Benefits and Medical Uses
Cinnamon has anti-clotting actions thus preventing the formation of unwanted blood clots. Cinnamon’s ability to lower the release of arachidonic acid from cell membranes also puts it in the category of an “anti-inflammatory” food that can be helpful in lessening inflammation. It has also anti-microbial properties that help stop bacterial growth as well as fungi. It is also known for its impact on blood sugar levels. Cinnamon can help people with Diabetes 2 respond to insulin thus, normalizing their blood sugar levels. Just by smelling its scent, it can boost your brain functioning. In addition to that, it improves colon health and provides protection against heart diseases because of its high calcium and fiber content.

Culinary Uses
Cinnamon is used in cakes, cookies, and desserts throughout the world. It is also used in savoury chicken and lamb dishes from the Middle East. In American cooking, Cinnamon is often paired with apples and used in other fruit and cereal dishes. Stick Cinnamon is used in pickling and for flavoring hot beverages.

Know Your Ingredient – BAY LEAF

bay leaves

General Description
An herb from the evergreen bay laurel tree that has aromatic leaves. This is considered one of the well-recognized leaf-spices used since the earliest times. It has dark green leaves and flower buds.

Nutrients and Health Benefits
Bay leaves have several compounds, vitamins and minerals which are essential for optimum health. They are rich sources of vitamin C which is known to boost our immune system. Its fresh leaves are also good sources of folic acid which are necessary in DNA synthesis. Furthermore, bay leaves are very good in vitamin A that maintains our skin health.

Medical Use
Medically, bay leaves have astringent, appetite-stimulant, and diuretic effects. They are also known to soothe stomach ulcers and are used to treat colic pain and flatulence. Aside from that, its leaf has also an insect repellent property, and can also aid in the treatment of arthritis, bronchitis, and muscle pain.

Culinary Use
Bay leaves are commonly used as spices along with sage, savory, celery and basil. The leaves can be dried and be made into an herbal tea. It’s also a main ingredient in making sauces like bread sauce, béchamel, and tomato sauce. It’s also used to flavor sweets like custards, creams, and sweet breads.

Know Your Ingredient – BASIL

Basil

Description
Basil is a key ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. It is a leafy herb from the mint family with a licorice-clove flavor. It is commonly green in color however there are purple varieties like Opal Basil. It’s available all year round but the true harvest in during summer.

Nutrients
Basil is an excellent source of Vitamin K and manganese. It is also a very good source of copper, Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Moreover, it has moderate amounts of calcium, iron, folate, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids.

Health Benefits and Medical Use
Basil has been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth. These anti-bacterial properties of basil are associated with its volatile oils, which contain estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene. It has also flavonoids which gives protection at the cellular level.  It has also anti-inflammatory effects and contains nutrients needed for cardiovascular health.

Culinary Use
Basil matches well with cheese, chicken, duck, eggplant, eggs, fish, lamb, liver, olive oil, onions, pasta, pesto, pizza, pork, potatoes, rabbit, salads, shellfish, soups, sweet peppers, tomatoes, veal, vegetables, vinegars, zucchini, and tomato sauce.  Famous recipes are Basil Pesto, Basil Cream Chicken, Tomato and Basil Bruschetta, Tomato Basil Soup, Basil Lemonade, Basil Shrimp, Orzo with Basil and Parmesan, Zucchini Ribbons with Basil Butter, Honey Mustard Basil Salmon, Thai Basil Chicken, etc.