Have you ever thought about how a spice or nut is grown?
Most of us assume we know the answer, only to find out later that an “Aha! Moment” just occured when we discover something we didn’t know.
We know how carrots and potatoes and onions are grown, but do we really know how some of the common (and not so common) spices and nuts are grown.
For me, the list is long,… so I have shortened it to 6 of the most common plants, with a fun fact or two thrown in…thanks to my research. :)*
Fragrant cinnamon spice is one of the highly prized spices that has been in use since Biblical times for its medicinal and culinary properties. This delightfully exotic, sweet-flavored spice stick is traditionally obtained from the outer brown bark of Cinnamomum trees, which when dried, rolls into a tubular form known commercially as “quill.” ( I love cinnamon…especially on toast with a bit of sugar and melted butter! Yum)
Traditionally, the inner bark is bruised with a brass rod, peeled and long incisions are made in the bark. It is then rolled by hand and allowed to dry in the sunlight. (and they end up in my jar of cinnamon sticks!)
Health Note: Cinnamon has the highest anti-oxidant strength of all the food sources in nature.
Speaking of Chocolate…The cocoa bean, also cacao bean or simply cocoa or cacao, is the dried and fully fermented fatty bean of Theobroma cacao, from which cocoa solids and cocoa butter are extracted.
The Cacao trees bear cocoa pods that jut out directly from the trunk of the tree.
Did you know that chocolates can vary as widely in flavor and aroma as do wines?
After water, cocoa is the single healthiest substance you can put in your mouth.
Health Note: Cocoa has a high antioxidant polyphenol content, and provides the greatest cardio-protection. It only takes a small amount of cocoa to reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure. (Oh Yeah! I am liking chocolate more and more!) 🙂
And Peanuts! They actually grow underground like a potato. It derives from the pea family which bears the peanut, which develops in pods which ripen underground.
To harvest, the entire plant, including roots, is dug out from the soil.
Each plant may bear 10-150 fruit pods.
The pods have wrinkled shells that are constricted between pairs of the two to four seeds per pod.
Each seed is covered with thin brown color cover and can be split into two equal halves as in any other legumes. (I love eating peanuts watching the Kansas City Royals play Baseball….I am sure you wondered how I would find a way to talk about sports didn’t you? ) 😉
Health Note: Peanuts are rich in energy and contain health benefiting nutrients, minerals, antioxidants and vitamins that are essential for optimum health. Peanuts are an excellent source of resveratrol, another polyphenolic antioxidant.
Resveratrol has been found to have protective function against cancers, heart disease, degenerative nerve disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and viral/fungal infections.
Saffron is one of the highly prized spices known since antiquity for its color, flavor and medicinal properties.
It is the dried “stigma” or threads of the flower of the S. crocus plant.
The crocus flower is an autumn-flowering crocus with reddish-purple flowers, native to warmer regions of Eurasia.
Saffron is a spice with a hands on approach, as the crocus flower has to be hand “picked” of the red stigmas causing it to be one of the most expensive spices.
Enormous numbers of flowers are required to produce a small quantity of the large red stigmas used for the spice. (I would be too impatient to gather enough saffron for a Spanish Paella…) 😉
Health Note: The active components in saffron have many therapeutic applications in many traditional medicines as antiseptic, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, digestive, anti-convulsant. Saffron is a good source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, and zinc. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure.
Cashew tree bears numerous, edible, pear shaped false fruits or “accessory fruits’” called “cashew apples.”
A small bean shaped, grey color “true-fruit” is firmly adhering to lower end of these cashew-apples appearing like a clapper in the bell.
Botanically, this “true fruit” is a drupe, featuring hard outer shell enclosing a single edible seed or the “cashew nut.”
The exterior shell composes a phenolic resin, urushiol, which is a potent caustic skin irritant toxin.
In the processing units, this outer shell is roasted in order to destroy the urushiol resin, and then; the edible cashew kernel is extracted. (I am one of those prone to get skin irritants from Mangoes, Poison Ivy and any other resin emitting vines and fruits….I will stay away from the Cashew tree…but I will certainly eat the cashews from a bag!) 🙂
Health Note: Cashews are packed with soluble dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and numerous health-promoting phyto-chemicals that help protect from diseases and cancers.
Cashew nuts are very rich source of essential minerals.
Minerals, especially manganese, potassium, copper, iron, zinc and selenium are concentrated in these nuts.
A handful of cashew nuts a day in the diet would provide enough of these minerals and prevent deficiency diseases.
Did you already know about how these spices and nuts were grown or was there an “Aha! Moment… for you on one or two?
I remember learning about the cashew many years ago from one of my co-workers who had lived in Brazil and I was shocked!
Don’t know how I thought they were grown…maybe like the peanut! 😉
Happy Eating and have a great Wednesday!