From the Herb Basket – 25

ClovesDried

Archaeologists digging in Syria [ ancient Mesopotamia ] discovered the remains of whole cloves in a domestic kitchen dating back to 400 B.C. During this time in history cloves were grown only on a handful of islands in the Indonesian archipelago. The cloves were found in a clay urn with a lid that fit snugly over the top. When the lid was removed the cloves were still fragrant and appeared fresh looking.

In the 13th century in England, 2 pounds of pepper cost one pound sterling, which is more than US $ 1,000 in today’s money. Peppercorns, used in currency, were counted out carefully one by one. Only the very wealthy had pepper for preserving and seasoning foods.

Herbs and spices sold in jars and tubes require refrigeration after opening. Because of additives such as vinegar, sugar or salt, the taste can range from overly salty or sweet to pungent and tangy. Taste them first before adding them to recipes.

Avoid shaking or pouring packages of herbs over a steaming sauce pan. The steam will condense around the inside of the opening of the package and the moisture will make the spices or herbs oxidize more rapidly, or cause mold to form inside the packages.

When it comes to grinding really hard spices, use the trusty mortar and pestle. Most electric grinders are designed for grinding coffee beans, so any harder spices will damage the blades over time. If you must use an electric grinder, clean it after each use. An easy way to clean it is to grind 1 heaping tablespoon of dry rice after you’re finished. Rice is gritty, but leaves no residue. It cleans contact surfaces and absorbs herb oils.

Bergamot [ Monarda didyma ] which is native to North America, was identified in the 16th century by the Spanish medical botanist Nicolás Monardes. Consequently his name is used to identify this genus of plants.

In Colonial America, dill seeds were referred to as “Meeting House seeds.” Members of church congregations often brought along a supply to nibble on during long Sunday sessions. Its sharp, “dilly” taste kept the church member’s energy levels up as most sermons went on long past lunch time.

Always buy spices whole whenever possible. Only grind them right before using. Grinding releases the volatile compounds that give spice its flavor and aroma. Never store spices and herbs on the counter close to the stove. Heat, light, and moisture shorten their shelf life.

Vanilla extract, properly stored in a cool, dark area, has a shelf life of two years or more. Its high alcohol content makes it extremely shelf-stable. Keep the bottle tightly closed and away from heat.

Happy first day of spring to our readers and subscribers!

Spring Equinox arrives on March 20th and the Lunar Eclipse is March 23rd.

Blessed be, sweet ones

~ Meadow Walker

Image courtesy of wikimedia.org:
CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2128984

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