Sesame (Sesamum indicum) is a flowering plant in the genus Sesamum. Sesame seed is considered to be the oldest oilseed crop known to man, domesticated well over 5000 years ago. Sesame is very drought-tolerant. It has been called a survivor crop, with an ability to grow where most crops fail. Sesame has one of the highest oil content of any seed. With a rich nutty flavour, it is a common ingredient in cuisines across the world. Sesame seeds are small. The size, form and colours vary with the thousands of varieties now known. Typically, the sesame seeds are about 3 to 4 millimetres long by 2 millimetres wide and 1 millimetre thick. The seeds are ovate, slightly flattened and somewhat thinner at the eye of the seed than at the opposite end. The weight of the seed is between 20 and 40 milligrams. The seed coat may be smooth or ribbed. Sesame is indispensable in Middle-Eastern, Far-Eastern, and Indian cooking. From Asia it made its way to Africa where slaves are credited with introducing it to North America. It is even grown in Mexico and other parts of Latin America. Continue reading
Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum), is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae. The plant is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop and is a common ingredient in dishes from the Indian Subcontinent. Fenugreek has three culinary uses: as herb (dried or fresh leaves), as a spice (seeds), and as a vegetable (fresh leaves, sprouts, and micro greens). The distinctive cuboid-shaped, yellow-to-amber coloured fenugreek seeds are frequently encountered in the cuisines of the Indian subcontinent. The seeds are used in the preparation of pickles, vegetable dishes, daals, and spice mixes. Fenugreek seeds are used both whole and in powdered form and are often roasted to reduce their bitterness and enhance their flavour. Fenugreek is also used as a vegetable. Fresh fenugreek leaves are an ingredient in some Indian curries. Continue reading
Coriander spice refers to the seed of the cilantro plant. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), also known as cilantro, Chinese parsley or dhania, is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is tender hollow stemmed plant in the apiaceae family, of the genus coriandum. Pleasantly aromatic and spicy, the seeds have been in use since ancient times in cooking as well as in various traditional medicines. After ripening the small, round coriander seeds take on a scent and flavour that is lemony, with a hint of sage. Coriander finds mention in the Old Testament where it is compared with Manna, the heaven-sent food of the Israelites. Coriander was used by the Egyptians as far back as 5000 years ago. Its preservative properties were known to the Romans as far back as Julius Caesar’s reign, when Roman soldiers took it along with them during expeditions, to preserve meat. The Arabs introduced it to China and India, who readily took to its use as a flavouring spice. Curry powder is based on different spices, the most prominent of these being coriander. Coriander is also an important seasoning for many Mexican Salsas. Thai cuisine makes use of the Coriander root, crushed with garlic and pepper, as a very prominent seasoning. The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh coriander, Chinese parsley, or cilantro. Continue reading
Mustard is one of the most ancient spices. These seeds pack a lot of health benefits. Greens, Seeds (black, yellow or brown) and oil, all have many curative and culinary uses since ancient times. Three types of mustard seeds are Black mustard, White mustard and Brown mustard. White mustard seeds, (Brassica alba) are light straw yellow coloured and are slightly larger than the other two varieties. Black mustards (Brassica nigra) are commonly seen in South Asia. The seeds are sharp and more pungent than other two varieties. Brown mustards (Brassica juncea) are native to sub- Himalayan plains of Northern India.
Generally perceived as health benefiting spice, mustard seeds are indeed very rich in phytonutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants. Mustard stimulates the appetite by increasing salivation up to eight times. It also has laxative and digestive stimulant properties and also aids circulation. Mustard seeds are rich in Selenium and Magnesium. Selenium helps reduce the severity of asthma, decrease some of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and help prevent cancer. They are good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Mustard oil has anti-septic and antifungal properties. Massage with mustard oil on the body gives strength. Mustard oil is rich in mono saturated fatty acids and low in saturated fats making it the perfect heart friendly cooking medium. Greek scientist Pythagoras used mustard as a remedy for scorpion stings. Continue reading