Spices That Feed And Heal
Spices are traditionally used to flavour food, but what about spices that feed and heal? Folk medicine has long known that plants have a place in the medicine cabinet, so this month, we take a look at alternative uses for some of our favourite flavours.
Allspice – A flavouring , and a deodorant!
Think Jamaican jerk seasoning, pickled foods and moles… and you can’t ignore the sweetly pungent and warmly aromatic Allspice. The unusual thing is, although Allspice plays a huge part in Jamaican cuisine, it’s popular the world over, for a variety of dishes you wouldn’t necessarily put together. In the UK it’s used for cakes, and in the U.S. for desserts. In Germany, it’s not so much a household spice but used more commercially in sausage production.
But foods aside, Allspice is sometimes also used as a deodorant, thanks to the volatile oils found in the plant that contain eugenol, a weak antimicrobial agent.
Caraway – Finland Leads The Way
In cuisine, Caraway’s use covers the globe, from caraway seed cake in Jamaica (and Europe) through to flavouring sauerkraut in Germany – and it’s also one of the ingredients in our delicious Island Delight Chicken Shortcrust Patties too!
As a fruit oil, it acts as a breath freshener, and is also useful for heartburn, bloating and relief of menstrual cramps. Interestingly enough, Finland, is the world leader for production of this versatile plant thanks to the long hours of summer sunlight, reaping fruits with higher levels of essential oils than anywhere else in the world!
Cumin – Ancient And Revered
Part of the parsley family, this plant has a long history as a spice and a medicine.
Pungent, sharp, and slightly sweet, the greenish brown powder of this herb is an essential ingredient in Mexican, Indian and Jamaican cuisine. Flavour your goat or chicken curry with it, by lightly sautéing the cumin seeds in oil, before adding onion and the other ingredients. It’s a good source of Iron, Manganese, and other vitamins and minerals, as well as being a staple of the folk-medicine cabinet, for relieving menstrual cramps, relief of diuretic problems and as a poultice, relief for a swollen or sore throat.
Fenugreek – Multiple Choices
Fenugreek (a member of the bean family) is very versatile as the seeds can be roasted and ground into a spice for cooking, or the leaves may be dried and used as herbs, (treating anything from anaemia, loss of taste and fever through to stomach disorders and sore throats). Here’s a great recipe for a fantastic and authentic Jamaican Curry Powder:
1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
2 tablespoons whole anise seeds
1 tablespoon whole fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
5 tablespoons ground turmeric
Turmeric – The Yellow Marvel
There’s been a lot of publicity recently about Turmeric in health circles, so if you’re planning an Indian curry, or a Jamaican dish (meat, cheese and fish all lend itself well), then now might be the time to sprinkle in a little extra!
Used for more than 4000 years to treat a variety of ailments, curcumin – (the active ingredient in turmeric) – could potentially ward off dementia and prevent cancer as well as reducing inflammation, and warding off heart attacks and strokes.
Paprika – Eat Your Way To Health
Any combination of peppers (or one type of pepper) may be dried and ground down into paprika, which may explain why its colour and flavour can vary. From mild to fiery hot, Paprika is the defining ingredient in goulash, as well as complementing everything from fish to chicken, rice and vegetables.
Even a small amount in food delivers a huge range of vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients that will aid everything from eye health through to blood pressure, digestion and even anaemia! And of course, it’s also another ingredient in our Chicken Shortcrust Patty – proving Jamaican food isn’t all just about Scotch Bonnett when it comes to flavour!
Always do your research when using natural ingredients in a medicinal capacity. Check for contra-indications, especially if you are pregnant. If in doubt – consult a professional.