Thursday, March 26, 2009

Black Peppercorn - King of Spices

Pepper is one of the most important of all the spices. It is also knows as "King of Spices". India provides one of the finest Black pepper in the world. Indian black pepper, "Tellicherry" and "Malabar" has history of several hundred years. These peppers are most widely used by gourmet chefs around the world.

Black pepper is the whole dried fruit that grows on a vine. Green peppercorns are picked from the vine and then dried to make black peppercorns. Black peppers are grown in Vietnam, Indonesia, Brazil, Sri Lanka and other countries. However, all peppers are not same. Tellicherry pepper is the best and most expensive pepper. One can see the comparison of different peppers here. White pepper is made by soaking the black pepper in water for few weeks and removing the outer skin. White pepper is more pungent than black pepper since it is the solid core of the fruit.

Black & White Pepper are the most widley used spices. One can find their usage in almost every cuisine, starting from salad, meat dishes, Indian curries to Italian pasta. It is used in pickles, ketchup, sausages and many blends of seasoning. It is also one of the key ingredient of Indian curry masala and Garam masala.

In India, it is used not only in kicthen but also in medicine cabinet. People use black pepper for digestive properties, Amnesia, Coughs, Impotency, Teeth Disorder and many other problems. I use the pepper with almonds when I have cough & cold. Ask your natural health practioner for any specific condition before you use it.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Turmeric - A magical spice

Turmeric is one of the most important spice for its culinary usage and medicinal properties. It is an indispensable culinary ingredient and imparts a musky flavor with yellow color. It is used extensively in Asian cooking for making any type of curry. It is also used as a coloring matter in pharmacy, confectionery and food industry.

Turmeric is widely used as antiseptic for healing wounds inside and outside the body. It is used as an intestinal antiseptic, expelling worms, anemia, and treatment of measles. Due to its antiseptic properties, it is used as an effective remedy for chronic cough and throat irritations. It is very effective in treatment of skin diseases like ring worm and scabies. Turmeric is also used extensively in beauty care industry. Turmeric has an active ingredient called Curcumin that is responsible for the curative properties.

MD Anderson cancer center at University of Texas has been studying curcumin for cancer treatment, Cholesterol, HIV, Inflammation, Osteoarthritis, Stomach ulcer, and many other diseases. Please visit the site UT MD Anderson school website for more information. Prof. BB Aggarwal and other people are studying Curcumin and its implications at Anderson medical center.
Mayo clinic is also studying the use of Turmeric for cancer treatment. Timothy Moynihan, MD at mayo clinic says: 

1. Curcumin is thought to have antioxidant properties, which means it may decrease swelling and inflammation. It's being explored as a cancer treatment because inflammation appears to play a role in cancer.

2. Lab research suggests that curcumin may slow the spread of cancer and the growth of new tumor blood vessels. It may also cause cancer cells to die. In the lab, curcumin has been studied for use in treating or preventing colon, skin and breast cancers.

At this time, there isn't enough evidence to recommend curcumin for preventing or treating cancer, but research is ongoing.

This blog should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cardamom - Queen of Spices

Cardamom(Elettaria) is the "queen of spices", second only to black pepper, the "king of spices". It is one of the most valued spice in the world. Cardamom belongs to the same family as ginger and turmeric. Cardamom pods are the fruits of the plant that has large lush green leaves and has beautiful white flowers. Cardamom fruits are harvested and then dried. Indus Cardamom is green in color since it is not dried in sun. Cardamom is native to India and it is grown in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Sumatra & Guatemala. In India, it is harvested once a year where as in Guatemala it is harvested at least twice in the year. Taste and aroma of Indian cardamom is very different from Guatemala counterpart. Cardamom is grown in regions of heavy rain fall . It can not be grown in Europe, Africa or US.

Cardamom has pleasant aroma and slightly pungent taste. It is used as a breath freshener in India and other countries. It is used as a key ingredient in masala Chai and has gained more market in the US. Cardamom is used in curries, cakes, bread, flavored rice and confectionery.

Cardamom is essential oil is used in pharmaceuticals, perfumes, flavoring liqueurs, and as a stimulant. Cardamom is used to reduce the impotency and pre-mature ejaculation by many people. A pinch of cardamom boiled in milk and sweetened with honey every night would result excellent results. In India, green cardamom is broadly used to treat infections in teeth and Gum, to prevent and treat throat troubles, congestion of the lungs and pulmonary tuberculosis, inflammation of eyelids and also digestive disorders. It is also reportedly used as an antidote for both snake and scorpion venom.

Product usage are not tested and approved by USFDA. Products are suggestions by natural health practitioner, please consult your doctor.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Why Spices Should be Organic ?

Lot of people ask me about spices and herbs. Main question they ask, I use small amount of spices - why do I care about organic?. It seems right at first glance. However, there is a main reason that people often forget. For example, 1 lb of organic garlic powder is produced from 10 lbs of raw garlic bulbs. Similarly, 1 lb of organic cayenne pepper is produced from 8-10 lbs of fresh cayenne pepper. Therefore, potency of spices are much higher than fresh product. If we are using several spices, amount of chemical intake is substantial in our food. Dried spices and herbs have different drying & processing ratio associated with fresh products. There is an additional purity factor that is associated with stems and outer skin of the product.

Why spices are more expensive than Rice ?
Most spices are harvested once a year in a season. Amount of produce per acre is much smaller than other commodities like rice and wheat. After harvesting, post processing of cleaning, drying, powdering etc. is required. Most of spices have loss associated with drying. This ratio can be from 5 to 10, depending on the spice. Therefore, cost of spice produce is higher than other commodities.