As a rule, I have no trouble thinking of a topic for my next column. This time was a bit different. While pondering the situation, I happened to reach for my spice collection. I do not have a spice rack. I use a plastic box stored in a cabinet. As I looked through the contents, I said to myself, "This is it. I’ll give a small amount of information regarding the culinary and medicinal uses of all these herbs." Here’s what developed.
Red pepper (capsicum/cayenne): All of us Southern country folks know this fresh-grown garden fruit is a must when serving cornbread, field peas and creamed corn. There are many ways to prepare it and serve it. It is a heart stimulant, aids digestion and controls bleeding. If you happen to have a small cut, cleanse the area well, apply red pepper powder and a bandage. You will heal rapidly.
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum): Cinnamon toast, French toast, bread pudding and cinnamon rolls are just a few of the tasty ways cinnamon is used. In the herbal medicine cabinet, it is useful for the control of diabetes (don’t leave off your doctor’s medication). It is also said to boost brain function.
Cloves (Syzygium aromaticum): For a delicious baked ham, I coat it with a brown sugar paste. Then I punch cloves about 2 inches apart all over it. I put it in a brown paper bag in a 300 degree oven for 22 minutes per pound. My favorite alternative recommendation for cloves is clove oil. Keep a bottle on hand at all times. If you have a toothache, apply the oil with a Q-tip. It will coat the nerve and relieve your pain until you can see your dentist.
Garlic (Allium sativum): A must for most so-called Italian dishes. When mixed with capsicum, it will help to lower blood pressure. Actually its benefits are too numerous to mention. For those of you who wish to grow it, I recommend elephant garlic. Remember to plant it in the fall, not in the spring.
Parsley (Petroselinum sativum): I add this to many dishes, especially potatoes. The green herb is excellent in salads. It is said to be a diuretic and vasodilator, and it has a high vitamin content. For growers, remember it is a great butterfly attraction. One day you will have a beautiful, green plant. The next day you will have a leafless plant with well-fed butterfly larvae crawling all over it.
Sage (Salvia officinalis): Pork sausage and Thanksgiving dressing would be lost without it. It is said to strengthen the nervous system, improve memory and sharpen the senses. I read some place that the wife must be the boss of the family in order to grow sage successfully.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaria): One of the daintiest of all the herbs, but its tiny leaves are powerful. It’s good in most vegetable, meat and salad dishes. Those tiny leaves are also a very high source of potassium, iron and manganese and have other health-providing properties.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): This is another butterfly attractant. It has a licorice flavor and can be used in many foods – cooked or raw. It is the best control for baby’s colic I know of. I had a great-grandbaby born in Las Vegas. She suffered with colic. (Her mother suffered with her.) The doctor’s prescription didn’t help. I sent fennel. Her doctor said, "Don’t use it." The baby and mother continued to cry. I finally asked, "Do you think your grandmother would send something that will harm your baby?" The answer was "No." The fennel was given, the baby was relieved and they both slept.
There are other herbs in my storage box, but this is enough for today.
For this research, I have pulled many books off the shelf, including my ragged, old cookbook, "Camp Stews, Etc.," I published in 1979. These books literally cover my play-room that also serves as my office.
Now it’s time to push the Send button and clean up the place.