Cloves

Cloves are dried flower buds of the clove tree , which are harvested before they open. The tree is a member of the myrtle family and is native to the Indonesian Moluccan Islands.

Indonesia consumes about 50% of the world production of cloves where  the cloves are combined with tobacco to make kretek cigarettes.

clovesThe world’s leading producer of cloves is the island of Pemba in Tanzania about 50 kilometres off the east African coast.

The name Cloves derives from the French clou which means nail. The earliest references to Cloves can be found in literature from the Han period in China under the name chicken tongue spice. Beginning in the 8th Century, cloves became one of the major spices in European trading.

This tropical evergreen tree “must always see the sea” in order to thrive. Cloves were rather expensive and played an important role in world commerce history. Wars were waged to secure exclusive rights to the highly profitable clove business. In the Moluccas, where Cloves were first found, parens traditionally planted a Clove tree whenever a new child was born.

Cloves are an important inclusion in the spice blends from Sri Lanka and Northern India. They are used in garam masala, biryanis, and some pickle recipes. In the United States cloves are commonly used in meats, salad dressings, and desserts. Clove is one key flavour component of ketchup and Worcestershire sauce seasoning mixes. Chinese and German seasonings also depend on cloves to flavor meat dishes as well as cookies.

Acorns

Greek legend suggests acorns were a staple food in ancient times. They were used as a poor coffee substitute during the American Civil War. Today they are sometimes used to fatten pigs.

There exists more than 450 varieties of acorn, many of which have at some time been used for food. Acorns are native on all continents excepting Australia.

Acorns are the fruit of  oak trees and are classified as true nuts.acorn

They are high in carbo’s, and were used as food most often during times of famine. They are a great source of food for some wildlife.

In 1945 Japanese children gathered more than one million tonnes of acorns to make into flour due to under supply of rice and wheat for flour making.

To use acorns for food. Collect acorns when they are ripe, in autumn. Discard the shells and the caps, then boil the acorns for a minimum of two hours, changing the cooking water several times. This cooking process removes bitterness from the acorns. They can then be roasted in the oven for around one hour at 180 degrees C. They will then be ready to eat as nuts or can be ground into flour.

About Lentils

These small legumes of the pea family are grown for their seeds, which may be dried and used in soups and stews, and are also ground into lentil flour. The plant itself is usually used for animal fodder. lentil trivia

It is possibly the oldest cultivated legume, and is believed to be native to south western Asia, maybe northern Syria. Seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs dating from the 2400 B.C., and there is other evidence that cultivation occurred as early as 6,000 B.C.

Lentils are widely cultivated throughout Asia, parts of Europe and North Africa, and more than two million hectares are grown worldwide. They are a staple in much of the Middle East and India. They are rich in protein and carbohydrates, and provide a useful source of calcium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins. They are found in a range of colours including white, green, red, yellow, brown, and orange.

The Latin name Lens culinaris originates from the shape of the lentil, round, flat and convex, likens its name to a glass ‘lens’

Goose Roasted Alive

In no way is this acceptable animal treatment today. However in times past…..

A Goose roasted alive. A little before our times, a Goose was wont to be brought to the table of the King of Arragon, that was roasted alive, as I have heard by old men of credit. And when I went to try it, my company were so hasty, that we ate him up before he was quite roasted. He was alive, and the upper part of him, on the outside, was excellent well roasted.
The rule to do it is thus. Take a Duck, or a Goose, or some such lusty creature, but he Goose is best for this purpose. Pull all the Feathers from his body, leaving his head and his neck. Then make a fire round about him, not too narrow, lest the smoke choke him, or the fire should roast him too soon. Not too wide, lest he escape unroasted. Inside set everywhere little pots full of water, and put Salt and Meum to them. Let the Goose be smeared all over with Suet, and well Larded, that he may be the better meat, and roast the better. Put the fire about, but make not too much haste.
When he begins to roast, he will walk about, and cannot get forth, for the fire stops him. When he is weary, he quenches his thirst by drinking the water, by cooling his heart, and the rest of his internal parts. The force of the Medicament loosens and cleans his belly, so that he grows empty. And when he his very hot, it roasts his inner parts. Continually moisten his head and heart with a Sponge. But when you see him run mad up and down, and to stumble (his heart then wants moisture), wherefore you take him away, and set him on the table to your guests, who will cry as you pull off his parts. And you shall eat him up before he is dead.

Source;- Porta, Giambattista della. Magia Naturalis. <hxxp://members.tscnet.com/pages/omard1/jportac14.html>

Ancient Ice Cream

“Ice cream is reputed to have been made in China as long ago as 3000 BC, but it did not arrive in Europe (via Italy) until the thirteenth century, and Britain had to wait until the late seventeenth century to enjoy it (hitherto, iced desserts had been only of the sorbet variety)… by the time Hannah Glasse and Elizabeth Raffald were giving recipes for it in the mid-eighteenth century, it was evidently well established. At first, ice cream was simply as its name suggests: cream, perhaps sweetened, set in a pot nestling in ice to cool it down. But before long recipes became more sophisticated, and the technique of periodic stirring to prevent the formation of ice crystals was introduced, and ice cream was set on a career of unbroken popularity. As early as 1821 we find mention of “ice-cream gardens’ in New York….Since introducing ice cream to Europe in the Middle Ages, Italy has never relinquished its lead in this field, and over the centuries the manufacture of ice cream has in many countries been the province of Italian emigrants.”
An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 167)

Food Prices Rising

Startling information from Food & Agriculture Org.

The FAO Food Price Index (FFPI) rose for the seventh consecutive month, averaging 231 points in January 2011, up 3.4 percent from December 2010 and the highest (in both real and nominal terms) since the index has been backtracked in 1990. Prices of all the commodity groups monitored registered strong gains in January compared to December, except for meat, which remained unchanged. Changes in the composition of  the meat price index (read more) have resulted in adjustments to the historical values of the FFPI. One implication of this revision is that the December value of the FFPI, which previously was the highest on record, is now the highest since July 2008.

The FAO Cereal Price Index averaged 245 points in January, up 3 percent from December and the highest since July 2008, but still 11 percent below its peak in April 2008. The increase in January mostly reflected continuing increases in international prices of wheat and maize, amid tightening supplies, while rice prices fell slightly, as the timing coincides with the harvesting of main crops in major exporting countries.

The FAO Oils/Fats Price Index rose by 5.6 percent to 278 points, nearing the June 2008 record level, reflecting an increasingly tight supply and demand balance across the oilseeds complex.

The FAO Dairy Price Index averaged 221 points in January, up 6.2 percent from December, but still 17 percent below its peak in November 2007. A firm global demand for dairy products, against the backdrop of a (normal) seasonal decline of production in the southern hemisphere, continued to underpin dairy prices.

The FAO Sugar Price Index averaged 420 points in January, up 5.4 percent from December. International sugar prices remain high, driven by tight global supplies.

By contrast, the FAO Meat Price Index were steady at around 166 points, as falling prices in Europe, caused by a fall in consumer confidence following a feed contamination, was compensated by a slight increase in export prices from Brazil and the United States.

Source

Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has existed in numerous forms  since at least the Neolithic period.  Five thousand year old chewing gum made from birch bark tar (complete with tooth marks), was discovered in Finland. The bark tar from which the chewing gum was made is thought to have antiseptic properties and other medicinal properties.  The ancient Aztecs used chicle as a base for making a gum like substance. Women used this gum as a mouth freshener. Forms of chewing gums are known to have also been used in ancient Greece. The Greeks chewed mastic gum, made from the resin of the mastic tree.  Many other cultures have chewed gum like substances made from a range of plants, grasses, and resins. The North American Indians chewed resin made from the sap of spruce trees. The New England settlers picked up this practice, and in 1848, John B. Curtis developed and sold the first commercial chewing gum called The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum. Around 1850 a gum made from paraffin wax was developed and soon surpassed the spruce gum in popularity. William Semple claimed an early patent for chewing gum in 1869.

Modern chewing gum was initially developed in the 1860’s when chicle was exported from Mexico as a rubber substitute. Chicle did not succeed as a replacement for rubber, but as a gum it was quickly adopted and due to newly established companies such as Adams New York Chewing Gum (1871), Black Jack (1884) and Chiclets (1899), it rapidly dominated the chewing gum market. Chicle gum had a smoother and softer texture and held flavourings better. Most chewing gum companies have since switched to artificial gum bases because of their lower cost and ready availability.

Time for Thyme

Trivia about a lovely herb…

There are over 100 varieties of thyme.

Ancient Egyptians used thyme during the mummification process.

The Greeks, the Romans, the Scottish highlanders, and the knights of the Middle Ages all believed thyme improved strength and courage.

The ancient Greeks added thyme in their baths.

When the Greeks stated someone “smelled of thyme” they declared that person was elegant, refined, and stylish.

The Greeks burnt thyme as incense in their sacred temples.

The Romans and Druids utilised thyme for the treatment of depression.

In the Middle Ages, thyme was placed under pillows to prevent nightmares and aid sleep.

Fairies love thyme. In France and England, people often created a bed of thyme to attract fairies and attract them to the garden.

Oberon, the king of fairies in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, says, “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,” referring to the bed of thyme in which Titania the fairy queen sleeps.

Greek Hymettus honey is made by bees who gather the pollen from wild thyme on Mount Hymettus.

Thyme has been used on wound bandages to prevent infection.

The essential oil of thyme is known thymol. It was isolated in 1725 by the German apothecary Neuiuiann.

The active ingredient in Listerine mouthwash is thymol.