Every Sunday, you will find me at the Marin Farmers' Market, where customers stop by to share family recipe ideas, discuss the merits of domestic vs. imported herbs, or tell well polished tales about their gastronomic adventures aboard.
The one thread that pulls this diverse crowd together is our love of good food and the pleasure of sharing it with friends and family.
As so many of us have discovered, Tthoughtful food preparation can be a joy to create and present.
So, taking the time to methodically craft a risotto takes on an air of craft rather than bother. I guess you could call it a labor of love.
With friends and family in mind, I wanted to use this month's column to talk about choosing ingredients that are both tasty and healthy can be good for health.
Spices and herbs provide a natural way to flavor fresh meats and produce, but you may not know about many of their ascribed health and medicinal properties.
The next time you visit a farmers' market or local grocer bring along this column. Hopefully, it will inspire you to try some new flavor combinations while doing some good for body and soul. Enjoy!
Chili PepperRed chilies are known to contain relatively high levels of aAscorbic acid, (vVitamin C), and they are diet- friendly. Cayenne pepper or sauces made from cayenne, like Tabasco, has been shown tocan increase metabolism and fat-burning ability by up to 25%. Cayenne is often recommended as part of a body cleanse. Just a dash of powdered chili will add new life to chicken salad.
GingerGinger has been shown to increases your metabolic rate and it inhibits nausea and vomiting.
Ginger has long been used in Asia to offset the effects of motion sickness and reduce the intensity of morning sickness. Don't forget the fresh ginger in your next stir fry!
PeppermintPeppermint is used to calm gastric and digestive disorders. Peppermint is also commonly taken as a means to reduce insomnia and nervous tension. Go ahead and treat yourself to a cup of peppermint tea. It makes a nice break during a busy day!
MustardMustard is a stimulant that can be used to relieve respiratory complaints. Typically, it is used as a condiment to contrast fatty, salted meats like corned beef. Remember to have lots on hand for making vinaigrettes
HorseradishHorseradish is a relative of the mustard family; it is a mild digestive stimulant. Most green wasabi that is sold in the United States is made from horseradish. For an simple easy hors d'oeuvre, bBuy thinly sliced roast beef, place a "smear" of horseradish on one side,. pPlace a small celery stick, onto the smear, and roll the meat around it. Voila --, easy and delicious. Great with drinks before dinner.
CinnamonCinnamon is often used as an antidote for diarrhea and stomach upset as well as a metabolism booster. Recent scientific findings indicate that cinnamon may help to control blood sugar. For an eye-opening treat, use some fresh cinnamon on your next bowl of oatmeal.
AllspiceAllspice is an aromatic stimulant that helps to mitigate both indigestion and gas. This spice adds a touch of depth to meat marinades (think jerk chicken) and blends well with cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg.
GarlicConsumption of garlic on a consistent, regular basis can help to decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also aids digestion. Recent research shows garlic to be beneficial in the treatment of diabetes. For a nice finishing touch, lightly fry Garlic pieces, drain and sprinkle on top of your Ceasar salad.
Turmeric Turmeric is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals, reduces inflammation and therefore helps protect against cancer. India produces nearly 100% of the world's turmeric and consumes 90% of the total crop. It is well known that India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer's disease in the world, which is now being attributed to this robust use of turmeric. This spice helps to finish many curry blends and works well with squash.
Anti-oxidants slow down or prevent the oxidation of other chemicals present in the body which is thought to reduce the development of free radicals that promote disease.
Practically every herb (and every fruit and vegetable) that has been studied contains antioxidants. Oregano, Sage, Peppermint, Thyme and Lemon Balm are thought to contain the highest concentrations, while Clove, Allspice and, Cinnamon, tend to lead the spices. While science has progressed to where we can measure these properties, the preservative properties of many of these spices and herbs have been known since ancient times.
In addition to herbs and spices, you also may want to also consider adding concord purple grape juice or pomegranate juice to your diet. Both contain particularly high large concentrations of anti-oxidants. aka proanthocyanidins, and which are part of a larger family of plant compounds known as flavanoids, which have been linked to the possible prevention of heart disease and cancer.
*Please note: The information contained in this column about the health properties of spices and herbs is collected information from recently published magazine and web articles. The author does not claim expertise in this area or warrant the accuracy of the information given in this article.
About the Seasoner
Kathy FitzHenry is the founder of Juliet Mae Fine Spices an artisan maker of fine spice blends and seasonings located in San Francisco. Known for her array of sophisticated, handmade products, Kathy has just begun to sell her blends nationally under the name, the Occasional Gourmet. You can find her blends at select specialty stores and at all the Northern California Whole Foods Stores. For more information, please contact Kathy at 415-474-1633 or go to www.theoccasionalgourmet.com. © 2007 Juliet Mae Fine Spices San Francisco