"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

How cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger became winter holiday scents, removed from their tropical origins.

Regardless of the way you have fun the top of the yr holidays, food might be central to your winter festivities. And a trio of spices—cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger—features in lots of dishes and beverages and is an unmistakable a part of the aroma profile we associate with the vacation season.

Like Plant scientistI used to be curious to understand how these spices grown within the tropics became so closely related to the winter holidays of the Northern Hemisphere. Just because the harvest of cranberries makes them a natural selection for Thanksgiving, I believed that perhaps the harvest of spices had something to do with their use within the winter months.

However, this doesn't look like the case. Producers are playing the long game relating to growing spices.

Spices are invaluable commodities which have fueled global trade, exploration and conquest for hundreds of years.

Growing holiday spices

Take ginger, which is included in lots of cuisines world wide in each sweet and savory recipes. Ginger roots take eight to 10 months to totally mature. Plants could be Harvested at any time of the year. If they're mature and never exposed to cold or wind.

This timing is essential because harvesting ginger means uprooting all the plant to succeed in the rhizomes growing underground. Act like rhizomes Underground trunksStoring nutrients for the plant to assist it survive the winter. Once cold weather signals the plant to dip into its underground nutrient supply, the standard of cut ginger will drop significantly.

Nutmeg is obtained by grinding the seeds of the nutmeg tree, an evergreen. Native to Indonesia. Trees begin to flower of their sixth yr, but peak production occurs once they are about 20 years old.

Workers harvest the fruit from the trees, which often grow to high altitudes. 10 to 30 feet (3 to 10 m), using long poles to bring down the fruit. The fruits are then dried within the sun to provide the spice.

Nutmeg is obtained by grinding the inner seed kernels. of that Bah Masala, Gaddi, obtained by grinding the tissue covering the seeds. Since this plant yields two spices, the long wait for the trees to mature is useful to producers.

Cinnamon is produced from the bark of two trees: for cinnamon sticks, and for cinnamon. The two varieties have different texture and flavor profiles, but each are produced from the outermost layer of tree bark. Production often starts after a tree is 2 years old.

Peeling the bark from the branches of the cinnamon tree Next is the simplest Heavy rains, which softens the bark, so harvesting is normally done after monsoon seasons. The same effect could be achieved by soaking the branches in buckets of water outside the monsoon season.

A Sri Lankan farmer peels freshly harvested cinnamon sticks. Sri Lanka is the world's largest exporter of cinnamon, accounting for 80 percent of production.
Budhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images

What makes a spice 'hot'?

Cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg are all broadly described as “warming” spices, which probably has less to do with where they arrive from and more to do with. How do they affect our bodies?.

Likewise, mint can “taste” cold for this reason. Menthol contentattributed to the nice and cozy taste of cinnamon. A compound called cinnamaldehyde., which supplies the spice its distinctive taste and smell. This chemical tricks our nervous system after we eat it by activating the identical pathway that senses heat Capsaicin in black pepper Stimulates pain sensations.

Cinnamaldehyde also helps. Lower blood glucose levelsSo having fun with a cinnamon tea after a giant Christmas meal might help keep your blood sugar from spiking. Cinnamon has been utilized in traditional medicine throughout Asia for 1000's of years for its antibacterial properties. Digestive aid.

Christopher Columbus' first voyage attempted to explore the western Atlantic. A direct route to Asia to buy cinnamon and other spices directly where they were grown.
Indeed, the spice trade could be seen as one. A microcosm for the story of globalizationwith all its associated benefits and downsides.

Spice up our health and digestive system

Ginger and nutmeg don't make our nervous system feel hot, but they each contain quite a few compounds that aid digestion and may prevent viral and bacterial infections. Ginger is a superb food. Anti-nausea agent Because of a compound called gingerol, which increases Bowel movements. This means food doesn't stay within the gut as long, which reduces gas production and prevents us from feeling bloated and sick.

Ginger was first used for food purposes. Half century As a option to mask the taste of preserved meat, which was primarily eaten in the course of the winter months around the vacations. Unlike most spices, it might probably be used for cooking in lots of forms – fresh, dried and ground, candied or pickled. Each version offers a unique level of the signature ginger bite.

Gingerbread, often flavored with quite a lot of spices including ground ginger, has been around for hundreds of years in various forms.

Like cinnamon, nutmeg is one other anti-diabetic. It has been shown to each lower blood glucose levels and Increase in serum insulin. Insulin helps control how sugar is stored in our body by moving glucose out of our bloodstream and into cells, where it might probably be used later when we'd like an energy boost. could be accessed. So cinnamon might help be sure that all those holiday baked goods are consumed with energy, whether it's now or later.

Nutmeg seeds produce many natural compounds, a few of which have potency. Fight pathogenic bacteria.. During the 1600s, doctors believed that nutmeg could possibly be effective in warding off bubonic plague, and lots of people wore it around their necks. This belief probably comes from nutmeg. Insecticidal propertieswhich might help keep plague-carrying fleas away from people wearing nutmeg necklaces.

The sights and sounds of the winter holidays are distinctive, but nothing is as enveloping and nostalgic because the smells and tastes. Understanding how we've got developed food traditions, and the science behind these foods, might help us higher appreciate their role within the festive season.