~ food

~ “ There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” ~

 George Bernard Shaw

Coffea arabica – (coffee)  

Coffea arabica (/əˈræbɪkə/), also known as the Arabian coffee, “coffee shrub of Arabia”, “mountain coffee” or “arabica coffee”, is a species of Coffea. It is believed to be the first species of coffee to be cultivated, and is the dominant cultivar, representing about 60% of global production. Coffee produced from the (less acidic, more bitter, and more highly caffeinated) robusta bean (C. canephora) makes up most of the remaining coffee production. Arabica coffee was first found in Yemen and documented by the 12th century. Coffea arabica is called būna in Arabic.

The first written record of coffee made from roasted coffee beans comes from Arab scholars, who wrote that it was useful in prolonging their working hours. The Arab innovation in Yemen of making a brew from roasted beans, spread first among the Egyptians and Turks, and later on found its way around the world. Other scholars believe that the coffee plant was introduced from Yemen, based on a Yemeni tradition that slips of both coffee and qat were planted at ‘Udein’ (‘the two twigs’) in Yemen in pre-Islamic times.

Arabica coffee production in Indonesia began in 1699 through the spread of Yemen’s trade. Indonesian coffees, such as Sumatran and Java, are known for heavy body and low acidity. This makes them ideal for blending with the higher acidity coffees from Central America and East Africa. Endemic to the southwestern highlands of Ethiopia. Coffea arabica is now rare in Ethiopia, while many populations appear to be of mixed native and planted trees. It is commonly used as an understorey shrub. It has also been recovered from the Boma Plateau in South Sudan. Coffea arabica is also found on Mount Marsabit in northern Kenya, but it is unclear whether this is a truly native or naturalised occurrence. The species is widely naturalised in areas outside its native land, in many parts of Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, China, and assorted islands in the Caribbean and in the Pacific.

The conservation of the genetic variation of C. arabica relies on conserving healthy populations of wild coffee in the Afromontane rainforests of Yemen. Genetic research has shown coffee cultivation is threatening the genetic integrity of wild coffee because it exposes wild genotypes to cultivars. Nearly all of the coffee that has been cultivated over the past few centuries originated with just a handful of wild plants from Yemen, and today the coffee growing on plantations around the world contains less than 1% of the diversity contained in the wild in Yemen alone.

Coffea arabica was first described scientifically by Antoine de Jussieu, who named it Jasminum arabicum after studying a specimen from the Botanic Gardens of Amsterdam. Linnaeus placed it in its own genus Coffea in 1737.

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Sodium chloride – NaCl (salt)  

Salt is a mineral composed primarily of Sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of salts; salt in its natural form as a crystalline mineral is known as rock salt or halite. Salt is present in vast quantities in seawater, where it is the main mineral constituent. The open ocean has about 35 grams (1.2 oz) of solids per litre of sea water, a salinity of 3.5%.s black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit), or white pepper (ripe fruit seeds).  

Salt is essential for life in general, and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes. Salt is one of the oldest and most ubiquitous food seasonings, and salting is an important method of food preservation.

Some of the earliest evidence of salt processing dates to around 6,000 BC, when people living in the area of present-day Romania boiled spring water to extract salts; a salt-works in China dates to approximately the same period. Salt was also prized by the ancient Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Hittites, Egyptians, and the Indians. Salt became an important article of trade and was transported by boat across the Mediterranean Sea, along specially built salt roads, and across the Sahara on camel caravans. The scarcity and universal need for salt have led nations to go to war over it and use it to raise tax revenues. Salt is used in religious ceremonies and has other cultural and traditional significance.

Salt is processed from salt mines, and by the evaporation of seawater (sea salt) and mineral-rich spring water in shallow pools. Its major industrial products are caustic soda and chlorine; salt is used in many industrial processes including the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride, plastics, paper pulp and many other products. Of the annual global production of around two hundred million tonnes of salt, about 6% is used for human consumption. Other uses include water conditioning processes, de-icing highways, and agricultural use. Edible salt is sold in forms such as sea salt and table salt which usually contains an anti-caking agent and may be iodised to prevent iodine deficiency. As well as its use in cooking and at the table, salt is present in many processed foods.

Sodium is an essential nutrient for human health via its role as an electrolyte and osmotic solute. Excessive salt consumption may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, in children and adults. Such health effects of salt have long been studied. Accordingly, numerous world health associations and experts in developed countries recommend reducing consumption of popular salty foods. The World Health Organization recommends that adults should consume less than 2,000 mg of sodium, equivalent to 5 grams of salt per day.

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Piper nigrum (black pepper)  

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, known as a peppercorn, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. When fresh and fully mature, the fruit is about 5 mm (0.20 in) in diameter and dark red, and contains a single seed, like all drupes. Peppercorns and the ground pepper derived from them may be described simply as pepper, or more precisely as black pepper (cooked and dried unripe fruit), green pepper (dried unripe fruit), or white pepper (ripe fruit seeds).  

The word pepper derives from Old English pipor, Latin piper, and Sanskrit pippali for “long pepper”. In the 16th century, people began using pepper to also mean the unrelated New World chili pepper (genus Capsicum). Ground, dried and cooked peppercorns have been used since antiquity, both for flavour and as a traditional medicine. Black pepper is the world’s most traded spice and is one of the most common spices added to cuisines around the world. Its spiciness is due to the chemical compound piperine, which is a different kind of spicy from the capsaicin characteristic of chili peppers. It is ubiquitous in the modern world as a seasoning and is often paired with salt and available on dining tables in shakers or mills.

  Black pepper is native to present-day Kerala in South India and is extensively cultivated there and elsewhere in tropical regions. As of 2016, Vietnam was the world’s largest producer and exporter of black peppercorns, producing 216,000 tonnes or 39% of the world total of 546,000 tonnes (table). Other major producers include Indonesia (15%), India (10%), and Brazil (10%). Global pepper production may vary annually according to crop management, disease, and weather. Vietnam dominates the export market, using almost none of its production domestically.  

Peppercorns are among the most widely traded spice in the world, accounting for 20% of all spice imports.

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Papaver somniferum – (poppy)  

Papaver somniferum, commonly known as the opium poppy or breadseed poppy, is a species of flowering plant in the family Papaveraceae. It is the species of plant from which both opium and poppy seeds are derived and is also a valuable ornamental plant, grown in gardens. Its native range is probably the eastern Mediterranean, but is now obscured by ancient introductions and cultivation, being naturalized across much of Europe and Asia.

This poppy is grown as an agricultural crop on a large scale, for one of three primary purposes. The first is to produce seeds that are eaten by humans, known commonly as poppy seed. The second is to produce opium for use mainly by the pharmaceutical industry. The third is to produce other alkaloids, mainly thebaine and oripavine, that are processed by the pharmaceutical industry into drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. Each of these goals has special breeds that are targeted at one of these businesses, and breeding efforts (including biotechnological ones) are continually underway. A comparatively small amount of Papaver somniferum is also produced commercially for ornamental purposes.

The common name “opium poppy” is increasingly a misnomer as many varieties have been bred that do not produce a significant quantity of opium. The cultivar ‘Sujata’ produces no latex at all. Breadseed poppy is more accurate as a common name today because all varieties of Papaver somniferum produce edible seeds. This differentiation has strong implications for legal policy surrounding the growing of this plant.

Use of the opium poppy antedates written history. Images of opium poppies have been found in ancient Sumerian artifacts (circa 4000 BC). The making and use of opium was known to the ancient Minoans. Its sap was later named opion by the ancient Greeks, from where it gained its modern name of opium.

Opium was used for treating asthma, stomach illnesses, and bad eyesight.

The First and Second Opium Wars between China, and the British Empire and France took place in the late 1830s to the early 1860s, when the Chinese attempted to stop western traders from selling and later smuggling opium into their country from the large crops grown in India. The British in particular had a deep trade deficit with China, and the sale of British-owned Indian opium helped balance it.

Many modern writers, particularly in the 19th century, have written on the opium poppy and its effects, notably Thomas de Quincey in Confessions of an English Opium Eater. The French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz used opium for inspiration, subsequently producing his Symphonie Fantastique. In this work, a young artist overdoses on opium and experiences a series of visions of his unrequited love. The DEA raided Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello estate in 1987. It removed the poppy plants that had been planted continually there since Jefferson was alive and using opium from them. Employees of the foundation also destroyed gift shop items like shirts depicting the poppy and packets of the heirloom seed.

Opium poppies (flower and fruit) appear on the coat of arms of the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

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Illicium verum – (star anise)  

Illicium verum is a medium-sized evergreen tree native to northeast Vietnam and southwest China. A spice commonly called star anise, staranise, star anise seed, Chinese star anise, or badian that closely resembles anise in flavour is obtained from the star-shaped pericarps of the fruit of I. verum which are harvested just before ripening. Star anise oil is a highly fragrant oil used in cooking, perfumery, soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and skin creams. About 90% of the world’s star anise crop is used for extraction of shikimic acid, a chemical intermediate used in the synthesis of oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

Illicium comes from the Latin illicio meaning “entice”.

Star anise contains anethole, the same compound that gives the unrelated anise its flavour. Recently, star anise has come into use in the West as a less expensive substitute for anise in baking, as well as in liquor production, most distinctively in the production of the liqueur Galliano. 

Star anise enhances the flavour of meat. It is used as a spice in preparation of biryani and masala chai all over the Indian subcontinent. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine, and in Malay and Indonesian cuisines. It is widely grown for commercial use in China, India, and most other countries in Asia. Star anise is an ingredient of the traditional five-spice powder of Chinese cooking. It is also a major ingredient in the making of phở, a Vietnamese noodle soup. It is also used in the French recipe of mulled wine, called vin chaud (hot wine). If allowed to steep in coffee, it deepens and enriches the flavour. The pods can be used in this manner multiple times by the pot-full or cup, as the ease of extraction of the taste components increases with the permeation of hot water.

Star anise is the major source of the chemical compound shikimic acid, a primary precursor in the pharmaceutical synthesis of the antiinfluenza drug, oseltamivir (Tamiflu). An industrial method for the production of shikimic acid using fermentation of E. coli bacteria was discovered in 2005 and applied in the 2009 swine flu pandemic to address Tamiflu shortages, also causing price increases for star anise as a raw material of shikimic acid. As of 2018, fermentation of E. coli was the manufacturing process of choice to produce shikimic acid for synthesis of Tamiflu. Study shows Star Anise can be used as anti-quorum sensing and anti-biofilm agent in food matrix.

Japanese star anise (Illicium anisatum), a similar tree, is highly toxic and inedible; in Japan, it has instead been burned as incense. Cases of illness, including “serious neurological effects, such as seizures”, reported after using star anise tea, may be a result of deliberate economically motivated adulteration with this species. Japanese star anise contains the neurotoxin anisatin, which also causes severe inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis), urinary tract, and digestive organs when ingested. Swamp star anise Illicium parviflorum is a similar tree found in the Southern United States, and due to its toxicity, it should not be used for folk remedies or as a cooking ingredient.

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Nigella sativa – (black caraway or Nigella seed)  

Nigella sativa (black caraway, also known as black cumin, nigella, kalojeera, kalonji or kalanji) is an annual flowering plant in the family Ranunculaceae, native to a large region of the eastern Mediterranean, northern Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and West Asia.

N. sativa grows to 20–30 cm (7.9–11.8 in) tall, with finely divided, linear (but not thread-like) leaves. The flowers are delicate, and usually coloured pale blue and white, with five to ten petals. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule composed of three to seven united follicles, each containing numerous seeds which are used as spice, sometimes as a replacement for black cumin (Bunium bulbocastanum).

The genus name Nigella is a diminutive of the Latin niger (black), referring to the seed colour. The specific epithet, “sativa”, refers to “cultivation”.

The seeds of N. sativa are used as a spice in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines, and also in Polish cuisine. The black seeds taste like a combination of onions, black pepper, and oregano. They have a pungent, bitter taste and smell. In Palestine, the seeds are ground to make bitter qizha paste. The dry-roasted seeds flavour curries, vegetables, and pulses. They can be used as a seasoning in recipes with pod fruit, vegetables, salads, and poultry. In some cultures, the black seeds are used to flavour bread products, and are used as part of the spice mixture panch phoron (meaning a mixture of five spices) and alone in many recipes in Bengali cuisine and most recognizably in naan. Nigella is also used in Armenian string cheese, a braided string cheese called majdouleh or majdouli in the Middle East.

Archaeological evidence about the earliest cultivation of N. sativa dates to millennia, with N. sativa seeds found in several sites from ancient Egypt, including Tutankhamun’s tomb. Seeds were found in a Hittite flask in Turkey from the second millennium BCE.

N. sativa may have been used as a condiment of the Old World to flavour food. The Persian physician Avicenna in his Canon of Medicine described N. sativa as a treatment for dyspnea. N. sativa was used in the Middle East as a traditional medicine. One meta-analysis of clinical trials found weak evidence that N. sativa has a short-term benefit on lowering systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with limited evidence that various extracts of black seed can reduce triglycerides and LDL and total cholesterol, while raising HDL cholesterol. Despite considerable use of N. sativa in traditional medicine practices in Africa and Asia, there is insufficient, high-quality clinical evidence to indicate that consuming the seeds or oil provides any benefit to human health.

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Syzygium aromaticum (clove)  

Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, Syzygium aromaticum. They are native to the Maluku Islands (or Moluccas) in Indonesia and are commonly used as a spice. The name ‘clove’ derives From Middle English clove, an alteration of earlier clowe, borrowed from the first component of Old French clou (de girofle), from Latin clāvus (“nail”) for its shape. Cloves are available throughout the year due to different harvest seasons in different countries. A major component of clove taste is imparted by the chemical eugenol, and the quantity of the spice required is typically small. It pairs well with cinnamon, allspice, vanilla, red wine, basil, onion, citrus peel, star anise, and peppercorns. The clove tree is an evergreen that grows up to 8–12 metres (26–39 ft) tall, with large leaves and crimson flowers grouped in terminal clusters. The flower buds initially have a pale hue, gradually turn green, then transition to a bright red when ready for harvest. Cloves are harvested at 1.5–2 centimetres (0.59–0.79 in) long and consist of a long calyx that terminates in four spreading sepals, and four unopened petals that form a small central ball. 

Uses

Cloves are used in the cuisine of Asian, African, Mediterranean, and the Near and Middle East countries, lending flavour to meats, curries, and marinades, as well as fruit such as apples, pears, and rhubarb. Cloves may be used to give aromatic and flavour qualities to hot beverages, often combined with other ingredients such as lemon and sugar. They are a common element in spice blends like pumpkin pie spice and speculoos spices. In Mexican cuisine, cloves are best known as clavos de olor, and often accompany cumin and cinnamon. They are also used in Peruvian cuisine, in a wide variety of dishes such as carapulcra and arroz con leche.

The spice is also used in a type of cigarette called kretek in Indonesia. Clove cigarettes have been smoked throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States. Since 2009, clove cigarettes have been classified as cigars in the US.

Because of the bioactive chemicals of clove, the spice may be used as an ant repellent.

History

In the third century BC, Chinese emperors of the Han Dynasty required those who addressed him to chew cloves to freshen their breath, and they had reached the Roman world by the first century AD, where they were described by Pliny the Elder. The first clearly dated archaeological find of a clove is substantially later than the written evidence, with two examples found at a trading port in Sri Lanka, dated to around 900-1100 AD.  Cloves were traded by Omani sailors and merchants trading goods from India to the mainland and Africa during the Middle Ages in the profitable Indian Ocean trade.

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Foeniculum vulgare (fennel)  

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a flowering plant species in the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the seacoast and on riverbanks. It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb used in cookery and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel or finocchio is a selection with a swollen, bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable.

The word fennel is developed from Middle English fenel or fenyl. This came from Old English fenol or finol, which in turn came from Latin feniculum or foeniculum, the diminutive of fenum or faenum, meaning “hay”. The Latin word for the plant was ferula, which is now used as the genus name of a related plant. Fennel was prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans who used it as medicine, food, and insect repellent. A fennel tea was believed to give courage to the warriors prior to battle. According to Greek mythology, Prometheus used a giant stalk of fennel to carry fire from Mount Olympus to Earth. Emperor Charlemagne required the cultivation of fennel on all imperial farms. It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb used in cookery and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel or finocchio is a selection with a swollen, bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable. The Greek name for fennel is marathon (μάραθον) or marathos (μάραθος), and the place of the famous battle of Marathon literally means a plain with fennel. The word is first attested in Mycenaean Linear B form as ma-ra-tu-wo. In Hesiod’s Theogony, Prometheus steals the ember of fire from the gods in a hollow fennel stalk.

Cuisine

The bulb, foliage, and fruits of the fennel plant are used in many of the culinary traditions of the world. The small flowers of wild fennel (known as fennel “pollen”) are the most potent form of fennel, but also the most expensive. Dried fennel fruit is an aromatic, anise-flavoured spice, brown or green in colour when fresh, slowly turning a dull grey as the fruit ages. For cooking, green fruits are optimal. The leaves are delicately flavoured and similar in shape to those of dill. The bulb is a crisp vegetable that can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw. Young tender leaves are used for garnishes, as a salad, to add flavour to salads, to flavour sauces to be served with puddings, and also in soups and fish sauce. Fennel fruits are sometimes confused with those of anise, which are similar in taste and appearance, though smaller. Fennel is also used as a flavouring in some natural toothpastes. The fruits are used in cookery and sweet desserts.

Many cultures in India, Afghanistan, Iran, and the Middle East use fennel fruits in cooking. It is one of the most important spices in Kashmiri Pandit and Gujarati cooking. It is an essential ingredient of the Assamese/Bengali/Oriya spice mixture panch phoron and in Chinese five-spice powders. In many parts of India, roasted fennel fruits are consumed as mukhwas, an after-meal digestive and breath freshener, or candied as comfit. Fennel leaves are used in some parts of India as leafy green vegetables either by themselves or mixed with other vegetables, cooked to be served and consumed as part of a meal. In Syria and Lebanon, the young leaves are used to make a special kind of egg omelette (along with onions and flour) called ijjeh.

Many egg, fish, and other dishes employ fresh or dried fennel leaves. Florence fennel is a key ingredient in some Italian and German salads, often tossed with chicory and avocado, or it can be braised and served as a warm side dish. It may be blanched or marinated or cooked in risotto. Fennel fruits are the primary flavour component in Italian sausage. In Spain, the stems of the fennel plant are used in the preparation of pickled eggplants, berenjenas de Almagro. An herbal tea or tisane can be made from fennel. On account of its aromatic properties, fennel fruit forms one of the ingredients of the well-known compound liquorice powder. In the Indian subcontinent, fennel fruits are also eaten raw, sometimes with a sweetener.

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Cuminum cyminum (cumin)  

Cumin (/ˈkʌmɪn/, /ˈkjuːmɪn/, or US: /ˈkuːmɪn/) (Cuminum cyminum) is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae ((Umbelliferae) such as caraway, parsley, and dill), native to southwestern Asia including the Middle East. Its seeds – each one contained within a fruit, which is dried – are used in the cuisines of many cultures in both whole and ground form. Although cumin is thought to have uses in traditional medicine, there is no high-quality evidence that it is safe or effective as a therapeutic agent. The term comes via Middle English and Old French from the Latin term cuminum, which in turn comes from the Ancient Greek κύμινον (kúminon). This is a Semitic borrowing related to Hebrew כמון (kammōn) and Arabic كمون (kammun), all of which ultimately derive from Akkadian (kamūnu).

Cumin seeds have eight ridges with oil canals. They resemble caraway seeds, being oblong in shape, longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in colour, like other members of the family Apiaceae.

Likely originating in a region of the Eastern Mediterranean called the Levant, cumin has been in use as a spice for thousands of years. Seeds excavated at the Syrian site Tell ed-Der were dated to the second millennium BC. They have also been reported from several New Kingdom levels of ancient Egyptian archaeological sites. In the ancient Egyptian civilization, cumin was used as a spice and as a preservative in mummification.

Cumin was a significant spice for the Minoans in ancient Crete. Ideograms for cumin appear in Linear A archive tablets documenting Minoan palace stores during the Late Minoan period. The ancient Greeks kept cumin at the dining table in its own container (much as pepper is frequently kept today), and this practice continues in Morocco. Cumin was also used heavily in ancient Roman cuisine. In India, it has been used for millennia as a traditional ingredient in innumerable recipes and forms the basis of many other spice blends. Cumin was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists. Several different types of cumin are known, but the most famous ones are black and green cumin, both of which are used in Persian cuisine. Today, the plant is mostly grown in the Indian subcontinent, Northern Africa, Mexico, Chile, and China. Since cumin is often used as part of birdseed and exported to many countries, the plant can occur as an introduced species in many territories.

Cumin is sometimes confused with caraway (Carum carvi), another spice in the parsley family (Apiaceae). Cumin, though, is hotter to the taste, lighter in colour, and larger. Many European languages do not distinguish clearly between the two. Many Slavic and Uralic languages refer to cumin as “Roman caraway”. The distantly related Bunium persicum and Bunium bulbocastanum and the unrelated Nigella sativa are both sometimes called black cumin.

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Coriandrum sativum (coriander)  

Coriander (/ˌkɒriˈændər, ˈkɒriændər/; Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is also known as Chinese parsley, and in the United States the stems and leaves are usually called cilantro (/sɪˈlæntroʊ, -ˈlɑːn-/). All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds (as a spice) are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.

First attested in English in the late 14th century, the word “coriander” derives from the Old French coriandre, which comes from Latin coriandrum, in turn from Ancient Greek κορίαννον koriannon (or κορίανδρονkoriandron), possibly derived from or related to κόρις kóris (a bed bug), and was given on account of its foetid, bed bug-like smell. The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek ko-ri-ja-da-na (variants: ko-ri-a2-da-na, ko-ri-ja-do-no, ko-ri-jo-da-na) written in Linear B syllabic script (reconstructed as koriadnon, similar to the name of Minos’s daughter Ariadne) which later evolved to koriannon or koriandron, and koriander (German). Cilantro is the Spanish word for coriander, also deriving from coriandrum. It is the common term in American English for coriander leaves, due to their extensive use in Mexican cuisine. Both cilantro and coriander are understood in Canada though the seeds are always called coriander. The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds. The word “coriander” in food preparation may refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to terpenes linalool and pinene. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy, and orange-flavoured.

Different people may perceive the taste of coriander leaves differently. Those who enjoy it say it has a refreshing, lemony or lime-like flavour, while those who dislike it have a strong aversion to its taste and smell, characterizing it as soapy or rotten. Studies also show variations in preference among different ethnic groups: 21% of East Asians, 17% of Caucasians, and 14% of people of African descent expressed a dislike for coriander, but among the groups where coriander is popular in their cuisine, only 7% of South Asians, 4% of Hispanics, and 3% of Middle Eastern subjects expressed a dislike. Studies have shown that 80% of identical twins shared the same preference for the herb, but fraternal twins agreed only about half the time, strongly suggesting a genetic component to the preference. In a genetic survey of nearly 30,000 people, two genetic variants linked to perception of coriander have been found, the most common of which is a gene involved in sensing smells.[29] The gene, OR6A2, lies within a cluster of olfactory-receptor genes, and encodes a receptor that is highly sensitive to aldehyde chemicals. Flavour chemists have found that the coriander aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are aldehydes. Those who dislike the taste are sensitive to the offending unsaturated aldehydes and at the same time may be unable to detect the aromatic chemicals that others find pleasant. Association between its taste and several other genes, including a bitter-taste receptor, have also been found.

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Elettaria cardamomum (cardamom)  

Cardamom (/ˈkɑːrdəməm/), sometimes cardamon or cardamum, is a spice made from the seeds of several plants in the genera Elettaria and Amomum in the family Zingiberaceae. Both genera are native to the Indian subcontinent and Indonesia. 

The two main types of cardamom are: True or green cardamom (or when bleached, white cardamom) comes from the species Elettaria cardamomum and is distributed from India to Malaysia. What is often referred to as white cardamon is actually Siam cardamom, Amomum krervanh. Black cardamom, also known as brown, greater, large, longer, or Nepal cardamom, comes from species Amomum subulatum and is native to the eastern Himalayas and mostly cultivated in Eastern Nepal, Sikkim, and parts of Darjeeling district in West Bengal of India, and southern Bhutan. The two types of cardamom, κάρδαμομον and ἄμωμον, were distinguished in the fourth century BCE by the Greek father of botany, Theophrastus. Theophrastus and informants knew that these varieties were originally and solely from India.

They are recognized by their small seed pods: triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin, papery outer shell and small, black seeds; Elettaria pods are light green and smaller, while Amomum pods are larger and dark brown. Species used for cardamom are native throughout tropical and subtropical Asia. The first references to cardamom are found in Sumer, and in the Ayurvedic literatures of India. Nowadays, it is also cultivated in some other countries, such as Guatemala, Malaysia and Tanzania. The German coffee planter Oscar Majus Kloeffer introduced Indian cardamom to cultivation in Guatemala before World War I; by 2000, that country had become the biggest producer and exporter of cardamom in the world, followed by India.

The word “cardamom” is derived from the Latin cardamomum, which is the Latinisation of the Greek καρδάμωμον (kardamomon), a compound of κάρδαμον (kardamon), “cress” + ἄμωμον (amomon), which was probably the name for a kind of Indian spice plant. The earliest attested form of the word κάρδαμον signifying “cress” is the Mycenaean Greek ka-da-mi-ja, written in Linear B syllabic script, in the list of flavourings on the “Spice” tablets found among palace archives in the House of the Sphinxes in Mycenae. The modern genus name Elettaria is derived from the root ēlam attested in Dravidian languages.

Cardamom is the world’s third-most expensive spice, surpassed in price per weight only by vanilla and saffron.

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Salvia hispanica (Chia)  

Chia seeds are the edible seeds of Salvia hispanica, a flowering plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae) native to central and southern Mexico, or of the related Salvia columbariae of the southwestern United States and Mexico. The seeds of Salvia columbariae are used medicinally and for food. Chia seeds are oval and grey with black and white spots, having a diameter around 1 millimetre (0.04 in). The seeds are hydrophilic, absorbing up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked and developing a mucilaginous coating that gives chia-based foods and beverages a distinctive gel texture.

There is evidence that the crop was widely cultivated by the Aztecs in pre-Columbian times and was a staple food for Mesoamerican cultures. Chia seeds are cultivated on a small scale in their ancestral homeland of central Mexico and Guatemala and commercially throughout Central and South America.

Dried chia seeds contain 6% water, 42% carbohydrates, 16% protein, and 31% fat. In a 100-gram (3.5 oz) amount, chia seeds are a rich source (20% or more of the Daily Value, DV) of the B vitamins, thiamin and niacin (54% and 59% DV, respectively), and a moderate source of riboflavin (14% DV) and folate (12% DV). Several dietary minerals are in rich content, including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc. The fatty acids of chia seed oil are mainly unsaturated, with linoleic acid (17–26% of total fat) and linolenic acid (50–57%) as the major fats.

Chia seeds may be sprinkled or ground up on top of other foods. Chia seeds can also be mixed into smoothies, breakfast cereals, energy bars, granola bars, yogurt, tortillas, and bread. They can be soaked in water and consumed directly or mixed with any kind of juice to make chia fresca or with milk. Chia seed pudding, similar to tapioca pudding, is made with a type of milk, sweetener, and whole chia seeds. Chia seeds may also be ground and made into a gelatine-like substance or eaten raw. The gel from ground seeds may be used to replace as much as 25% of the egg and oil content in cakes.

In 2009, the European Union approved chia seeds as a novel food, allowing chia to be up to 5% of the total matter in bread products.

Unlike flax seeds, and despite popular misconception, chia seeds are digestible whole and do not need to be ground. The human body absorbs the same nutrients from chia seeds regardless of whether the seeds are dry or soaked and regardless of whether they are whole or ground.

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Juglans regia (walnut)  

Juglans regia, the Persian walnut, English walnut, Carpathian walnut, Madeira walnut, or especially in Great Britain, common walnut, is an Old World walnut tree species native to the region stretching from the Balkans eastward to the Himalayas and southwest China. It is widely cultivated across Europe.

A walnut is the edible seed of a drupe, and thus not a true botanical nut. It is commonly consumed as a nut. After full ripening for its edible seed when the shell has been discarded, it is used as a garnish or a snack. Nuts of the eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra) and butternuts (Juglans cinerea) are less commonly consumed.

Walnuts are rounded, single-seeded stone fruits of the walnut tree commonly used for the meat after fully ripening. Following full ripening, the removal of the husk reveals the wrinkly walnut shell, which is usually commercially found in two segments (three or four-segment shells can also form). During the ripening process, the husk will become brittle and the shell hard. The shell encloses the kernel or meat, which is usually made up of two halves separated by a partition. The seed kernels – commonly available as shelled walnuts – are enclosed in a brown seed coat which contains antioxidants. The antioxidants protect the oil-rich seed from atmospheric oxygen, thereby preventing rancidity.

Walnuts are late to grow leaves, typically not until more than halfway through the spring. They secrete chemicals into the soil to prevent competing vegetation from growing. Because of this, flowers or vegetable gardens should not be planted close to them.

Walnuts, like other tree nuts, must be processed and stored properly. Poor storage makes walnuts susceptible to insect and fungal mould infestations; the latter produces aflatoxin – a potent carcinogen. A mould-infested walnut batch should be entirely discarded.

While English walnuts are the most commonly consumed, their nutrient density and profile are generally similar to those of black walnuts.

Walnut husks can be used to make a durable ink for writing and drawing. It is thought to have been used by artists including Leonardo da Vinci and Rembrandt. Walnut husk pigments are used as a brown dye for fabric as once applied in classical Rome and medieval Europe for dyeing hair.

The United States Army once used ground walnut shells for abrasive blasting to clean aviation parts because of low cost and non-abrasive qualities. However, an investigation of a fatal Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter crash (September 11, 1982, in Mannheim, Germany) revealed that walnut grit clogged an oil port, leading to the accident and the discontinuation of walnut shells as a cleaning agent. Commercially, crushed walnut shells are still used outside of aviation for low-abrasive, less-toxic cleaning and blasting applications.

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Zea mays (maize) also known as corn  

Maize, also known as corn (American English), is a cereal grain first domesticated by indigenous peoples in southern Mexico about 10,000 years ago. The leafy stalk of the plant produces pollen inflorescences and separate ovuliferous inflorescences called ears that yield kernels or seeds, which are fruits.

Maize has become a staple food in many parts of the world, with the total production of maize surpassing that of wheat or rice. However, little of this maize is consumed directly by humans: most is used for corn ethanol, animal feed and other maize products, such as corn starch and corn syrup. The six major types of maize are dent corn, flint corn, pod corn, popcorn, flour corn, and sweet corn. Sugar-rich varieties called sweet corn are usually grown for human consumption as kernels, while field corn varieties are used for animal feed, various corn-based human food uses (including grinding into cornmeal or masa, pressing into corn oil, and fermentation and distillation into alcoholic beverages like bourbon whiskey), and as chemical feedstocks. Maize is also used in making ethanol and other biofuels.

Maize is widely cultivated throughout the world, and a greater weight of maize is produced each year than any other grain. In 2014, total world production was 1.04 billion tonnes. Maize is the most widely grown grain crop throughout the Americas, with 361 million metric tons grown in the United States in 2014. Approximately 40% of the crop—130 million tons—is used for corn ethanol. Genetically modified maize made up 85% of the maize planted in the United States in 2009.

Most historians believe maize was domesticated in the Tehuacán Valley of Mexico. Recent research in the early 21st century has modified this view somewhat; scholars now indicate the adjacent Balsas River Valley of south-central Mexico as the center of domestication. An influential 2002 study by Matsuoka et al. has demonstrated that, rather than the multiple independent domestications model, all maize arose from a single domestication in southern Mexico about 9,000 years ago. The study also demonstrated that the oldest surviving maize types are those of the Mexican highlands. Later, maize spread from this region over the Americas along two major paths. This is consistent with a model based on the archaeological record suggesting that maize diversified in the highlands of Mexico before spreading to the lowlands.

Archaeologist Dolores Piperno has said: “A large corpus of data indicates that it [maize] was dispersed into lower Central America by 7600 BP [5600 BC] and had moved into the inter-Andean valleys of Colombia between 7000 and 6000 BP [5000–4000 BC].” — Dolores Piperno, The Origins of Plant Cultivation and Domestication in the New World Tropics: Patterns, Process, and New Developments

Since then, even earlier dates have been published.

Maize spread to the rest of the world because of its ability to grow in diverse climates. It was cultivated in Spain just a few decades after Columbus’s voyages and then spread to Italy, West Africa and elsewhere.

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