Oh, the heavenly smells of Christmas! I can’t imagine Christmas with them. A whiff of cinnamon here, and a whiff of vanilla there, and, oh, how good you feel. A whiff of cinnamon here, and a whiff of vanilla there, and, oh, how good you feel. And, you can’t help but reminisce when you smell the aroma of the spices of the Christmas of yesteryear. Ah, nostalgia how sweet you are. In ode to you, nostalgia, I have collected 10 popular Christmas spices to help you celebrate the holiday season.

10 Popular Christmas Spices:
Facts, Uses and Benefits

Allspice

Pimenta dioica

Plant Family: Allspice, also called pimenta, i An evergreen tree belonging to the Myrtaceae (myrtle family).

Used Plant Part: The harvested unripe and dried fruit of the Pimenta dioica tree.

Origin: The evergreen tree that produces the allspice berries is indigenous to the rain forests of South and Central America where it grows wild. Today, the trees are cultivated in many warm parts of the world, but the finest allspice comes from Jamaica (the main exporter) where the climate and soil are best suited to producing the aromatic berries.(1)

Sensory Quality: The dried allspice fruits are powerfully aromatic; the fruits mixed spicy aroma reminds you of clove with a hint of cinnamon, nutmeg,(2) juniper and pepper. The fruits taste similar to cloves, but with some peppery heat.

Photo by David Monniaux (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr

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Anise

Pimpinella anisum

Plant Family: Anise, also called aniseed, is a flowering annual plant belonging to the Apiaceae (parsley) family. The plant has loose umbels of small yellowish-white flowers that yield the anise and is native to the southeastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia.

Sensory quality:Sweet and very aromatic. licorice

Photo by David Monniaux (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr

Cardamom

Elettaria cardamomum

Cardamom is a spice made from the seeds of several plants in the genera (sl.genus) Elettaria and Amomum in the the ginger family– Zingiberaceae,of flowring plants.

Photo by PDPics on Pixabay

Cinnamon

Cinnamomum

Family:  There are many types of cinnamon, but all Cinnamomum trees belongs to the Lauraceae family.

Origin: Ceylon cinnamon, native to Sri Lanka, is the best and also known as “true” cinnamon; Cassia cinnamon, native to China, is the most common type sold in the United States and Canada; and Padang-cinnamon, native to Indonesia (mainly Sumatra), is often traded as Ceylon cinnamon.

Photo by Stevepb on Pixabay

Cloves

Syzygium aromaticum

Photo by aedrozda on Pixabay

Ginger

Zingiber officinale

Photo by silviarita on Pixabay

Nutmeg

Myristica fragrans

Photo by PDPics on Pixabay

Star Anise

Illicium verum

Photo by Daria-Yakovleva on Pixabay

Tonka Beans

Dipteryx odorata

Photo by Fred Benenson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Vanilla

Dipteryx odorata

Family: Vanilla belongs to the Orchid family (Orchidaceae )―one of the largest families of flowering plant. The two main species of Vanilla used for cultivation of its fruit are V. planifolia and V. pompona. A third species, Vanilla tahititensis, or Tahitian vanilla, is a cross that has stemmed from the two closely related species, but the relationship has not been confirmed.

Family: Vanilla belongs to the Orchid family (Orchidaceae )one of the largest families of flowering plant. The two main species of Vanilla used for cultivation of its fruit are V. planifolia and V. pompona. A third species, Vanilla tahititensis, or Tahitian vanilla, is a cross that has stemmed from the two closely related species, but the relationship has not been confirmed.

Origins: The origins of Vanilla planifolia have been traced back to Southeast Mexico and Guatemala, but today vanilla is grown in many countries located 20 degrees on either side of the equator and generally thrives in hot, moist climates.

Aroma: Vanilla, often called the Queen of spices, has a comforting milky warm smell. It’s beans have an intensive sweet woody or smoky aroma.

Production: Currently, the world’s largest vanilla-producing countries are Indonesia, with an output of more than 3,200 tons of vanilla, barely edging out Madagascar―previous leader, with an output of more than 3,100 tons.

Cost: Vanilla is considered the second most expensive spice, after saffron, in the world, and its beans can command up to USD $200 per pound, and pure vanilla extract costs approximately USD $2-$3 per fluid ounce in international markets. The beans of the Bourbon-Vanilla, also called  Madagascar vanilla, are among the most expensive types.

Word Origin:The word vanilla is derived from vainilla, the diminutive of the Spanish word vaina, meaning sheath or pod, and is translated as “little pod”(Wikipedia).

Harvest: Vanilla beans are the pods that grow on a vine-like vanilla orchid plant. These vines grow up trees and produce beautiful flowers along with fragrant fruit–called beans or pods. Each fruit contains thousands of tiny black vanilla seeds. The pods are ready for harvest in six to nine months after pollination. Each fruit ripens at its own time, hence, fruits are harvested one by one a daily basis when they are fully-grown and as they begin to ripe. At this stage, the pods change their color from dark green to light green with yellow tinge.  After harvesting the vanilla goes through a curing that consist of four basic steps: killing, sweating, slow-drying, and conditioning of the beans. The cured vanilla fruits contain an average of 2.5% vanillin. And, it is vanillin that gives off the fruits fragrant aroma.

Culinary Uses: Usage of vanilla is quite versatile. Natural vanilla is available as

  • Whole Dried Vanilla Beans
  • Vanilla Bean Powder
  • Vanilla Bean Paste
  • Vanilla Bean Extract
  • Vanilla Sugar (packaged mix of sugar and vanilla extract)
  • Vanilla Bean Grinders (dried vanilla beans in a convenient grinder)

Four uses of one vanilla bean

  • open the bean and scrape out the seeds. Use seeds immediately in your favorite recipe,
  • add remaining bean sheath in sugar to make vanilla sugar,
  • grind the dried bean sheath and mix with sugar or use as vanilla powder,
  • steep cured vanilla beans in alcohol (35%alcohol by volume)to obtain Pure Vanilla Extract.

Benefits of Vanilla Beans

Most people know ‘vanilla’ for its pleasing aroma and sweet taste, but few know about the vanilla beans’ health benefits.

  • Antioxidant–vanillin is known for its antioxidant properties. (1)
  • Antibacterial–(2)
  • Antidepressant–(3)
  • Anticancer–(4)
  • Anti-inflammatory–(5)

Permalink:Vanilla

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