|Friday Five: The Holiday Spices|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Friday, 21 December 2012|
From seeds, and berries to dried flower buds and bark, almost all of our traditional holiday spices including nutmeg, cloves, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger are native to the West Indies, Madagascar, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.
Nutmeg (pictured above) is native to the West Indies and Southeast Asia and is sold already ground or whole (grate it yourself using a nutmeg grater). It is the endosperm portion of the seed from the nutmeg tree (Myristica fragrans). Mace is derived from the thin, bright red aril or lace-like covering over the shell of the nutmeg.
Cloves are the sun-dried flower buds (pictured above) of Syzyium aromaticum, a small tree native to Madagascar and the coastal regions of Africa, as well as Indonesia and the Spice Islands. The name Cloves comes from the French "clou", which means nail.
Allspice is derived from the dried, green berries of Pimenta dioica, a tree native to Central America. Most allspice however, is cultivated in Jamaica. The name allspice refers to the fact that it tastes like a combination of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
True cinnamon is the inner bark of the cinnamon tree (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), native to Sri Lanka, parts of India, and Myanmar. Most of the cinnamon sold in the US is from Chinese cinnamon ((Cinnamomum cassia)), native to southern China.
Ginger is spice that comes from the rhizome of the ginger plant, Zingiber officinalis, native to china. In cooking it is mainly used in powder form made from the dried ginger rhizome. In the 1800's, Ginger was commonly sprinkled on top of beer or ale, then stirred into the drink with a hot poker - thus the invention of gingerale (www.mccormick.com).