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The Herbs and Spices of Christmas
A large number of plants are associated with the holiday season. These include some herbs and spices.
A good place to begin is with the common cinnamon. Cinnamon sticks appear in Christmas wreaths and other decorations. The ground spice is used for cookies and other dishes during the season.
The cinnamon tree was native to Sri Lanka. It was one of the major spices that were used by ancient peoples. It is mentioned in the Bible.
Cinnamon is derived from the tree’s bark.
Peppermint appears during the holidays in the form of the familiar red and white candy canes, which are used both as a food and as a holiday decoration.
During the holiday season, nutmeg serves various purposes. This is used to decorate holiday pomanders. In addition, ground nutmeg is traditionally used in holiday eggnog and Christmas cookies.
Nutmeg comes from the nutmeg tree, which originally came from the Moluccas, which is located in Indonesia. Now, it is also grown on the island of Grenada in the Caribbean. The nutmeg along with the spice mace is derived from the seeds of the nutmeg fruit.
Historically, one of the earliest mentions of nutmeg in the Old World dates to the ninth century A.D. when it first became available in Constantinople. The outer portion of the seed or aril becomes the mace, while the rest of the dried seed yields nutmeg.
One of the main spices of Christmas is by far ginger or ginger root. The origins of ginger are somewhat unclear for the plant no longer exists in the wild. It apparently was native to Southeast Asia. The root was used by the ancient Romans for medicinal purposes, but they didn’t seem to use it in their cooking.
Ginger later appeared in Europe and England in the medieval era when it became very popular. India is now one of the main producers of the world’s ginger supply.
Ginger root can be used both fresh and dried, although the two taste quite different. In England and Europe, a traditional use for ginger was in gingerbread. The recipe for this varied greatly from town to town. It was traditionally sold at fairs. Gingerbread often took the form of gingerbread men.
The recipe for gingerbread has evolved greatly over the centuries. The modern gingerbread recipe is a delicacy compared to the early ones, which were made with bread crumbs.
Typically, molds were used for gingerbread. Eventually, the gingerbread became the basis for the modern gingerbread houses.
Frankincense and myrrh are mainly associated with Christmas as some of the gifts of the Magi. Historically, the ancient Greeks and Romans used myrrh to flavor their wines and as a medicinal remedy.
Historically, both of these have been used for incense and as a healing herb. In addition, they were used in preparing bodies for burials during ancient times.
Frankincense came from Arabia where the trees were grown in ancient times.
Rosemary plants are often used for holiday decorating. However, traditionally in Europe and England this herb was widely used for holiday greenery. It reached its height of popularity from around the 14th to the 19th centuries in these areas. Although it is no longer as widely used for the holidays, it remains an outstanding and reliable choice.
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