Monday, November 29, 2010


cumin (Cuminum cyminum) and black cumin seeds (Nigella sativa)

cumin: iron (4)
black cumin seeds: over 100 different chemical constituents, including all the essential fatty acids (9)

Energy production, digestion, and cancer prevention. (4)
For minor digestion problems, flatulence, colic, and migraines. The oil is antibacterial. (5)
Cumin protects against disease. (7)
Cumin seeds (especially when combined with ripe banana) are a highly effective treatment for insomnia. Cumin also improves memory (and can even speed recovery from amnesia), can slow the growth of cancer cells, helps treat colds and respiratory ailments, and boosts metabolic rate. (8)
The essential oil of black cumin is antimicrobial and helps rid the intestines of worms. Helps many diseases, but dramatic results are seen with asthma and allergies. (9)

Parts used: seeds
In a study by Dr. Sherman at Cornell University, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne killed about 20 different kinds of bacteria. (1)
Native to the Nile Valley, it's part of Mexican chili powder. You can gently roast whole seeds (in a dry cast-iron pan). Try some in pumpkin soup. (2)
Lightly toasting seeds (in cast-iron pan) before use enhances their flavor. Often used in spice mixtures such as garam masala and chili powder, and in Latin American and Middle Eastern cooking. (3)
Cumin has been used for centuries as a pungent spice to curries. The Romans used ground cumin seeds like we use pepper. (5)
Toast cumin seeds in a small (cast iron) skillet for a few minutes to bring out their fragrance and flavor. Add to bean recipes, such as black bean soup or lentil soup. (6)
Black cumin seeds were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. Mohammed said that black cumin cures every disease but death itself. The oil is used medicinally. The seeds are a bit spicy and often used whole in cooking curries and Mediterranean cheeses. (9)

Cumin: 10" tall annual. Zones 8-10. Full sun with wind protection. Soil pH 5.6-8.2. Propagate by seed sown in spring. May not ripen in cold climates. Flowers appear in summer, followed by seeds. Looks like caraway seeds except they're bristly. Usually pest- and disease-free. Collect seeds when ripe & store whole. Roast or crush seeds when adding to food. (5)

Black cumin: 1'4" annual. Hardy to zone 0 and is not frost tender. It flowers, gorgeous white to bluish-purple flowers in July, and the seeds ripen in September. (11) Easily grown in any good garden soil, prefers warm, sunny position. Light soil. The seed is aromatic with a nutmeg scent. A greedy plant, inhibiting the growth of nearby plants, especially legumes. Seed - sow spring or early autumn in situ. The autumn sowing might not be successful in harsh winters. Plants can be transplanted if necessary. (12)

Cumin is generally recognized as safe as a spice and flavoring. (10)
There are no known side effects with black cumin when administered in normal doses. (9)

1) Keville, Kathi. Aromatherapy for Dummies. NY: Wiley Publishing, 1999.
3) Bittman, Mark. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing, 2007.
4) Infinity magazine, article "Spice is Nice"
5) Hutchison, Frances (consultant editor). Garden Herbs. NY, NY: B&N, 2003.
6) Murray, Michael. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. NY, NY: Atria Books, 2005.
7) Gittleman, Ann Louise, M.S., C.N.S. The Fat Flush Plan. NY: McGraw-Hill, 2002.


Lentil Soup w/ Lemon: let lentils soak 7 hrs before using in any recipe. Can also use brown/green lentils instead of pink lentils. For recipe, go to:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


cardamom (Elletaria cardamomum)

2% DV calcium, 2% DV vitamin C, 4% DV iron, 6% DV fiber, 80% DV manganese.
% Daily Value (DV) are for adults or children > 4 yr, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. (6)

Helps digestion (especially when taken with fennel). Stimulates metabolism. (2)
Cardamom tea (see Recipe of Month) may be effective in fighting pulmonary disease with phlegm, and may be useful as an expectorant. (3)
Cardamom tea may help detoxify against excessive caffeine (3)(5)(9) & may help in preventing colon cancer. (3) Add a shake of cardamom & cinnamon to your coffee.
Carminative, stomachic, flatulence. (4)
Chewing the seeds cleanses the breath & is used to counteract mucus-forming foods. (5)

A pungent spice (1) Related to ginger. One of the main ingredients in curry powder & used in mulled wine also. (5)
Numerous health benefits, due to high amounts of volatile oils such as borneol, camphor, eucalyptol, limonene, terpinine (2), a-terpineol, myrcene, menthone, b-phellandrene, l,8-cineol, sabinene, and heptane. (3)
Cardamom is one of the oldest spices in the world. It's the world's second most expensive spice, saffron being the first. (7)

6-10 feet tall perennial, cultivated in tropical areas. (4) Zone 10 or warmer; does best in partial shade; needs tropical conditions to fruit well. Moist, humus-rich soil, pH 4.8-6.7. Propagate by division of rhizomes in spring or summer & by seed in atuumn. Flowers spring to early summer, followed by small oval fruits. The fruits are harvested every few weeks just before they ripen, during dry season. After picking, dry capsules on open platforms in sun. The small green fruit contains up to 18 seeds. (5)

There are few adverse effects reported with cardamom. May cause allergic contact dermatitis, especially with repeated exposure (a good rule of thumb is not to eat anything every day, but to have a variety in your diet). May also trigger gallstone colic - not recommended for patients with gallstones. May increase risk of bleeding (though it's not well studied), especially with drugs and supplements that also increase risk of bleeding (see website for list). Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. (8)

4) Lust, John. The Herb Book. NY, NY: Bantam Books, 1974.
5) Hutchison, Frances (consultant editor). Garden Herbs. NY, NY: B&N, 2003.
7) http://www.arcamax.caom/chefjames/5-261847-434121

Coffee: Add 1/8 t cardamom powder per cup of coffee before or after brewing.

Tea: Add 1/8 t cardamom powder into any herb tea.

Chai Tea: 2 t or 2 teabags of Darjeeling tea (or YerbaMate tea for no caffeine), 1/2 cinnamon stick (crushed), 2 cardamom pods (crushed), 1 c milk (or nutmilk), 1 t raw sugar or honey.
Place tea in 1 c water in a medium-sized pot & add spices. Bring to boil, then take off heat immediately. Cover & steep 5 minutes. Strain & add milk & sugar. Serve at room temperature, hot, or iced.