This is a free excerpt from the book, God's Banquet Table
PEPPER It was a highly priced luxury in Roman times. Pepper is now one of the most widely used spices. Its familiar flavor is due to the volatile oil and the alkaloid piperine. It also contains the trace mineral chromium. Pepper originated along the coast of India and was used as currency in payment of taxes, levies and debts. In 408 AD, the king of the Visi-gothes decreed that 3,000 lb. of pepper be part of the ransom for the city of Rome. Pepper comes from a climbing shrub. Its flowers grow in clusters, producing bright red berries. When they are dried, they become black and shriveled, turning into the familiar pepper corn.
Pepper’s hot bite goes well with all dishes. It has recently become a fad to sprinkle on fresh fruit. We’ve tried it and surprisingly, it's good! The best way to use pepper is a hand pepper mill. This allows you to experience the fresh flavor of the volatile oils that have not grown stale. Pepper is a great alternative to salt for a low sodium diet. It also seems to fill out food, leaving you with the impression that you have eaten more, which is handy for those trying to lose weight. Eating spicy food will force you to eat slower making you savor each mouthful.
There are endless varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and seeds. On top of all these wonderful foods, God has supplied herbs and spices, tools to allow us to express creativity, aroma and flavor.
The quiet gentle flavor of chamomile, or the blaring overpowering shouts of cayenne. The sweetness of cinnamon and bitterness of hops. The sharp bite of horseradish and refreshing lift of mint. None of these flavors are by accident. Each one was carefully thought out and purposely created for our blessing and enjoyment.
We would like to take you on a journey through the flavors and uses of spices and herbs. Many have been used for thousands of years for medicines to relieve suffering and contribute to healing.
Herbs are plants with a fragrant bouquet that may consist of leaves, stems, flowers, seeds or roots that are used in flavoring dishes or as medicines. Preferably they are used fresh, but are also effective dried.
Spices are dried, aromatic plants associated with tropical climates that may include seeds, flowers, leaves, roots or bark. They may be used in preserving food, assisting in digestion, providing flavor or as medications.
Herbs are generally milder in flavor and used for delicate seasoning, whereas spices are strong and distinct, adding a piquant taste. The words herb and spice can be used interchangeably according to culture or tradition.
Spice trading has a great history. Joseph was sold to a spice trader from Gilead for 20 pieces of silver. The Queen of Sheba presented precious stones and spices to King Solomon. Spices were often valued more greatly than gold. Nations fought wars over the occupation and control of spice territories. Political power shifted according to their availability.
Growing your own herbs and spices indoors is a wonderful hobby. Not only do indoor plants act as air cleaners, but they also provide a continuous fresh supply of seasonings for culinary art. These plants can be grown in pots, which can be placed in the window sills of the kitchen. Mint, parsley, chives, and dill are some examples of herbs that can be easily grown indoors. When the warmer weather comes, they can be transplanted outdoors providing you with a bountiful harvest that can be dried or stored in the freezer.
When drying herbs in the oven, the temperature should not exceed 90ºF, allowing their color and flavor to remain intact. Spread the herbs on trays, keeping the door ajar. Once the herbs have been fully dried, it is best to keep them in an airtight glass container stored in a cupboard. Light will destroy the herb’s color and distinct flavor.
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