Celebrating the Multicultural festivities of December, I thought I would pick an herb or spice which is referenced in the Bible (land of three of the Major Religions of the world) and used in many cuisines around the entire world, as a way of gathering together all the wealth of diversity around us - in true celebration.
A note about the herbs and spices I selected. There is agreement on some of the herbs (garlic, onion and mint for example) and some continuing discussion on which plant the Bible referred to. After many years there is a consensus - although still discussed by some - that the Hyssop of the Bible is Syrian Oregano (Origanum maru). Since Hyssop (Hyssopus officionalis) is not indigenous to the lands of the BIble but Syrian Oregano is, I have included it as the Biblical plant.
References to Hanukkah are listed in some of the posts but may not fall within the celebration time because the dates vary each year.
The ancient Hebrews originally used cilantro root as the bitter herb in the symbolic Passover meal.
Cilantro is an herb that is known by two different names depending on whether you are talking about the leaf (cilantro) or seed (coriander). Some cultures refer to both leaf and seed as Coriander.
Cilantro is probably one of the first herbs to be used by mankind, going back as far back as 5000 BC. It is mentioned in early Sanskrit writings dating from about 1500 BC.
WHAT IS FRESH, GREEN, TANGY, SPANISH AND ASIAN?
By: Catherine, The Herb Lady originally appearing in the East Valley Tribune October 25, 2003
Cilantro! Coriandrum sativum comes to us by way of the Eastern Mediterranean or Asia Minor.Cultivation dates back to ancient Egypt. This cool weather annual is also known as Coriander (for its edible seeds) and Chinese or Indian parsley. It is one of those herbs that has no gray areas--you either love it or hate it. Its taste is described as fresh, green, tangy and sometimes citrusy. The leaves, stems, flowers, seeds (called fruits) and even the roots (in Thai cooking) are edible. A member of the Apaiaceae family which contains parsley (for which it is sometimes substituted) and Dill, it has a long taproot, and two types of leaves--a large flat leaf resembling parsley and a lacy fern-like leaf evidenced before it starts to flower.
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Herb: Lavender (called Spikenard in the Bible) Song of Solomon 4:14 (Nard) Solomon Admires his Beloved 13 "Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates With choice fruits, henna with nard plants, Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, With all the trees of frankincense, Myrrh and aloes, along with all the finest spices." John 12:3 "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment."
Lavender, Lavandula is a member of the mint (Lamiaceae).
Lavendula (the Latin name is believed to come from "lavare" — to wash, (a possible reference to the ancient Romans’ habit of adding lavender to their bath water) Augustifolia, is an herb so versatile I call her the Queen of Herbs for this fascinating herb is used in cooking, teas, cleaning (it has antiseptic qualities), in cosmetics, as a headache remedy, and as a pest control (most bugs stay away from lavender). The fragrance is evocative — the fragrance of the fields of spring.
There are over 200 varieties that have been identified. The Augustifolia [English or French] or official lavenders, are the preferred varieties for cooking, but all are edible. As with other multiple variety herbs—some are more palatable than others.
One of its essential oils (linalool) is shared with other herbs including basil androsemary.
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Herb: Cumin, Cuminum cyminum, Isiah28:27 “For dill is not threshed with a threshing sledge, Nor is the cartwheel driven over cummin; But dill is beaten out with a rod, and cummin with a club”, Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
Cumin along with other herbs was so valued it was used as currency in the Biblical areas of the world. A member of the Apiaceae (carrot) family, it is from the East Mediterranean to India, and used in many culture’s cooking. Cumin was introduced to the Americas by Spanish and Portuguese colonists (Wikipedia), and is widely used in Spanish, Asian and Middle Eastern foods. Indeed most any of these culture’s savory dishes are enhanced with cumin.
Growing Cumin is very similar to growing cilantro.
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Herb: Dill Anethum graveolens) a member of the carrot family, it is also the only member of its subspecies Anethum. It is mentioned several times in the Bible, including references to it, along with other herbs, as a form of currency.
Isaiah 28:25 “Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground? Does he not level its surface and sow dill and scatter cumin and plant wheat in rows, Barley in its place and rye within its area?” See also Day 13 quote on Cumin.
Dill, the tangy and fragrant leaf and seed are widely used in everything from pickles, to vegetables, soups, stews and cooked meat dishes. I can’t image a pantry without dill in it.
Dill is easy to grow in the desert garden. Start sowing seeds in early fall and plant every 2-4 weeks through January for successive harvesting and to ensure you can harvest seeds at the end of the season for use in cooking and to re-sow next fall.
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I hope you are enjoying these 25 days of herbal celebrations and that you are finding neat facts and ideas.
Have a best day in the garden and kitchen.
-- Catherine, The Herb Lady
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