It grows wild in Israel, where, long ago, Jesus made reference to it as a flavoring spice used by the Jews (Matthew 23:23). It’s also mentioned in the Old Testament (Isaiah 28:25, 27). This amazing herb has always been popular in Middle Eastern dishes, and its oil brings a special scent to perfumes.
Cumin (Cuminum cyminum) originates from the eastern Mediterranean region, especially Egypt, Iran, and Turkey. Its pungent and distinctive aromatic flavor makes it popular in Middle eastern, Moroccan, and Indian cuisine.
The ancient Egyptians sprinkled cumin seeds on bread and cakes, and it was a common seasoning used by the Greeks and Romans. It was customary for a container of ground cumin powder to be on the dinner table.
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Myrrh boasts a long history in Indian medicine for the treatment of mouth ulcers, gingivitis, throat infections, inflammation of the mouth, and respiratory catarrh. It’s topically applied to ulcers and may be used as a mouthwash or gargle. In East Africa, it serves as an anti-inflammatory and antirheumatic agent.
High Trade Value
In ancient times, the Egyptians imported great quantities of myrrh from Palestine. Because of its unique aromatic fragrance, it was highly valued as a trade commodity. The Ishmaelite travelers who purchased Joseph from his mean-spirited brothers were journeying to Egypt with camels loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh (Genesis 37:25). It was believed that the Queen of Sheba brought great quantities of the herb and other spices from Yemen as gifts for King Solomon. The long-heralded “balm of Gilead” is a member of the myrrh family, known far and wide as a healing agent for wounds.
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The mild taste of Africa-grown rooibos—pronounced Roy-boss—(Aspalathus linearis) has made it a very popular ingredient in various herbal-tea blends. The name means “red bush;” a flowering shrub that grows in the Cedarberg mountain region in South Africa’s western cape, north of Cape Town.
Rooibos is an erect shrub that grows about five feet high. It sports reddish-brown stems and bright-green needlelike leaves. Since it’s a legume, the root contains nodules inhabited by nitrogen-fixing bacteria. This characteristic enables the plant to survive the nutrient-poor, acidic soils of the Cedarberg region.
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Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) was one of the substances utilized by Hippocrates, and other Greek physicians, for medicinal purposes. The Romans made coriander a popular seasoning, and introduced it to Great Britain. It was later brought to America, and became one of the first spices grown in New England.
It’s an annual herb native to the Mediterranean region and Western Asia. However, commercial supplies now come from Turkey, India, Bulgaria, Russia, and Morocco. It’s even mentioned in ancient Egyptian, Sanskrit, and Greek writings.
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There are about 900 different varieties of sage (Salvia). These lants—members of the mint family—offer interesting and diverse aromas, textures, and colors. Their flowers produce abundant nectar, making them a favorite destination of bees. Many varieties, such as the cardinal and painted sage, serve as picturesque ornamentals and combine well with other garden plants. Some varieties boast medicinal and culinary uses.
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Cinnamon has been used for centuries both as a culinary spice and for medicinal and other purposes. The ancient Egyptians included cinnamon in their embalming mixture. Moses combined cassia (cinnamon) and other spices with olive oil to anoint the tabernacle and its furnishings.
The name cinnamon is derived from a Greek word meaning sweet wood. It’s made from the inner bark of the cinnamon tree—an evergreen of the Laurel family. The rolled bark is allowed to dry, forming a scroll or quill. The quills are then cut into two- to three-inch sticks or ground into powder. The ground cinnamon has a stronger flavor than the sticks and can stay fresh for six months, while the scrolls last longer. Both should be stored in a cool, dark, and dry place.
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While the common rose originated in Iran, cultivation of the fragrant flower took off in Europe in the 1800’s with the introduction of roses from China that had an amazing ability to bloom repeatedly throughout the summer and into late autumn. Rose bushes have become one of the most popular garden shrubs, bearing flowers in a variety of colors: red, white, pink, yellow, orange, and burgundy. Currently, there are thousands of rose varieties and hybrids that have been developed for their bloom shape, color, size, and fragrance. Some even lack thorns.
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There are about 350 species of thyme. Since they readily hybridize (blend with other species) in cultivation, their classification is quite complex. Many produce good garden plants, which are easy to grow and exhibit fragrant foliage and small pink or lilac flowers. Although the flowers are small, they’re numerous and produce copious amounts of bee-pleasing nectar. Some of the finest-flavored honey comes from thyme plants.
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Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) can be grown year-round and usually stays green late into the fall and sometimes throughout the winter. The plant can reach six to eight inches in height the first year and up to three feet when it flowers the second. Young foliage is preferred for eating, since the leaves of the second-year growth tend to be somewhat tough and bitter.
While parsley is native to the Mediterranean region, it’s now one of the most widely cultivated garden herbs. In ancient Roman times parsley was a very popular culinary additive. Pliny complained that every sauce and salad contained it. The Romans spread parsley and soft cheese on bread—a predecessor of the modern parsley and cream cheese sandwich.
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Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) also goes by the name passion vine, apricot vine, or Corona de Cristo. It’s a hardy, climbing vine that is noted for its beautiful flowers and tasty fruit. This perennial creeper is native to Central and South America, the West Indies, and the southeast region of the United States. The climbing tendrils can be trained so that the vine can easily grow on a trellis.
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