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HAY 8 m 

FEB 1 2 1! 
IEB 11 1975] 

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L161 — O-1096 



Assistant Curator of Economic Botany 

Leaflet 15 





No. 1. Figs $ .10 

No. 2. The Coco Palm 10 

No. 3. Wheat 10 

No. 4. Cacao 10 

No. 5. A Fossil Flower 10 

No. 6. The Cannon Ball Tree 10 

No. 7. Spring Wild Flowers 25 

No. 8. Spring and Early Summer Wild Flowers . . .25 

No. 9. Summer Wild Flowers 25 

No, 10. Autumn Flowers and Fruits 25 

No. 11. Common Trees 25 

No. 12. Poison Ivy 25 

No. 13. Sugar and Sugar- Making 50 

No. 14. Indian Corn 25 

No. 15. Spices and Condiments 25 






Field Museum of Natural History 

Chicago, 1930 

Leaflet Number 15 
cofybight 1930 by field museum op natural history 

Spices and Condiments 

There is probably no more romantic chapter in the 
history of vegetable products than that of the discovery 
of spices and condiments. In all parts of the world from 
the earliest known times, spices have been almost as 
eagerly sought as gold. The discoveries of new land, the 
determination of shorter trade routes, and the colonization 
of producing countries have resulted from the pursuit of 
drugs and spices. It was this search which lead to the 
first rounding of the Cape of Good Hope, the coloniza- 
tion of the East Indies, and the discovery of America. 
The Straits Settlements colony was the result of 
Portuguese, Dutch and English competition for the 
eastern spice trade. The development of European 
trade and European influence in southern India was 
due to the pepper gardens; in Mauritius and the Sey- 
chelles it was caused by vanilla; and in Ceylon it was 
started by cinnamon and cardamom exports. 

Most of the spices used by man have had their home 
in the tropics of Asia; the rest of the globe has produced 
comparatively few. 

From Asia have come black pepper, cardamom, cinna- 
mon, nutmeg, and mace; from the Malay Archipelago 
cloves, clove bark, turmeric, ginger, and greater galangal ; 
and from China cassia bark and lesser galangal. Africa 
has given grains of paradise, while America has con- 
tributed vanilla, red pepper, and allspice. From the cool 
climates of northern Europe and Asia have come a few, 


2 Field Museum of Natural History 

such as coriander, cumin, caraway, mustard, and calamus 
root. Often the knowledge of the original home of eco- 
nomic plants cultivated by man for many centuries has 
been lost. This is likewise true of many of the tropical 
spices from eastern Asia. 

Spices can be classified according to the parts of the 
plant from which the commercial products are taken. 

Cloves and capers are dried flower buds; nutmeg, 
vanilla, red pepper, black pepper, and allspice are fruits; 
ginger and turmeric are underground stems; cumin and 
cassia are barks. 

PYom the point of view of their properties they may 
be arranged in three groups: stimulating condiments — 
mustard, horse-radish, garlic, shallot, red pepper, black 
pepper, and turmeric; aromatic spices — cloves, cinna- 
mon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, mace, nutmeg, caraway, 
anise, cumin, etc.; and sweet herbs — thyme, mint, sage, 
basil, marjoram, savory, fennel, parsley, etc. 

All aromatic vegetable products which are used in 
flavoring foods and drinks are included under the name 
of spice. Almost all have other uses, also, for which they 
are in commercial demand. Quite a number are useful in 
perfumery and soap-making, such as vanilla and cloves. 
Some are used in making incense, e.g., cinnamon; others 
are useful in medicines, either for flavoring or therapeutic 
value, as cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, etc. Turmeric is 
used as a dye, oil of cloves is used to clear sections in 
microscopy, and other spices are used in several arts. 
The commercial demand is increased by these additional 
uses, which tend to stabilize the price. 

In the Middle Ages, from the twelfth century on, 
the use of spices was large in every family. In recent 
years the use of spice for flavoring food has decreased. 
Artificial flavorings also have altered the demand, but 
nevertheless a profitable commerce exists even if it is 

[ 262 ] 

Spices and Condiments 3 

not as large as in the days when, next to gold, spices 
were considered most worth the risk of life and money. 
The trade is still extensive in Europe and the oriental 
demand is as large as ever. The value of all spices 
shipped directly to the United States averages about 
twelve million dollars annually. 

In France the ethereal flavor of such plants as fennel, 
basil, and balm is sought. In Germany and England 
preference is given to more pronounced flavors, such as 
dill, sage, and mint, while the kinds most commonly 
employed in America are parsley, sage, thyme, marjoram, 
savory, etc. 

The spices and condiments of southern Asia and the 
adjoining islands that constituted the first objects of 
commerce between the East and West have played an 
important role in the trade of all ages. They have kept 
their original value in spite of all changes in the history 
of the world. The same spicy cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, 
cardamom, pepper, and ginger have been highly appreci- 
ated since antiquity, and still thrive in primitive freshness 
and profusion as they did thousands of years ago in the 
sunny countries and islands of the Orient. 


Allspice is the dried unripe fruit of a beautiful ever- 
green tree (Pimenta officinalis Lindl.) of the myrtle family 
(Myrtaceae), and of the same family as the clove tree. 
The fruit is picked while unripe because it loses its spicy 
flavor when fully ripe. The ripe berries have a soft 
pulp but are almost without odor, hence without value 
as a spice. 

The name allspice was given it from a resemblance in 
odor and taste to a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and 
nutmeg. It is known also as pimento and Jamaica pepper. 
The word pimento is derived from pimienta, the Spanish 
word for peppercorns, which the spice resembles in shape. 


4 Field Museum op Natural History 

Growers of allspice distinguish between fruitful, or 
bearing trees, and unfruitful, or so-called "male" trees. 
The pimento is not a unisexual plant like the nutmeg. 
Being allied to the clove, it has much the same structure 
of the flower. It is not likely, therefore, that the flowers 
are actually male and female respectively, but the so- 
called male flowers have some defect in the pistil which 
prevents their fertilization. Plants in the Singapore 
Botanic Gardens, though flowering freely, never set a 
single fruit on account of some such defect. 

The allspice tree is a native of the West Indies, on the 
islands of Cuba, Haiti, Trinidad, and Santo Domingo, 
and more or less in most of the islands of the Caribbean 
Sea, but it is most abundant in Jamaica, which produces 
the greater part of the commercial spice. The tree 
occurs also in Mexico, Central America, and Vene- 
zuela, but does not appear to have been cultivated 
successfully elsewhere. The saplings of pimento are highly 
valued as walking sticks and for umbrella sticks. At one 
time these canes were exported in such large quantities 
from Jamaica as to threaten the existence of the spice 

Composition. — The fruit yields a yellow or brownish- 
yellow oil containing eugenol, with practically the same 
qualities as clove oil. The berries contain 3 to 4.5 per 
cent of the oil. Most of the oil is in the pericarp but the 
seeds also are aromatic. 

History. — It seems first to have been imported into 
Europe about 1601, or a little later, and according to 
Parkinson substituted for round cardamoms. Ray, in 
his Historia plantarum (1693), distinguished it as a 
Jamaica spice under the name of "sweet-scented Jamaica 
pepper" or "allspice." 

Use. — Allspice is used chiefly for flavoring confec- 
tionery, pickles, and other such foods. 


Spices and Condibients 6 


Angelica (Archangelica officinalis Hoffm.) is a biennial 
or perennial herb of the carrot family (Umbelliferae). 
The plant is said to be a native of Syria, but has now 
spread to many cold European climates, especially to 
Lapland and the Alps, where it has become naturalized. 
The odd flavor and odor of angelica are due to a volatile 
oil which is contained in many parts of the plant. 

History. — It appears to have been used first as a 
spice during the fifteenth century. Its use for the prepa- 
ration of distilled angelica water was described in 1500. 

Use. — The roots, young stems, leaf stalks, and midribs 
or leaves are steeped in sjrrups of increasing strength to 
make candied angelica, and the seeds are used for the 
flavoring of beverages, cakes, and candies. The oil dis- 
tilled from the seed is used for flavoring. 


Anise seeds are from Pimpinella Anisum L., an annual 
herb of the carrot family (Umbelliferae). The anise plant 
came originally from the Orient. It has been introduced 
throughout the Mediterranean region and into Germany 
and other temperate regions of both hemispheres. The 
European market is supplied by Russia, Germany, 
Scandinavia, Bohemia, Moravia, France, the Nether- 
lands, and Spain. It is grown extensively also in India. 

History. — Anise seed is mentioned in the Bible (Matt. 
23:23) and by Dioscorides, Theophrastus and Pliny. 
In the ninth century Charlemagne commanded that it 
be grown upon the imperial farms. In the thirteenth 
century Albertus Magnus spoke highly of it. Anise oil is 
first mentioned in medical books in the Pharmacopoea 
Augustana of 1580. 

Composition. — The typical odor of anise seed is due 
to its volatile oil. The taste is intensely sweet. The 


6 Field Museum op Natural History 

volatile oil consists of 80-90 per cent of anethol (para- 
methoxypropenylbenzene, C3H6.C6H4[OCH3]), and methyl- 
chavicol and terpenes. 

Use. — Seeds of anise are used to flavor curry powder, 
cake, pastry, and confectionery, and some kinds of cheese 
and bread. The oil is employed to flavor beverages, to 
disguise unpleasant flavors of various drugs, and to per- 
fume soaps and other toilet articles. 


Balm {Melissa officinalis L.) is a perennial herb of the 
mint family (Labiatae) which is considered to be a native 
of southern Europe. It has been introduced into nearly 
all the temperate climates of the world. Its popular name 
is a contraction of the word "balsam," the plant having 
been used formerly as a specific remedy for a host of 
ailments. The generic name, Melissa, is the Greek word 
for "bee," and is an allusion to the fondness of bees for 
the abundant nectar of the flowers. This undoubtedly 
has resulted in one of the common names for the plant, 
bee balm. It is of interest to note that balm seeds are 
very small; more than fifty thousand are required to 
weigh an ounce. 

History. — Balm has been cultivated as a source of 
honey and as a sweet herb for more than two thousand 
years in the southern part of Europe and during the 
Middle Ages in Germany and Scandinavia. It was culti- 
vated by the Greeks and Romans as well as by the Arabs. 
It is frequently mentioned in German and Latin poetry 
and prose. 

Use. — The foliage of balm is employed to flavor soups, 
stews, sauces, and dressing. The fresh leaves are used 
to some extent in salads. The oil of balm has a lemon- 
like odor which is characteristic also of the leaves and 
is used to flavor various beverages. 

[ 256 ] 

Spices and Condiments 


Basil (Ocimum Basilicum L.) is an annual herb of the 
mint family (Labiatae) and is said to be a native of 
India and Africa. It is now cultivated in England and 
Europe as an aromatic plant for seasoning. The popular 
name signifies "royal" or "kingly." In France it is 
known as the herhe royale. 

History. — For centuries basil has been esteemed as a 
condiment in India. During the reigns of Mary and 
Elizabeth in England farmers grew basil in pots and 
presented them with compliments to their landladies, 
when visits were made. 

Composition. — Like the other spices of the mint family, 
basil owes its characteristic properties to a volatile oil. This 
oil contains pinene, cineol, camphor, and methylchavicol. 

Use. — The leaves of basil are used to flavor stews and 
dressings. It is one of the most popular herbs in the 
French cuisine and is especially relished in mock turtle 
soup, which when properly made derives its peculiar taste 
chiefly from the clove-like flavor of basil. The original 
and famous Fetter Lane sausages, formerly popular with 
cockney epicures, owe their reputation chiefly to basil. 
The golden-yellow essential oil from the leaves is utilized 
in perfumery and in the preparation of chartreuse and 
similar liquors. 


The sweet bay {Laurus nohilis L.) is a small tree of 
the laurel family, a native of the Mediterranean region. 
It is well known to most of us, as the most universal of 
evergreen tub plants, and it is of the same family as 
cinnamon and sassafras. It is considered by some as 
indigenous to Asia Minor, Syria, and the Silician Taurus, 
and has been extensively cultivated in shrubberies and 
sheltered gardens in Europe. 


8 Field Museum op Natural History 

History. — This plant is the laurel of history and 
poetry. During classical antiquity it acquired great sig- 
nificance as a symbol of victory, but apparently was used 
in no other way at that time than as a decorative plant. 
By Dioscorides, Palladius, and Pliny it is mentioned 
among anointing and medicinal substances. 

Composition. — The leaves yield a fixed oil and an essen- 
tial oil. The essential oil contains principally myrcene (a 
terpene), eugenol, chavicol, citral, and phellandrene. 

Use. — Although the Germans and Russians esteemed 
the sweet bay only for decorative purposes, during the 
Middle Ages the plant was an ingredient of medicines. 
At the present time it is used mostly for non-medicinal 
purposes. The agreeable odor of bay leaves, with the 
bitter aromatic taste, has found use as a flavor for 
various culinary products. 


Borage {Borago officinalis L.) is a coarse annual herb 
of the family Boraginaceae. Its popular name is supposed 
to have come from burr age, "rough," Low Latin horra, 
and relates it indirectly to birrus, a thick coarse woolen 
cloth worn by the poor during the thirteenth century. 
The roughness of the full-grown leaves suggests flannel. 

The plant originally came from Aleppo, but for cen- 
turies it was considered a native of Mediterranean Europe 
and Africa. It has become naturalized throughout the 
world by the Europeans, grows very easily, and disputes 
possession with many weeds. 

History. — According to Ainslie, it was among the 
plants listed by Peter Martyr as planted on Isabella 
Island by the companions of Columbus. 

Use. — The use of the plant in medicine is now obsolete, 
and its principal use is for flavoring. It is valued as a 
flavor in an English drink called "cool tankard," which 


Spices and Condiments 9 

is made of wine, water, lemon juice, sugar, and borage 
flowers. Often it is used similarly in lemonade, negus, 
claret cup, and fruit juice drinks. 


Sweet flag is the rootstock of calamus (Acorus Calamus 
L.), a member of the arum family, a native of northern 
Asia from the Black Sea to China and also of Japan and 
North America. It is found likewise in Europe as far 
north as Scotland and northern Russia, India, Burma, 
Ceylon, and the Malay region, but probably was intro- 
duced into these places. At present most of the drug is 
brought from southern Russia through Germany to the 
London market, although occasionally a little comes from 
India. The rhizome of calamus owes its aromatic agree- 
able scent and bitter pungent taste to a volatile oil. The 
oil of sweet flag is found in oil cells in the outer part of 
the rhizome, so that peeling before using should be 
avoided. The yield of oil is about 1.3 per cent. 

History. — If the calamus of the Bible is the sweet flag, 
mentions of it in Exod. 30:23, Canticles 4:14, and Ezek. 
27:19, are the earliest records of its use. However, there 
is some doubt as to what was meant in these passages. 
Dioscorides lists it and it is described by Pliny in the 
years a.d. 23 to 79. 

Use. — Although in the Indo-Malay region it is valued 
^ chiefly as a drug, it is used to a slight extent to flavor 
beer, cordials, and other drinks, and therefore may be 
classed as a spice. 


Capers are the flower buds of the caper bush (Capparis 
spinosa L.) of the caper family (Capparidaceae), which 
grows abundantly in the southern part of Europe, along 
the shores and on the islands of the Mediterranean and in 
Syria. The plant is found wild about Rome, Vienna, and 



Field Museum op Natural History 



Spices and Condiments 11 

Florence. It is cultivated in France, Spain, Italy, and 
Majorca, where capers are of commercial value. The 
greatest supply comes from Sicily, but those of Provence 
have the highest reputation for their flavor and keeping 
qualities. Fresh buds are gathered every morning before 
they expand and are pickled in strong white vinegar and 
salt. The smallest, greenest buds have the finest quality. 
Capers are used as a pickle and sauce. The flavor is due 
to capric acid, CHjCCHOsCOOH. 


Caraway (Carum Carvi L.) is a biennial or annual herb 
of the carrot family (Umbelliferae). Both its botanical 
and popular names are supposed to have been derived 
from Caria in Asia Minor, where the plant is believed 
first to have attracted attention. The seeds are exported 
from Morocco, Russia, Prussia, and Holland. Where 
caraway is cultivated, it is frequently sown with coriander. 
The coriander matures more quickly and is harvested 
before the caraway produces a flowering stem. 

History. — Caraway seed was found by O'Heer in the 
debris of Swiss Lake dwellings, and because of this the 
plant has been considered a native of Europe. The careum 
of Pliny is considered to be the same plant. In the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries it was grown in Morocco by the 
Arabs. From Asia it was spread by Phoenician commerce 
to western Europe. Distilled oil of caraway is first men- 
tioned in the price ordinance of Berlin for 1574. 

The plant is now widely distributed and is found in 
Iceland, Scandinavia, the mountains of Spain, the Hima- 
layas of Hindostan, the veldt of South Africa, the bush 
of Australia, and prairies and pampas of America. How- 
ever, it is cultivated mostly in Europe and Asia. 

Composition. — Caraway seeds have a hot and acrid 
but pleasant taste due to an essential oil consisting of 


12 Field Museum of Natural History 

carvol (C10H14O) a ketone 50 to 60 per cent, and the terpene 
d-limonene or carvene. 

Use. — Caraway seeds are used in bread, cheese, 
liquors, salads, sauces, soups, and candy, and especially 
in seed cakes, cookies, and other foods. The volatile oil 
from the fruit is employed for toilet articles such as 
perfumes and soap. 


There are several plants of the Zingiberaceae or 
ginger family which produce spices known as cardamom. 
The most important of these plants is Elettaria Carda- 
momum Maton, which supplies the greater part of the 
cardamom of commerce and is apparently the only one 
cultivated. This is a strictly herbaceous, tropical plant. 
Practically all the cardamoms of commerce are grown in 
India and Ceylon, for, although the plant has been 
introduced into most tropical countries, no extensive cul- 
tivation has resulted. In Ceylon cardamoms have been 
one of the most important crops for many years. The 
light, bright color of good cardamoms is obtained by 
bleaching. One of the bleaching processes used in Ceylon 
consists of sprinkling the capsules with water and immedi- 
ately exposing them to the full sunlight. 

History. — There were spices known to the Greeks and 
Romans as cardamomum and amomum, but it is not 
certain that these plants were the present-day cardamoms, 
although the name of this spice as we know it evidently 
is taken from these words. Cardamoms were known to 
Indian and Arabic writers in very early times and are 
mentioned in the list of spices liable to duty at Alexandria 
in A.D. 176-180. The Portuguese were the first to pay 
attention to them as an article of trade in Ceylon in the 
sixteenth century, and the Dutch government helped the 
industry in every way during its occupation of the island, 
but it was not until after the failure of coffee in Ceylon 


Spices and Condiments 18 

in 1878 that the industry was developed to its greatest 

Composition. — The seeds contain 4-5 per cent of a 
volatile oil with a penetrating but agreeable odor and a 
burning camphor-like taste. 

Use. — This spice is used in curry powder and for 
flavoring cakes, especially in Russia, Sweden, Norway, 
and parts of Germany. It is also utilized in the manu- 
facture of liquors. 


There are several barks of an aromatic nature known 
in commerce as cassia bark or Cassia lignea. All of them 
belong to one or more species of Cinnamomum, and are 
found wild in the eastern Asiatic Archipelago and China. 
The species found in the Malay Archipelago are wild 
trees, while those in China are cultivated. Cinnamomum 
Cassia BL, which is planted, is a large evergreen tree 
attaining a height of fifty feet and a circumference of five 
feet. The Chinese territory in which it is grown is com- 
paratively limited — the provinces of Kwang-si and 
Kwang-tung, a district lying between 110° and 112° east 
longitude. It is bounded on the north by Si-Kiang, or 
West River, and extends to the south as far as 23° 3' north 
latitude. The bark is sent down the Si-Kiang, the natural 
water route, to Canton, 

History. — Cassia has been known from early times as 
a spice, and it is mentioned frequently in the Bible. Many 
Greek authors wrote of it, and it is described in Chinese 
herbals as early as 2700 B.C. Cassia was known to western 
Europe as early as the seventh century, and is mentioned 
in medical books written in England before 1066. The 
exact place of origin of the Chinese bark was unknown to 
Europe until 1882. 

Use. — Good cassia bark has the flavor of cinnamon 
and is as sweet and aromatic, though often described as 

[263 J 


Field Museum of Natural History 



Spices and Condiments 15 

less fine and delicate in flavor. It sells at a lower price 
than cinnamon and is used chiefly as a substitute for it. 
The principal constituent of cassia bark is cassia oil. The 
oil is found not only in the bark but also in the flowers, 
peduncles, branches, and leaves. This oil contains 73 to 
90 per cent of cinnamic aldehyde. 


Cassia buds are the dried unripe fruit of the Chinese 
cassia tree {Cinnamomum Cassia Bl.) of the laurel family 
(Lauraceae). After flowering, the sepal of the flower 
swells and forms a cup in which the small, black, olive-like 
fruit sits like an acorn in its cup. In appearance cassia 
buds resemble cloves, but are smaller. The cloves are 
flower buds, while the cassia buds are not. Cassia buds 
have an odor and flavor similar to cinnamon. They are 
gathered when about one-fourth their maximum size. 
The tree is apparently a native of southern China, and 
the product is exported from Canton, China, and southern 

Use. — Cassia buds are used as a spice, chiefly in con- 
fectionery in place of cinnamon. They are popular among 
the oriental nations, and the Germans and Russians pre- 
fer cassia to cinnamon for flavoring chocolate because it 
is stronger in taste. 


Catmint or catnip (Nepeta Cataria L.) is an erect, 
branching, perennial herb about three feet high which 
belongs to the mint family (Labiatae) and is considered 
a native of Europe and the Orient. Catmint is a well- 
known weed naturalized in America and frequently found 
in dry waste places, especially in the East. The popular 
name of the plant is in allusion to the attraction the 
plant has for cats. They not only eat it but rub themselves 


16 Field Museum op Natural History 

upon it, purring with delight. The generic name is derived 
from the Etrurian city Nepic, in the neighborhood of 
which various species of the plant formerly became well 

Use. — The greatest value of the plant is for bee forage. 
As a condiment the leaves were formerly in popular use, 
especially in sauces. Milder flavors are now more highly 
esteemed but the French still use it to a slight extent. 


Chervil (Anthriscus CerefoUum Hoffm.) is a small 
annual herb of the carrot family (Umbelliferae), a native 
to the Caucasus, southern Russia, and western Asia. Its 
highly aromatic leaves are used by the French and 
English for seasoning and for mixed salads. They are 
rarely employed alone but serve as the chief ingredient in 
what the French call fines herbes, a mixture which finds 
its way into a great many culinary concoctions. 


Chives (Allium Schoenoprasum L.) are bulbous onion- 
like perennials of the lily family (Liliaceae). They are 
native to Europe and Asia and are commonly grown in 
those continents and to a certain extent in America. The 
odor and taste resemble those of onions, and the leaves 
are frequently used instead of onions for flavoring salads, 
stews, and other dishes. 


The cinnamon of commerce is the bark of an evergreen 
tree (Cinnamomum zeylanicum Nees) of the laurel family 
(Lauraceae). The tree is a native of Ceylon, and is grown 
also in southern India, Burma, and the Malay Peninsula. 
The tree when full grown is about twenty feet high, 
although it may grow as high as forty feet. Cinnamon 

[ 266 ] 

Spices and Condiments 17 

is said to be grown to a small extent in French Guiana, 
I Brazil, and Jamaica, and attempts have been made to 
' cultivate the plant in many parts of the world, with but 
little success. Ceylon still holds the cinnamon market. 
The tree is common in Ceylon, especially between 1,000 
and 2,500 feet above the sea, occasionally at 7,000 feet. 
At the highest altitude the leaves have a typical clove 
odor, but the bark has very little true cinnamon taste. 
Cinnamon bark is collected, cut, and peeled after the 
first rains of the season, when the sap begins to circulate 
between the wood and the bark. The bark of young 
shoots has very little flavor, and the best bark comes 
from shoots two years old and from the middle of these 
shoots. The shoots exposed to the sun during growth 
are more acrid and spicy than those grown in the shade. 

History. — Cinnamon is among the oldest spices known, 
and the history of its use as a drug is very interesting. 
In the early writings it was confused with cassia. Both 
cinnamon and cassia were valued in Biblical times and 
often mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. In 
1505 the Portuguese sailed around the Cape of Good 
Hope and discovered Ceylon. Before this time cinnamon 
reached Europe through the old caravan routes across 
the eastern Mediterranean region. In 1536 the Portu- 
guese occupied the island of Ceylon for the sake of the 
cinnamon, but after 1656 the Dutch took Ceylon from 
the Portuguese and monopolized its spice production. 
In 1796 the English took Ceylon from the Dutch, and 
the East India Company possessed the monopoly of 
cinnamon until 1833. In 1825 the plant was introduced 
into Java by the Dutch. Oil of cinnamon is included in 
the list of drugs in the first edition of the Dispensatorium 
Noricum, published in 1546. 

Use. — Cinnamon bark has an agreeable odor and a 
slightly sweet taste, and is used mainly as a spice. It is 


18 Field Museum of Natural History 

valued also in medicine as a cordial and stimulant, as 
well as in the manufacture of incense. The flavor of 
cinnamon is due principally to a volatile oil which con- 
tains 80 to 85 per cent of cinnamic aldehyde. Cinnamon 
oil is made chiefly in Ceylon from inferior bark, broken 
quills, and chips. The yield of oil is .5 to 1 per cent. 


Clary {Salvia Sclarea L.) is an erect biennial herb 
which grows as high as two or three feet, a member of 
the mint family (Labiatae) and a native of southern 
Europe. The popular and specific name is a corruption of 
the Latin word clarea which means "clear" or "bright," 
in reference to the color of the flowers. Clary was a pre- 
linnaean name for the plant. Syria has been considered 
the original home of the plant, but Italy also is mentioned, 
the presumption being in favor of the former. The plant 
is rarely seen in America, except in foreigners' gardens. 

History. — Clary was introduced into England prior to 
1538, when Turner published his book on garden lore. 

Use. — The plant is seldom used in America and Eng- 
land and is less popular than formerly, having been 
replaced by sage. Wine is sometimes made from the 
plant when it is in flower. 


Cloves are the undeveloped blossoms, dried in the air, 
of an evergreen tree, Eugenia aromatica Baill. {Caryophyl- 
lus aromaticus L.). This is a small tree belonging to the 
myrtle family (Myrtaceae), whose species are natives of 
tropical and subtropical regions all over the world. Many 
plants of this family are aromatic but none so highly so 
as this species, and none is as valuable in commerce. The 
trees grow from twelve to twenty feet tall and in some 
places as high as forty feet. Cloves are so named from 


Spices and Condiments 




20 Field Museum of Natural History 

the French word clou meaning "nail," an object which 
they somewhat resemble. 

According to Rumphius, a walk in the clove woods 
when the trees are in bud or flower is said to cause head- 
aches, but, as he points out, the season in Amboyna — 
October and November — is a hot one, and the heat 
probably is the cause of the discomfort. 

At one time or another this tree has been introduced 
into nearly all parts of the tropics, experimentally at least, 
but comparatively few attempts have been made in most 
tropical countries to cultivate it on a large commercial 
scale. The tree is of relatively slow growth and its product 
is of limited demand, so that a very extended area of 
cultivation is not required to stock the world's market. 

The clove tree was originally indigenous to the Philip- 
pines and to some of the Moluccas or, as they are fre- 
quently called, "Spice Islands," namely, Tidore, Ternate, 
Mortir, Machian, and Batchian, volcanic islands in the 
neighborhood of Gilolo. 

It is now cultivated in Guiana, Zanzibar, Pemba, Java, 
Sumatra, Reunion, Amboyna, Mauritius, Madagascar, 
and the West Indies as well as in the Spice Islands. Zan- 
zibar and Pemba together grow 90 per cent of the world 

History. — The earliest record of this spice is in Chinese 
books dating from 266 B.C. to 220 B.C., wherein officers 
of the court are required to hold cloves in their mouths 
when addressing their sovereign. Pliny mentions a spice 
as occurring in India, which was probably cloves. From 
the eighth century onward it was regularly imported into 
Europe. Marco Polo describes it as being obtained from 
Java and China. Oil of cloves is mentioned in the drug 
ordinance of the city of Berlin in 1574. 

The Portuguese held control of the Spice Islands until 
1605, when they were expelled by the Dutch, who main- 


Spices and Condiments 21 

tained almost complete monopoly of the spice trade until 
the eighteenth century. 

Use. — Cloves are used mainly as a spice. They are 
employed for flavoring, as, for instance, in hams. Cloves 
are chewed to flavor the breath and are used by betel 
nut chewers as an addition to the betel nut and sirih leaf. 
They contain 15 to 19 per cent of oil which is used in per- 
fumes and articles of the toilet and in grease, soaps, and 

From 76 to 85 per cent of clove oil is made up of 
eugenol. By oxidation eugenol is changed into vanillin. 
Vanillin is artificial vanilla and is used as a substitute for 
vanilla (see vanilla). 


Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) is a hardy annual 
herb of the carrot family (Umbellif erae) . The name 
coriander is derived from the Greek word coris, "a bug," 
in allusion to its odor. It is indigenous to the Mediter- 
ranean region and formerly was cultivated in England, 
but it is grown largely also in northern India, France, 
and Germany. 

History. — Coriander has been cultivated from such 
ancient times that the exact place of its first appearance 
is unknown. It is mentioned in early Egyptian papjrri, 
and its seeds have been found in Egyptian tombs of the 
Twenty-first Dynasty (1000 B.C.). To Sanskrit authors it 
was known as kustumhuru. It is mentioned in the Bible 
as having a resemblance to manna (Exodus and Numbers). 
Pliny wrote that the best quality came to Italy from 
Egypt. It is mentioned by Cato in the third century. 
Before 1066 it was well known in Great Britain, probably 
having been taken there by the Romans. Coriander is 
mentioned also among the useful plants recommended 
for cultivation by Charlemagne, but it appears to have 
received only slight consideration by the Germans in the 


22 Field Museum op Natural History 

Middle Ages. The fruit is mentioned in the medical and 
distilling books of the sixteenth century. It was intro- 
duced into Massachusetts before 1670. 

Composition. — The fruit possesses a peculiar flavor 
suggestive of bugs, due to the nature of the aromatic oil 
contained in it when unripe; when ripe and dry it has a 
more pleasant aromatic taste. This oil contains 90 per 
cent of coriandrol and d-pinene; coriandrol yields citral 
on oxidation and may be converted into geraniol. 

Use. — Coriander seed is used in comfits and other 
confectionery and in breads, especially in the East. It is 
also an ingredient of curry powder and other condiments. 
Certain distilled liquors, such as gin, are partially flavored 
by it. The leaves are used by Chinese cooks in Singapore 
and elsewhere for flavoring soups and as "sumbul" in 

The oil is taken from the fruit in commercial quantities 
in Russia, Moravia, and Thuringia. 


Cumin (Cuminum Cyminum L.) is a low-growing 
annual herb of the carrot family (Umbelliferae), said to be 
a native of the Nile Valley. It has been cultivated in the 
Mediterranean region, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, India, 
China, and Palestine from very early times. 

History. — Mention is made of this plant in the Bible 
(Isa. 18:25-27 and Matt. 23:23). According to the 
Papyrus Ebers, cumin and caraway seeds have been 
found in Egyptian graves. Pliny considered cumin the 
best appetizer of all condiments. It was known in 
England toward the end of the thirteenth century and 
in Germany in the fifteenth century. At present it is 
extensively cultivated in Malta and Sicily, but will mature 
seeds as far north as Norway. The plant is very seldom 
seen in America. 


Spices and Condiments 28 

Composition. — The seeds have a peculiar strong aro- 
matic odor and hot taste. This is due to a volatile oil, 
which consists chiefly of cumic aldehyde. 

Use. — The seeds are used in India in curry powders 
and in France for seasoning pickles, pastry, and soups. In 
Germany the seeds are frequently mixed in breads and 
cakes and in Holland they are employed to flavor cheese. 


Dill (Anethum graveolens L.) is a hardy annual or 
biennial herb of the carrot family (Umbelliferae), which 
includes also caraway, coriander, fennel, cumin, parsley, 
anise and angelica. It is said to be a native of the 
Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, and occurs as a 
weed in cereal crops in southern Europe and south to 
Egjrpt and Abyssinia. It grows spontaneously also in 
America in many places. In India it is grown in the 
same way as coriander. 

History. — It was cultivated by the Greeks and Romans 
and in ancient times was planted in Palestine. The word 
translated "anise" in the Bible (Matt. 23:23) is said to 
have been "dill" in the original Greek. In Pliny's time 
it was well known and it was often discussed by writers 
in the Middle Ages. It was cultivated in England as 
early as the tenth century, and in America it has been 
grown for over a hundred years. 

Use. — In India it is used as an ingredient in curry 
powder and also as a substitute for caraway seed in seed 
cakes. The French employ dill for flavoring preserves, 
cakes, and pastry, and add the seeds to soups, sauces, 
and stews. Probably it is most used in pickles, especially 
in preserving cucumbers according to German recipes. 
The essential oil of the seed is utilized for perfuming 
soaps. Sometimes the seeds are soaked in vinegar to 
make dill vinegar. 



Field Museum of Natural History 

From Label, Kruydtboeck, 1581 



Spices and Condiments 26 


Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Hill) is a biennial or 
perennial herb of the carrot family (Umbelliferae). It 
is considered to be a native of southern Europe, although 
it is commonly found on all the Mediterranean shores. 
It has spread with civilization, especially where Italians 
have colonized, and now is found wild as an escape from 
cultivation in many parts of the world, upon dry soil 
near the sea coast and on river banks. It is thus found 
on the chalky lands of England and the shelly formation 
of Bermuda. At the present time fennel is most popular 
in Italy and France. 

History. — Fennel was cultivated by the Romans for 
its aromatic fruits and succulent edible shoots. Fennel 
was known to the ancient Chinese, Hindus, and Egyp- 
tians principally as a kitchen spice. No mention is 
made of it in the translations of the Bible. Frequent 
mention of it is found in Anglo-Saxon cookery prior to 
the Norman Conquest in 1066. Charlemagne ordered 
its cultivation upon the imperial farms. 

Composition. — The characteristic odor and taste of 
fennel are caused by a volatile oil, found in the leaves 
and other parts. This oil contains anethol, fenchone, 
dextropinene, methylchavicol, and phellandrene. 

Use. — Three hundred years ago the plant is said to 
have performed wonders in a medical way. Parkinson 
states in his Theatrum botanicum in 1640 that it has among 
its virtues the property for people who "are growen fat 
to abate their unwieldinesse and make them more gaunt 
and lanke." At the present time it is considered indis- 
pensable in French and Italian cookery. Young plants 
and leaves are minced and added to sauces to be served 
with puddings, soups, and fish. The famous carosella of 
Naples is made from the stems, which are cut when the 
plant is about to bloom. The seeds are used in cookery, 


26 Field Museum of Natural History 

confectionery, and liquors. The volatile oil from the 
seeds is added to perfumes and scented soaps. 


This fennel (Foeniculum duke DC.) belongs to the 
same family (Umbelliferae) as the common fennel. It is 
a dwarf annual herb, said to be a native of Italy, which 
is used only as a vegetable. 


Fennel flower (Nigella sativa L.) is a Mediterranean 
annual herb of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), 
grown to a limited extent in southern Europe but scarcely 
known in America. 

Use. — ^Among the Romans it was esteemed in cookery, 
hence one of its common names is Roman coriander. The 
seeds are used in flavoring and like dill seed in cookery. 


Two spices are known as galangal, the lesser and the 
greater galangal; both are species of the genus Alpinia and 
members of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae). 

Lesser galangal (Alpinia officinarum Hance) is an herb 
with smooth, cylindrical, reddish-brown rootstocks. The 
lesser galangal has been cultivated extensively only in 
southern China. 

History. — The earliest reference to this spice appears 
in the years a.d. 869 to 885, when the Arabian geographer, 
Ibn Khurdabah, wrote of it. It was not known to the 
ancient Greeks. Marco Polo speaks of it as grown in 
China at a very early date. It was imported into England 
with pepper and other spices and during the Middle Ages 
was largely used and is mentioned often in the literature 
of that time. The lesser galangal is shipped from Canton 
to other ports in China and to India and Europe. 


Spices and Condiments 2T 

Use. — Lesser galangal is aromatic and spicy and some- 
what pungent in taste. It was formerly used as medicine 
like ginger, but this use has now become nearly obsolete, 
except that in Russia it is used as a drug and in veterinary 
medicine. As a spice it is used principally in making 
vinegar and beer, in cordials, and in liquors, especially in 
Russia in the liquor called nastoika. 

The oil of the galangal was manufactured very early 
and was first mentioned in a price ordinance of Frankfort 
in 1587. 

Greater galangal (Alpinia Galanga L.) is a very com- 
mon plant in cultivation in Java and in the Malay Penin- 
sula. In these localities it forms an ingredient in curry, 
and is also used in local medicine. The plants are larger 
than those of the lesser galangal and, as one might expect 
the rootstocks are also larger. 


Garlic (Allium sativum L.) is a member of the lily 
family (Liliaceae) and a native of southern Europe. The 
bulbs and leaves are employed in seasoning salads and 
soups and the stems are often added to sausages and other 
ground meats. Garlic belongs to the same genus as 
chives, leek, onions, shallot, and the Welsh onion. The 
whole plant, especially the bulb, has a peculiar taste and 
smell, which is quickly communicated to the breath and 
perspiration of the consumer. This is due to an essential 
oil, chiefly allylsulphide. (CsHjS) or allylsulphocyanide, 
which is found also in many cruciferous plants. 


As a rule, spices grow above the ground, but ginger 
is an exception; it is the roots or rhizome of a tropical 
plant. Zingiber officinale Roscoe, of the ginger family 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Spices and Condiments 29 

Ginger is said to be a native of southern Asia and was 
long cultivated by the ancient Chinese and Hindus. The 
area in which it is now successfully cultivated is perhaps 
larger than that occupied by any other spice, although 
there are a good many regions in which it might be grown 
but which have not as yet produced any quantity. In 
India, Malay Peninsula, Malay Archipelago, China, Fiji, 
northern Australia, west Africa, and as far south as Natal, 
and in the West Indies and Central America, it thrives 
and is cultivated successfully. Ginger is grown from 
cuttings of the rootstocks and not from the seeds. Cal- 
cutta exports more than any other city, although a great 
deal comes from China and Japan. The finest white 
ginger comes from Jamaica. As ginger is propagated 
from cuttings, there do not appear to be many varieties. 

Ginger comes into the market in two forms: dried or 
cured ginger and preserved or green ginger. In the West 
Indies and India the spice is prepared as dry ginger, while 
China supplies the greater part, indeed practically all, of 
the preserved ginger. There are several methods used in 
the preparation of dried ginger. The unpeeled rhizomes 
may be cleaned, placed in hot water or lime water for a 
time, and dried; or the peeled ginger is placed in water, 
which may be acidified, as is done in Jamaica, and 

The Chinese product excels all other preserved ginger. 
While the tubers are still young, green, tender, and 
full of juice, they are taken from the earth, buried in 
another place for a month, and then dried in the sun- 
shine for a day. The roots are then cleaned and scalded 
until sufficiently tender. They are next put into cold 
water, peeled, and scraped, then they are placed in a jar 
and covered with successive sugar solutions of increasing 
strength; the final syrup is made of a pound of syrup for 
each pint of water. The odor of ginger is due to a volatile 
oil, and the pungent taste is caused by a resin. 


30 Field Museum op Natural History 

History. — Ginger was one of the earliest of spices 
known to the Europeans. The name ginger is derived 
from the Sanskrit sanjahal, through the Arabic zanzabil. 
The Greeks and Romans appear to have obtained it from 
the Arab traders of the East, who doubtless brought it 
from India. The exact original home of ginger is unknown 
as no one has found it in a wild state. It was very early 
distributed over tropical Asia from India to China. In 
the third century a.d. it was listed among the Indian 
products brought to Europe via the Red Sea and Alexan- 
dria. The ginger root is easily transported in a living 
state and this no doubt accounts for its rapid spread 
throughout the tropics. Ginger was well known in Eng- 
land before the Norman Conquest (1066). In the 
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it was common in 
England and was valued next to pepper, which was the 
most common of all spices. It was introduced to America 
very soon after the discovery and before any other 
oriental spice. Ginger was exported from Santo Domingo 
as early as 1585, from Barbados in 1694, and Renny, 
in his History of Jamaica, states that in 1547 it was 
exported from Jamaica to Spain. Since very early times 
Jamaica has supplied ginger continuously. 

Use. — Ginger is principally used as a spice and is one 
of the most popular flavoring agents known. It is used 
as a condiment in ginger beers, ginger champagnes, and 
other beverages. In the East the fresh rhizomes are used 
in curry. Oil of ginger is extracted from the rootstock to 
serve as a basis for the tincture or essence of ginger. 


Hoarhound (Marrubium vulgar e L.) is an aromatic 
herb of the mint family (Labiatae) which grows from one 
to three feet high and is a native of Europe, northern 
Africa, and non-tropical Asia. It has become widely 
naturalized in many parts of the world, including the 


Spices and Condiments 81 

United States, and is in some places troublesome as a 
weed. The plant was formerly highly esteemed in cookery 
and medicine, but is now almost out of use except in candy. 
Some people still eat hoarhound candy in the belief that it 
relieves tickling in the throat caused by coughing. 


The well-known condiment, horse-radish {Armorada 
rusticana G., M. & S.) belongs to the family Cruciferae, of 
which cabbage, turnips, and mustard are members. It is 
a native of Europe and a common garden plant in the 
United States. In this country it is found growing wild 
as an escape in some places, especially in New York, 
where it is very troublesome as a weed. Horse-radish is 
a hardy plant, with a white, fleshy, cylindrical root which 
branches at the lower end; the fibrous roots may pene- 
trate to a depth of six or seven feet. The familiar pungent 
odor and hot biting taste of horse-radish are due to a 
volatile oil formed from the glucoside, sinigrin. The 
penetrating odor causes tears to flow and can not be 
distinguished from that of mustard oil. In fact, the 
active principle of horse-radish is quite like the active 
principle of mustard. The volatile oil of horse-radish 
consists chiefly of sulphocyanate of butyl. This sub- 
stance is not free in the roots but is developed from 
a glucoside by the action of water aided by an enzyme 
when the root is crushed. 

Use. — Horse-radish roots are grated and scraped, some- 
times mixed with vinegar, and used as a condiment, 
especially with roast beef and oysters. 


Hyssop ( Hyssopus officinalis L.) is an herbaceous ever- 
green undershrub, which grows to a height of a little over 
a foot. It is a native of Europe and temperate Asia. 


82 Field Museum of Natural History 

Hyssop is an ancient name, but exactly what plant was 
the sacred hyssop of the Jews is uncertain. The plant 
was well known in ancient times, and during the Middle 
Ages it was grown for fancied medicinal qualities, orna- 
ment, and cookery. Now it is very little cultivated except 
in ornamental garden borders. The leaves are not em- 
ployed in culinary practice now, as they are considered 
too strongly flavored. Sometimes they are used in salads 
to supply a bitter taste. The colorless oil which may be 
distilled from the leaves turns yellow and changes to a 
resin upon contact with the air. 


Juniper berries (Juniperus communis L.) are the fruits 
of a small evergreen tree of the pine family (Pinaceae). 
It is found widely distributed over the northern hemi- 
sphere in Europe, Asia, and North America. The berries 
are the size of a pea, having a sweet pulp; when dry they 
are black, and have a sweet bitterish (balsic) flavor. The 
chief properties of the berries are contained in a volatile 
oil which consists principally of three substances, pinene, 
cadinene, and juniper camphor. The main use of juniper 
fruit is to flavor Holland and Gordon gin. Because of its 
use in these spirits the latter are called "geneva" or 
"gin," from genievre, the French name for the berries. 


Cherry laurel (Prunus Laurocerasus L.) belongs to the 
rose family (Rosaceae). It is a slender tree or small bush, 
and is probably native from southeastern Europe to 

The leaves have a taste and flavor resembling bitter 
almonds, and according to Lehmann they yield 1.38 per 
cent of prussic acid. The chief constituent of the leaves 
is a glucoside, laurocerasin, which may be split by the 


Spices and Condiments 88 

enzyme emulsin into dextrose, hydrocyanic acid, and 

History. — The plant appears to have become known 
in Europe toward the beginning of the sixteenth century. 
The watery distillate from the leaves has been used 
medicinally since the first half of the eighteenth century, 
and its poisonous properties were observed repeatedly. 

Use. — Cherry laurel leaves are used to flavor custards, 
blancmange, and puddings. 


Lavender (Lavandula Spica L.) is a perennial under- 
shrub of the mint family (Labiatae), a native of the 
Mediterranean region. The common name is derived 
from the Latin word lavare, to wash or bathe, because a 
distillation from the flower has been used since ancient 
times to perfume water used in baths. 

Composition. — It yields oil of spike, which has an odor 
of lavender and rosemary. The oil contains camphor, 
borneol, cineol, linalool, and camphene. 

Use. — Lavender sometimes is grown for use as a 
condiment in salads, dressings, etc. In southern France 
and England it is grown for perfume, which is now its 
chief use. Lavender flowers are dried and used in sachet 
bags to perfume clothes. 


Lovage (Levisticum officinale Koch) is a perennial plant 
of the carrot family (Umbelliferae) found growing wild in 
the mountains of southern Europe. Formerly the plants 
were employed for a variety of purposes, but now practi- 
cally their only use is in confectionery, for which purpose 
the young stems are preserved in sugar like angelica. The 
leaf stalks and stem bases at one time were blanched and 
eaten like celery. 


84 Field Museum of Natural History 

History. — The Romans cultivated lovage as a kitchen 
spice and possibly also for medicinal purposes. Its culti- 
vation north of the Alps was no doubt caused by Charle- 
magne's Capitulare of 812. The German medical treatises 
of the Middle Ages, beginning with that of the Abbess 
Hildegard of the twelfth century, mention lovage. 


Marigold (Calendula officinalis L.) is an annual herb 
of the sunflower family (Compositae), a native of south- 
em Europe. The flower heads are sometimes dried and 
used in broths, soups, and stews, but probably the flavor 
is too pronounced for American palates. The fresh flowers 
are utilized to a certain extent to color butter. 


Two species of marjoram are now grown for culinary 
purposes: pot or perennial marjoram {Origanum vulgare 
L.) and sweet or annual marjoram {Origanum Majorana 
L.). Both are perennials, but sweet marjoram is more 
sensitive to frost and is therefore cultivated as an annual 
in temperate climates. Origanum vulgare is a native of 
Europe, a member of the mint family (Labiatae) which 
has become naturalized in many places of temperate 
climate, and occurs wild as an escape from cultivation in 
the Atlantic States. Origanum Majorana, a native of 
northern Africa, Greece, and other countries bordering 
the Mediterranean, is now cultivated in many gardens for 
culinary purposes. The name Origanum means "delight 
of the mountains," and is derived from two Greek words. 

Composition. — The principal constituent of marjoram 
is a volatile oil which consists of terpinene, some terpineol, 
and small quantities of acetic and other organic acids. 

History.— MarjoTBin. is one of the spice plants of antiq- 
uity. The hyssop of Luther's translation of the Bible 

[284 J 

Spices and Condiments 86 

does not refer to Hyssopus but to Origanum. Origanum 
vulgare is mentioned by Pliny and by Albertus Magnus, 
an English herbalist of the Middle Ages. The volatile oil 
of the plant was used during the latter part of the Middle 
Ages and is mentioned in the German ordinances of the 
sixteenth century. Origanum Majorana is sacred in India 
to Vishnu and Siva. 

Use. — The leaves, flowers, and tender stems of both 
species have a peculiarly aromatic and fragrant odor and 
are used like other plants of the mint family, in seasoning 
soups, stews, dressings, and sauces, especially in France 
and Italy. They are popular also in England and America. 
In Europe the plants are grown for their oil to be used in 
perfume and toilet articles, especially soap. The oil, how- 
ever, is less popular than that of thyme. 


Black mustard (Brassica nigra Koch) is cultivated in 
most civilized countries, especially in those of central 
Europe. It is a member of the mustard family (Cruci- 
ferae). In the United States it has become naturalized 
and is frequently a troublesome weed. Mustard grows 
almost anywhere, and is found in Europe, north Africa, 
Asia Minor, United States, Mesopotamia, West Indies, 
south Siberia, and China. It is cultivated to a large 
extent in Bohemia, Holland, Italy, and England. In the 
United States Brassica nigra seed is produced commer- 
cially in California and Kentucky. Black mustard seed is 
yellow inside, while white mustard seed is white within; 
likewise, black mustard furnishes more aroma and is 
sweeter and gives more volatile oil. 

History. — Mustard is mentioned in the Bible in Matt. 
13:31, Luke 13:18-19. It is referred to as an external 
remedy by Theophrastus, Dioscorides, and Pliny. In 
the writings of Columella are found the oldest directions 

[ 286 ] ' 

86 Field Museum op Natural History 

for the preparation of ground or table mustard. About 
the year 800 mustard was cultivated in the neighborhood 
of Paris. Its cultivation was directed by Charlemagne in 
his Capitulare of 812. In Spain it was grown by the 
Arabians. From here its cultivation spread to Germany 
and France in the tenth century, and thence to England 
during the twelfth century. Ground mustard, as we know 
it, was first prepared in Durham, England, by a lady of 
that city from the ground seeds of wild mustard, which 
grew plentifully in that district. Table mustard rapidly 
increased in reputation, until it became a famous condi- 
ment throughout Europe. 

Composition. — The pungent odor is due to a volatile 
oil which is formed from a glucoside. The glucoside is 
broken down readily when in contact with water into 
glucose or grape sugar, potassium acid sulphate, and 
mustard oil. 

Mustard oil has a very sharp taste and acts upon the 
skin as a strong irritant. 

Use. — The leaves are employed mainly for garnishing; 
they are used also in salads and in the preparation of meat 
dressings and sauces. Table mustard is the ground seed 
of black mustard. 


White mustard (Sinapis alba Rabenh.) is said to be a 
native of Asia and Europe. The seed is white inside, its 
aroma is not as sweet, and the seed contains less volatile 
oil than black mustard. The white mustard plant has 
characteristics very similar to those of black mustard. It 
is distinguished from the latter chiefly by lighter-colored 
bristly pods and lighter-colored and larger seeds. White 
mustard seed also contains a glucoside, in this case called 
sinalbin, which breaks down into glucose, sinapine sul- 
phate, and white mustard oil, through the action of an 


Spices and Condiments J7 

enzyme, myrosin, and water. The pungent mustard oil is 
noticeable only when heated; when cold it has only a 
faint anise-like odor. White mustard oil is an oily liquid 
of a burning taste, which causes blisters to form on the 
skin when in contact with it, but it is much slower in 
action than black mustard oil. 

Use. — White mustard is used similarly to black mus- 
tard, although the mixed mustard from this spice is less 


Nutmeg and mace, Myristica fragrans Houtt. (Myris- 
ticaceae), are produced by the same tree. The nutmeg 
tree is evergreen and dioecious, and grows to a height of 
sixty feet, but is usually found much smaller. It is grown 
principally in the Banda Islands of the East Indies. The 
genus Myristica contains about one hundred species of the 
Old World tropics, but of greatest abundance in the Ma- 
layan region. Although so large a number of wild nutmegs 
are known, only one species contains enough of the aromatic 
principle, myristicin, to be of any value for cultivation. A 
few others which are slightly aromatic are occasionally 
collected by the natives, more to adulterate true nutmeg 
than for separate use. Nutmeg trees are usually uni- 
sexual, each tree bearing male flowers or female flowers 
only, but it is not uncommon to find a tree with flowers 
of both sexes upon it. Some say "that a male tree, bear- 
ing for a number of years, usually about six, frequently 
commences to produce female flowers and eventually 
becomes wholly female." To aid fertilization it is a com- 
mon practice to graft branches from male trees on the 
trees that produce female flowers. 

The fruit of the nutmeg tree is oval or pear-shaped 
and pale orange-yellow in color. When ripe the fleshy 
husk splits in half, exposing the seed, the nutmeg of com- 
merce, enclosed in a deep round shining seed-coat, the 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Spices and Condiments 39 

testa, and over this is a splendid crimson network, the 
mace, which envelops the testa. The mace, which is an 
aril, is an outgrowth from the base of the seed and is 
attached to it only at the base, although it closely enwraps 
it to the top. The mace is rather leathery in texture and 
is cut into narrow flaps of irregular form. 

The nutmeg tree is a native of the eastern islands of 
the Moluccas, known also as the Spice Islands, from the 
presence of this plant and the clove tree. Blume states 
that it is wild in Ceram and the southern and eastern 
islands of the Malay Archipelago. It is indigenous also 
to Banda, Amboyna, Gilolo, and western New Guinea. 
The tree is said to be grown to a small extent in Brazil 
and Jamaica. 

History. — The nutmeg apparently was not known to 
the Greeks and Romans. It was imported in the early 
days by the Arabian traders from the East Indies and was 
mentioned by Aetius at Constantinople about a.d. 540. 
Nutmegs were used in Rome in 1191 at the coronation of 
Henry VI. Nutmeg oil is mentioned in the apothecaries' 
price ordinances of Berlin in 1574. 

The Portuguese located the home of the plant in 
Banda in 1512 and held the trade in this spice until 
driven out by the Dutch, who held the monopoly for 
many years. The present price is too low to induce 
further extensive planting. 

Uses of mace. — Mace is used chiefly as a spice. It 
contains about 8 per cent of a volatile oil, which is color- 
less, very fragrant, and quite unlike that of the nutmeg 
seed. The flavor is quite similar to the nutmeg but never- 
theless distinct, and preferred by some people. Mace is 
always in good demand and usually costs more per pound 
than the nutmeg, as it should since there is less produced. 

Uses of nutmeg. — Nutmegs are used mainly as a spice. 
There are three principal kinds known to trade: the dark 


40 Field Museum op Natural History 

brown from Penang, a pale brown from Java, and the 
long slender wild nutmeg from Macassar. Although 
Connecticut is known as the Nutmeg State, it is not 
because nutmegs were grown there, but because imita- 
tion wooden nutmegs are said to have been made there. 

The flavor and odor of the nutmeg are due to a vola- 
tile oil of which the content varies from 8 to 10 per cent. 
It is straw-colored and contains myristicin and is used for 
scenting soap. 

The concrete oil of nutmeg, which is used as a nutmeg 
butter, is obtained by crushing and pressing the seed. 
It is made chiefly in the Dutch East Indies and Penang, 
but a great deal has been manufactured in Europe. It is 
firm in texture and has a pleasant odor of nutmeg and a 
greasy and aromatic taste. Nutmeg butter consists of the 
vegetable fat known as myristicin and is used in soap 


Grains of paradise are the aromatic pungent seeds of 
one or more species of the genus Amomum of the Zingi- 
beraceae. These plants are natives of west Africa, where 
they occur both wild and cultivated. They are widely 
distributed in Sierra Leone and Lower Guinea. 

History. — In early times this spice was known as 
"Melegetae," and the country that furnished it was called 
by the Portuguese "Terra de Malaguet." This same 
country was known as the "Grain Coast" or "PepperCoast" 
because of the presence of this spice. It was not known to 
the ancients; apparently the earliest record of its use was in 
a festival at Treviso in 1214. After this date there are 
more records of its use, indicating its common occurrence 
in commerce. In early times this spice was carried over- 
land from the Mandigo country through the desert to 
Tripoli and shipped by the Italians from the port of 
Monti-de-Barca, on the Mediterranean coast. Because 


Spices and Condiments 41 

they did not know the home of the seeds, they called 
them "grains of paradise." The seeds are now obtained 
chiefly from seaports at the place of production, the Gold 
Coast, the most important ports being Cape Coast Castle 
and Accra. The overland route has been abandoned. 

Use. — Grains of paradise were used in the earlier days 
chiefly as a substitute for pepper and likewise as an 
adulterant of pepper. They were also an ingredient in 
the spiced wine called Hippocras, and more recently they 
have been used to give added strength to wines, beer, 
spirits, and vinegar. Although not a harmful drug, an 
act was passed in the reign of George III to stop their use 
by brewers or beer dealers. Queen Elizabeth is said to 
have been very partial to this spice. 


Parsley (Petroselinum hortense Hoffm.), of the carrot 
family (Umbelliferae), is a biennial or short-lived peren- 
nial which grows about two feet high. It is a native of 
Europe. The word parsley, by some process of deriva- 
tion, is considered to have come from the Greek word 
petros, which means "rock." The natural habitat of the 
plant is the rocky coast of the Mediterranean. Parsley is 
one of the most widely grown of the garden herbs today. 
It has escaped from cultivation so that it occurs as a weed 
in moist cool climates. Nearly all the wild parsley in 
Europe consists, according to DeCandoUe, of escapes from 

History. — ^An interesting fact observed by Palladius in 
A.D. 210 is that old parsley seed germinates more freely 
than freshly gathered seed. The plant was brought to 
England from Sardinia in 1548. 

Composition. — All parts of the plant contain an oil to 
which its flavor and properties are due. The crude oil 
contains a stearoptene which crystallizes in needles. 


42 Field Museum of Natural History 

Use. — The Germans used both the roots and tops for 
cooking, the former as boiled vegetables and the latter as 
a pot herb. In England the leaves are used for seasoning 
fricassees and dressings for mild meats, such as chicken 
and veal. In America the leaves are used most extensively 
as a garnish. In many countries the green leaves are 
used to mix with salad for added flavor. 


Pennyroyal (Mentha Pulegium L.) is a prostrate 
branching perennial herb of the mint family (Labiatae), 
a native of Europe and western Asia. The plant is now 
found wild and naturalized in many parts of the civilized 
world. England cultivates it more extensively than 
^ America. The flavor of pennyroyal is more pungent and 
acrid and less agreeable than spearmint or peppermint. 
The leaves, either green or dried, are used abroad to flavor 
puddings and other culinary preparations, but the taste 
and odor are usually not pleasant to American and 
English palates. Pennyroyal has been valued medicinally 
since the Middle Ages and possibly earlier. The distilled 
oleum pulegi is mentioned in the price ordinance of Frank- 
fort for 1582. 

The pennyroyal native in the United States ( Hedeoma 
pulegioides) is an altogether different plant, although it 
belongs to the same family. Both European and Ameri- 
can pennyroyal have oils that closely resemble each other 
and one is substituted for the other. The volatile oils 
consist chiefly of a ketone, pulegone, which gives the oils 
their peculiar properties. 


Peppers belong to two plant families, the red peppers 

/ to the Solanaceae, or potato family, and the black peppers 

to the Piperaceae, or true pepper family. Other spices 

have been described as peppers, among them Jamaica 


Spices and Condiments 4S 

pepper, known also as allspice or pimento, and Melegueta 
pepper, a term which has been applied to grains of 
paradise (Amomum Melegueta). 


Of all the varieties of spices used as condiments black 
pepper (Piper nigrum L.) is one of the few which grow 
on climbing plants. There is no kind of spice better known, 
more esteemed, or more universally used. Black pepper 
is the unripe dried berry of a plant native to southern 
India, now cultivated chiefly in that country and in the 
Malayan and Cambodian regions. Black pepper climbs 
eight to twenty feet high on trees or stakes. Plants are 
known to bear for twenty years. 

History. — Pepper has been highly prized since antiq- 
uity; like gold it was used as a medium of exchange and 
as an article of tribute. It was known as' a symbol of the 
spice trade. Dealers in spices in Rome were known as 
piperarii, later in France as pebriers, and in England as 
pepperers. Pepper was mentioned by Theophrastus in 
the fourth century B.C. Pliny states that in his time long 
peppers were worth fifteen denarii a pound, white peppers 
seven denarii, and black peppers four denarii. Marco 
Polo mentions pepper as being produced in Java in 1280. 
During the Middle Ages pepper was a most valued spice, 
and Venice, Genoa, and other European cities owed much 
of their wealth to its importation. 

The demand for this spice and its costliness were the 
main inducements to the Portuguese to seek for a sea 
passage to India. The Venetians and Genoese had prac- 
tically a monopoly of the spice, but when the Portuguese 
found the sea route in 1498 the price of pepper fell and in 
spite of the efforts of the Venetians to retain the traffic, 
it passed out of their hands into those of the Portuguese, 
who retained it till the seventeenth century. 



Field Museum of Natural History 



Spices and Condiments 45 

Composition. — The chief active ingredient in pepper is 
pipeline, a crystalline alkaloid common to all pepper- 
worts. This substance has a sharp taste and is present 
in amounts from 5 to 9 per cent. Piperine breaks down 
into piperidin and piperic acid. Pepper also contains a 
volatile oil and an oleo-resin, both of which contribute 
to the pepper flavor. Piperine is tasteless at first but 
has a burning after-taste. Piperidine is a colorless liquid 
with a caustic taste. A volatile oil is present in 1 to 2 
per cent and contains dipentene, phellandrene, and a 
peculiar terpene. Its taste is pungent. 

Uses. — Black pepper is more pungent than white 
pepper and is used as a kitchen spice and in preserving 
sausage. The substance piperonal, or artificial helio- 
trope perfume, is obtained from piperine by distillation. 

In the time of Theophrastus it was supposed that 
white pepper was produced from a different plant than 
black pepper. White pepper, however, is the ripe berry 
after the removal of the outer coat of skin and pulp 
(pericarp and mesocarp). In preparing white pepper the 
berries are allowed to soak in water seven to ten days, 
then stamped under foot in tubs till the skin, pulp, and 
stalks are detached. White pepper is made also from dried 
black pepper by milling it in a special machine. Black 
pepper is soaked in water or milk of lime, previous to 
using decorticators. The hulls rubbed off are ground up 
and sold as pepper dust or as ground black pepper. 

White pepper does not contain as much of the alkaloid 
piperine as black pepper nor is it as pungent. 


Two distinct kinds of pepper allied to black pepper are 
known as long pepper and as such are sold in the native 
markets of the East: Piper longum L., a native of India, 
and Piper ojfficinarum L., a native of Java. They are 


46 Field Museum of Natural History 

commonly known as Indian long pepper and Javanese 
long pepper. Long pepper was known to Theophrastus in 
the fourth century B.C. In 1589 the distilled oil from long 
pepper was admitted to the Dispensatorium Noricum. 

Piper longum is native in Bengal, Nepal, Assam, and 
Khasiya and southward to Travancore, and is cultivated 
chiefly in the northern parts of India. It climbs like black 
pepper and is cultivated in exactly the same way in 
Assam and Mysore. Bengal is still the chief source of the 
long pepper of India. A certain quantity is exported from 
Calcutta to Europe, but the chief long pepper of com- 
merce is the Javanese species. Indian long pepper is 
shorter and more slender than Javanese, has a darker 
color, and is less pungent. 

Composition and use. — Long pepper contains the same 
principles as black pepper: a volatile oil, resin, and piper- 
ine, and it is used ground up as a spice in the same way 
as ground pepper, chiefly in its country of origin. 

Piper officinarum L. — The plant and fruit are similar 
to the Indian long pepper. The pepper is more pungent. 
The plant flowers and fruits the year round and is grown 
chiefly in Java, Bali, Rhio, and other islands. 

Use. — The spikes are gathered when they begin to 
turn red or yellowish and are quickly dried in the sun, or 
over a fire, because they are liable to rot if not speedily 
dried. They are used mostly in pickling and also as 
ground pepper for preserves, in Malaysia for curries. Java- 
nese long pepper is the commonest of the two long pep- 
pers exported to Europe and is shipped chiefly from 
Singapore and Penang. 


Red peppers are members of the genus Capsicum, of 
the tomato family (Solanaceae), and are natives of the 
American tropics. Two species produce the red pepper of 


Spices and Condiments 


From Label, Kruydtboeek, 1681 


48 Field Museum op Natural History 

commerce, namely Capsicum annuum L. and Capsicum 
frutescens L. Capsicum frutescens, which is much less cul- 
tivated than the other species, is a shrubby perennial, two 
and one-half to six feet high, with red fruit about one 
inch long. As its fruit does not ripen freely except in 
tropical and subtropical latitudes, it is not grown in 
the north for commercial use. The fruit is often called 
bird pepper. 

Capsicum annuum L. is an herbaceous or suffrutescent 
plant, which generally grows two to three feet high and 
has an annual or biennial habit. The fruits are very 
variable in size, color, and form. This species furnishes 
all the leading commercial varieties now in cultivation. 
In the temperate latitudes they are treated as annuals, 
while in tropical countries some varieties are biennial or 
perennial. This species has many common names, such as 
red pepper, Guinea pepper, chile, paprika, and pimento. 
Its cultivation does not appear to have been confined to 
any particular place, but is of general distribution through- 
out temperate and tropical regions, for the supply of local 
markets. It is grown especially in southern Asia, Africa, 
Mexico, and South and Central America. 

The very sweet Spanish variety is cultivated in Spain 
and various other countries. The tabasco variety is almost 
entirely confined to Louisiana. Where pickles, mangoes, 
and pepper sauce are extensively made, there is generally 
a local supply grown in the vicinity. 

History.— Caipsicum. seems to have been first men- 
tioned by Peter Martyr in a letter dated September, 1493, 
in which he said that Columbus brought home "pepper 
more pungent than that from Caucasu^." Following the 
discovery of America, the plant was spread rapidly 
throughout the Old World tropics. The natives of South 
America used it as much in ancient times as they do now. 
Oviedo, who came to America in 1514 from Spain, men- 


Spices and Condiments 49 

tions its uses, and Chanca, physician to the fleet of 
Columbus in his second royage to the West Indies in 1494, 
wrote a letter to the chapter of Seville in which he speaks 
of it as a condiment. 

Composition. — Two crystalline pungent principles are 
found in red pepper, principally in the partitions of the 
fruit and in the seeds: capsaicin, which is slightly soluble 
in water and is volatile at 115° C, forming irritating 
vapors; and capsacutin, which is so powerful that one part 
in 11,000,000 of water has a distinct pungent taste. 

Use. — Red pepper is used more as a condiment than for 
any other purpose. The inhabitants of some warm climates 
season almost every dish with it. Cayenne pepper con- 
sists mainly of the fruits of the small pungent varieties 
reduced to a fine powder. It is much more pungent than 
paprika. Paprika is the Hungarian name for red pepper, 
and the word is used also to designate a specially prepared 
powdered form of red pepper. This paprika powder is 
made from large, less pungent varieties of peppers, while 
cayenne pepper is made from small pungent varieties. 
There are two ways of preparing paprika. It is sometimes 
made by mixing wheat flour with the pulverized dried 
fruit and adding yeast to form a cake. After baking until 
hard and brittle the cake is reduced to powder and 
sifted. Paprika is also prepared from fruit which is ground 
after the seeds have been removed. Tabasco pepper sauce 
or liquid pepper is said to be the pulp of the ripe fruit of the 
small tabasco variety, extracted by pressure and handled 
in such a manner as to retain all the flavor, strength, 
aroma, and color of the fruit. Many varieties of Capsicum 
are employed in pickles in its green or ripe state. The 
milder pepper is preferred in the North, the more pungent 
pepper by Southerners. Peppers may be sliced and 
mixed with salads or served like tomatoes, with vinegar 
or salt. The bell-shaped or squash varieties, after the 


60 Field Museum of Natural History 

seeds have been removed, are filled with various sub- 
stances. The ground pepper is used also to stuff pitted 
olives, which commonly appear in trade labeled "pimento 
stuffed olives." In Europe as well as in the United 
States some of the smaller varieties of peppers are potted 
and used as house plants. The United States imports 
about four million pounds of paprika a year. 


Peppermint {Mentha Piperita L.) is a strong-scented 
perennial herb of the Labiatae, or mint family, native to 
Europe. This plant has long been known and grown in 
the gardens and fields of Europe, Asia, and the United 
States. In America and probably in these other countries 
it is common as an escape from cultivation. Peppermint 
includes a group of botanically unstable species and varie- 
ties of mint that produce menthol, or an oil possessing 
the properties of peppermint oil. In Europe and North 
America several varieties are cultivated for the distilla- 
tion of the oil. The plant is cultivated especially in 
England, Germany, Italy, and Russia; Japan cultivates a 
different species. In North America the principal areas 
of production are in New York, Michigan, and Indiana. 
The state of Michigan produces more than any other 
place in the world. 

History. — Although several mints have been used for 
culinary and medicinal purposes since antiquity, no well- 
defined distinction is made, even in the books on distilla- 
tion. They were popular in the fifteenth and sixteenth 
centuries, during which period mints were extensively 
used for the preparation of distilled waters. 

Use. — Peppermint has a refreshing odor and a cooling 
persistent taste. The volatile oil of the plant, to which 
its characteristic odor and taste are due, is more in use 
than the leaves. This oil is best known as a flavor in con- 


Spices and Condiments 


From Label, Kruydtboeek, 1581 



62 Field Museum of Natural History 

fectionery and in the historic mint julep, but is used also 
in the manufacture of soap and perfumes. On account of 
its penetrating odor, sanitary engineers use the oil to test 
the tightness of pipe joints. The volatile oil has as its 
principal constituent 50 to 60 per cent of the stearoptene 

The mint family claims many other spice plants such 
as sage, savory, hyssop, balm, pennyroyal, lavender, mar- 
joram, spearmint, thyme, rosemary, catmint and hoar- 
hound. The plants have square stems, simple, opposite 
leaves and two-lipped flowers. 


The seed of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum 
L.), of the poppy family (Papaveraceae), is produced in 
India, Russia, Czechoslovakia, and other European 
countries. It is used as a condiment on rolls. The oil 
contained in large amounts in poppy seeds closely resem- 
bles olive oil. 


Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.), as the name 
implies, is a native of the seacoasts. "Rose" comes from 
ros, meaning "dew," "mary"from marinus, referring to the 
ocean. The plant, a member of the mint family (Labiatae), 
is a native of the Mediterranean coast and is of common 
occurrence on the chalky hills of southern France as an 
evergreen shrub, two to four feet high. 

History. — Pliny, Dioscorides, and Galen wrote about 
it. The Spaniards cultivated it in the thirteenth century, 
and from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century it was 
popular as a condiment with salt meats in Europe. Since 
then its popularity has declined. 

Composition. — The peculiar odor of rosemary is due to 
its volatile oil, composed of 15 to 18 per cent of borneol, 


Spices and Condiments 63 

5 per cent of bomyl acetate, and smaller amounts of 
pinene, camphene, camphor, and cineol. 

Use. — Rosemary was once thought to strengthen the 
memory, and thus was considered an emblem of remem- 
brance and fidelity. This is said to have originated the 
old custom of wearing it at a wedding in many parts of 
Europe. "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance" 
(Hamlet, Act IV, scene 5). 

Rosemary is now used for seasonings almost exclusively 
by the Italians, French, Spanish, and Germans. The ten- 
der leaves are used in cooking stews, fish, and meat 
sauces. Such uses are not popular in America. In France 
the plant is grown also for a volatile oil which is used in 
perfumery, eau de Cologne, and Hungary water. 


Rue {Ruta graveolens L.) is a perennial herb, a member 
of the orange family (Rutaceae), a native of southern 

History. — In olden times it had a high reputation 
Mnong the Greeks and Romans for seasoning and medi- 
cines. In Pliny's time it was considered effectual for 
eighty-four maladies. Apicus mentions it among the 
condiments in the third century, and Magnus in the 
eleventh century praises it among the garden edibles. 
Probably because of its acridity and ability to blister the 
skin when much handled, rue has been chosen by the 
poets to express disdain. Shakespeare called it the "sour 
herb of grace." 

Use. — The exceedingly strong smell of the leaves is 
very disagreeable to most Americans and for that reason 
it can not become popular here as a seasoning. It is used 
by people who like bitter flavorings in culinary prepara- 
tions and in beverages. The volatile oil, to which some 


64 Field Museum of Natural History 

of its odor and taste is due, is found in the entire plant 
and is used in aromatic vinegars and toilet preparations. 


Sage (Salvia officinalis L.) of the mint family (Labia- 
tae) is the most extensively cultivated of all aromatic herbs. 
It is a shrub-like perennial, native to southern Europe 
and northern Africa, and is cultivated in many countries 
of moderate climate as a garden plant for medicinal pur- 
poses. The plant will grow in a cold climate as far north 
as the northern part of Norway. The name salvia is 
derived from salvere, "to be in good health" and "to heal." 
The definition of the word "sage," which means "wisdom," 
has a different origin. 

History. — Sage appears to have been used as a medici- 
nal herb at the time of the Romans. It was called 
salvia by Pliny, and was one of the plants recommended 
by Charlemagne for cultivation. In the Destillerhuch of 
1500 by Brunschwig a distinction is made between large 
and small sage for the distillation of sage water. 

Composition. — The odoriferous volatile oil of sage con- 
tains pinene, cineol, thujon, bomeol, and a bitter principle. 

Use. — In ancient times sage was one of the most 
highly esteemed of all plants because of its reputed 
health-insuring properties. An old adage reads: "How 
can a man die in whose garden sage is growing?" 

The leaves have a highly aromatic odor and are used 
for seasonings and dressings, especially to disguise 
strongly flavored meats such as pork, goose, and duck. 
Sage is used also to flavor certain kinds of sausages and 
cheese. It owes its odor to a volatile oil used in perfumery. 


Samphire {Crithmum maritimum L.) is a European 
perennial of the carrot family (Umbelliferae). It occurs 


Spices and Condiments 55 

commonly along seacoasts in some parts of Europe. The 
young tender leaves and shoots, which are aromatic and 
saline, are pickled in vinegar, either alone or with 


Summer savory {Satureia hortensis L.) is an annual 
plant of the mint family (Labiatae), a native of the 
Mediterranean countries. It is grown in gardens in vari- 
ous parts of the world. In America it is cultivated in 
Ohio, Illinois, and some of the western states, where it 
is occasionally found wild as an escape from home gardens. 

History. — Among the Romans both summer and winter 
savory were popular two thousand years ago, not only for 
flavoring but for use as pot herbs. 

Composition. — Both summer and winter savory have 
powerful aromatic odors and warm, rather bitter tastes, 
which are due mainly to their volatile oil. The leaves are 
sometimes nearly covered with small vesicles containing 
this oil. The oil consists of carvacrol, cymene, terpene, 
and a phenol which differs slightly from carvacrol. 

Use. — Up to one hundred years ago, savory was used 
in flavoring cakes, puddings, and confections, but these 
uses have declined. Summer savory is now used to flavor 
salads, dressing, gravies, and sauces used with meats, such 
as veal, pork, duck, and goose. It is used also for cro- 
quettes, rissoles, and stews. Summer savory is considered 
a better spice plant than winter savory. 


Winter savory (Satureia montana L.) is a semi-hardy 
perennial plant, native to southern Europe and northern 
Africa. Like summer savory, it has been used as a flavor- 
ing for many centuries, but it is not as popular as formerly 
nor is it as popular as summer savory. 


56 Field Museum op Natural History 


Sesame seed, widely used as a condiment on rolls, is 
produced by an herb, Sesamum orientate L., of the sesame 
family (Pedaliaceae). It has been extensively cultivated 
in the tropics since ancient times. The seeds yield about 
one-half their weight of oil of sesame, which is odorless, of 
agreeable flavor, and does not easily become rancid. The 
seeds are sprinkled on rolls before baking, like poppy 
seeds. In some tropical regions they are highly esteemed 
for flavoring candy. 


Southernwood {Artemisia Ahrotanum L.) is a perennial 
subshrub of the sunflower family (Compositae), a native 
of southern Europe. The plant is grown often in old- 
fashioned gardens as an ornament under the name of 
"old man." The young shoots are used sometimes for 
flavoring cakes and other culinary preparations. 


Spearmint {Mentha spicata L.) is a perennial herb 
native to the Mediterranean region, but now found 
naturalized in nearly every civilized country. Mint is 
said by the poets to derive its name from Minthe, the 
daughter of Cocytus. They say that Proserpine became 
jealous of Minthe, and transformed her into a plant. 

History. — The plant is mentioned in the Bible (Matt. 
23:23), and John Gerarde, a famous botanist of the 
seventeenth century, says, "The smelle rejoyceth the heart 
of man." 

Composition. — The oil upon which its flavor and prop- 
erties depend contains pinene (C10H16) and a stearoptene 
(CjoHzoO), which is isomeric with carvol. 

Use. — The green and dried leaves are used in Europe 
to flavor soups, stews, and sauces for meats. In England 


Spices and CoNDiMEhrrs 67 

and America its most general use is in mint sauce, the 
sauce par excellence with roast spring lamb. Mint jelly 
also is used similarly. 


Tansy (Tanacetum vulgar e L.) is a perennial herb of 
the sunflower family (Compositae), native of Europe, 
which has spread over the civilized world as a weed. 
The odor of the plant is not very repulsive but its acid, 
bitter taste is not forgotten. A nibble of a single leaf is 
enough to last most people a lifetime. It is said a donkey 
will eat thistles but not tansy. 

History. — The distilled water from the flowers and 
leaves of tansy was a common remedy in Europe during 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 

Composition. — The characteristic volatile oil of tansy 
contains thujone, bomeol, and camphor. 

Use. — Tansy is used by some people to flavor puddings, 
omelettes, salads, stews, and other culinary dishes. 


Tarragon {Artemisia Dracunculus L.) is an herbaceous 
perennial plant of the sunflower family (Compositae), 
a native of Europe and perhaps southern Russia, Siberia, 
and Tartary. It has been cultivated for its leaves and 
tender shoots scarcely more than five hundred years. The 
popular name means "small dragon," because the root is 
coiled serpent-like. 

Use. — The tender shoots and young leaves are often 
used in salads and for seasoning steaks and chops, espe- 
cially by the French. The plant is frequently used as an 
ingredient in pickles, stews, soups, croquettes, and other 
meat preparations, and especially in fish sauces. Its 
most popular use is probably in vinegar. In France the 
famous French vinegar of Maille is made of this plant. 


58 Field Museum op Natural History 

The volatile oil from the green parts of the plant is used 
to perfume toilet articles. 


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) is a diminutive perennial 
shrub, a native of dry stony places along the Mediterra- 
nean coast. It is a member of the mint family (Labiatae). 
It is now cultivated in most countries with a temperate 
climate, and grows abundantly in a wild state in the 
mountains of southern France. The small knotty and 
woody stems of thyme are found in clearings and on the 
shadeless coast districts of the Riviera, and also in the 
mountain regions of the Maritime Alps up to an altitude 
of 3,000 feet. Thyme has become naturalized as an 
escape from gardens in civilized countries, both warm and 
cold. The name "thyme" is derived from thyo, a Greek 
word for "sacrifice," and was so called because of its use 
as an incense to perfume the temples. The common 
thyme (Thymus vulgaris L.) should not be confused with 
wild thyme (Thymus Serpyllum L.), which is found abun- 
dantly on the moors and mountains of some parts of 
Great Britain, and the temperate parts of Europe, Asia, 
and northern Africa. 

Composition. — These plants contain a volatile oil to 
which they owe their fragrance and aroma. The oil con- 
sists of pinene (CioHi,), cymol or cymene (C10H14) and 
thymol (C10H4O). In the oil are found crystals of thymol, 
which resembles camphor, and because of its pleasant 
odor it is used as a disinfectant, where the strong-smell- 
ing carbolic acid would be objectionable. 

History. — ^As has been stated above, thyme was popular 
with the Greeks as a temple incense. With the Romans 
it was used both in cookery and as bee forage. Although 
thyme has always been rather unimportant as a remedy, 
it and oil of thyme have been official since the sixteenth 


Spices and Condiments 59 

century in most medicinal treatises and in drug and spice 

Use. — The green parts of the plant, either fresh or 
dried or in a decoction, are used extensively in soups, 
gravies, stews, sauces, forcemeats, sausages, and dress- 
ings. The fragrant oil contained in most of the plant is 
distilled chiefly in France for use in perfumery. 


The tonka bean (Dipteryx odorata Willd.), known as 
cumaru in South America, a member of the pea family 
(Leguminosae), is one of the most beautiful trees of 
northern South America. It grows as high as one hundred 
feet and may have a diameter of three feet. It is found 
in Venezuela, British Guiana, and the Amazon region. 
The kernels of the seeds are of considerable commercial 
importance in the manufacture of perfumes, which are 
quite fragrant, with the odor of new-mown hay. The 
odor closely suggests vanilla, and depends upon a crys- 
talline substance, cumarin. Cumarin is cumaric anhy- 
dride (CeH,.O.CO.CH:CH). It is often seen on the 
surface of the beans as an efflorescence. This substance is 
widely distributed in nature. Of the plants in which it has 
been found the following may be mentioned: vanilla grass 
{Anthoxanthum odoratum) ; Carolina vanilla (Trilisa odor- 
atissima) of the daisy family; yellow melilot (Melilotus 
officinalis) of the pea family. The tonka bean or its ex- 
tract is used to flavor snuff, cigars, cigarettes, and sachet 
powders. It is employed as a substitute for vanilla in 
cocoa and confectionery. 


Turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) is a large-leaved herb 
closely related to ginger and of the same family (Zingiber- 
aceae). It has been cultivated for a long time in India 


60 Field Museum op Natural History 

and has a Sanskrit name. The source of the EngHsh word 
turmeric is unknown. No wild form of the plant has been 
found, but turmeric is considered as a probable native of 
Cochin China. Like ginger, the plant has an underground 
stem or rhizome which is thick and rounded, with short 
blunt finger-like tubers. It is these which constitute the 
spice, turmeric. The main portion of the rhizome is called 
long turmeric and the tuberous portion, round turmeric. 
Turmeric, like ginger, is grown from small pieces of the 
rootstock. By using this method of propagation there is 
not as much variation in the plant or its products as 
there would be if the plants were raised from seed. In 
commerce, however, turmeric is distinguished as from 
China, Madras, Bengal, and Cochin. Chinese turmeric 
is the most esteemed. 

Composition. — Turmeric contains 1 per cent of a 
volatile oil which is made up of phellandrene and turmerol, 
and about one-third of 1 per cent of a yellow crystalline 
substance, curcumin, which is changed into vanillin by 
weak oxidation. Vanillin is the active principle of the 
vanilla bean and is closely related chemically to eugenol 
of clove oil. The coloring matter curcumin, which is 
yellow in acids and brownish-red in alkalies, is used in 
testing acidity. 

History. — Apparently turmeric did not appear in 
western commerce as early as ginger. When it did appear 
it was not so important but was valued chiefly for its 
color. In the year a.d. 77 or 78 Dioscorides wrote of a 
kind of "cyperus" which resembled ginger but when 
chewed had a yellow color and bitter taste; doubtless 
this was turmeric. In 1280 Marco Polo mentioned it as 
occurring at Koncha (in the neighborhood of Fo-kien, 
China). In the Middle Ages it was generally known as 
Indian saffron and was imported by Arabs, Persians and 
Turks, who secured it from India. 

[ 310 ] 

Spicks and Condiments 61 

Use. — Turmeric has a bright yellow color and a 
pleasant musky flavor. It is used locally in the East in 
curry. The fresh rootstocks are sold for this purpose and 
also to color various sweetmeats in Singapore and else- 
where. They have a use also as a dye for calico and paper 
in India. The East Indies and Europe likewise use 
turmeric as a dye, but because the color is faded by sun- 
light and alkali, it has been supplanted to a certain extent 
by more permanent aniline dyes. 


The vanilla fruit is the product of a climbing orchid 
of the orchid family (Orchidaceae), a native of Mexico 
and Central America. Two species are cultivated or used 
in producing this spice: Vanilla fragrans (Salisb.) Ames, 
the true Mexican vanilla, with long, slender pods, and 
Vanilla pompona Schiede, the West Indian with short, 
thick pods. There are a few other species which have more 
or less fragrant pods, but none seem to have value as 
spices. The species most extensively cultivated is the 
Mexican vanilla, native from southeastern Mexico to 
Panama. This plant has been introduced and cultivated 
in many parts of the tropics and is grown extensively in 
the Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius, Java, Tahiti, Fiji 
Islands, and West Indies. 

The West Indian vanilla is apparently native from 
southern Mexico to Venezuela and Trinidad, and has 
been cultivated in Martinique and Guadeloupe. In the 
Malay Peninsula is another species. Vanilla Griffithii, 
which is commonly found wild. It, however, has none 
of the aromatic flavor or perfume of the American plant. 
In Mexico the flowers are fertilized naturally by bees and 
humming birds, but in other parts of the world it is 
necessary to fertilize the flowers by hand. The cultivation 
on a systematic basis in Java began in 1846. 



Field Museum op Natural History 



Spices and Condiments 63 

History. — Vanilla was used by the Aztecs for flavoring 
chocolate before the discovery of America, and its use was 
adopted by the Spaniards. According to Morren, it was 
brought to Europe about 1510 and first described by 
Hernandez in 1651 in the Rerum medicarum Novae His- 
paniae thesaurus. 

Use. — Vanilla is used chiefly as a flavoring for choco- 
late, confectionery, and liquors, and formerly it was em- 
ployed to a certain extent in medicines. The principal 
constituent of vanilla is vanillin. This was first investi- 
gated by Gobley in 1858. From 1874 to 1876 Tiemann and 
Haarmann worked on it and discovered that it could be 
produced artificially from coniferin, a glucoside found in 
the sapwood of certain pine trees. A number of other 
processes for the manufacture of vanillin have been 
devised since then. De Laire in 1891 started to work a 
process for forming it from eugenol, the substance to 
which oil of cloves owes its characteristic odor. This 
method was used commercially from 1891 to 1896 with- 
out causing any great change in the market price of 
natural vanilla, but the competition between European 
manufacturing firms resulted in the fall of the price of 
vanilla from $45 per pound in 1890 to $5 in 1903. 

As vanillin was made from eugenol, the price of it 
depended on that of oil of cloves, from which the eugenol 
was obtained. In 1891, however, a patent was taken out 
for making vanillin electrolytically from sugar. 

Although artificial vanillin is so much cheaper and can 
be put on the market at a figure so much lower, the culti- 
vation of the real plant is by no means one of the past. 
The equivalent amount of artificial vanillin can be pur- 
chased for about one-thirtieth the cost of the natural 
product. Some buyers still prefer and are willing to pay 
a higher price for the natural product than for the arti- 
ficial. The vanilla flavor (vanillin) is found also in other 


64 Field Museum op Natural History 

plants: an orchid (Selenipedium Chica) of Panama; the 
fruit of the dog-rose (Rosa canina), a common rose of 
Europe and western Asia; the flowers of queen-of-the- 
meadow {Filipendula Ulmaria Maxim.), of Europe and 
Asia; the balsams and resins of Tolu (Toluifera); the 
seeds of the white lupine of Europe (Lupinus alhus L.); 
and in potato peelings. 


Another spice of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae) 
known as zedoary consists of the rootstocks or rhizomes 
of Curcuma Zedoaria. This spice attained its greatest 
popularity in medieval times, but practically dropped 
out of commerce many years ago. In the East Indies, 
however, it still is cultivated. This is a handsome plant 
which resembles turmeric, but is larger. The rhizomes are 
of a light orange to orange color inside; the rootstocks 
are less brilliantly colored than turmeric and often are 
nearly white. The plant belongs to the same genus as 
turmeric but has much larger rhizomes, which are cut 
into transverse or longitudinal slices before drying. 

History. — During the sixth and seventh centuries it 
is mentioned by Aetius, Paulus Aeginata, and other 
writers as coming from India, where it had been in use 
for a long time. In western Europe it became known 
toward the beginning of the eighth century. 

Use. — The rootstocks of zedoary have a distinct 
aromatic taste which is not very strong and not at all 
pungent. Zedoary is used more as a drug than as a spice, 
even in the East. It is used also as a perfume, but on 
account of its musky odor it is not appreciated as an 
ingredient of curries. 


In Field Museum an exhibit of spices and condiments is to be 
found in Hall 25 (Cases 38 and 40). Others may be seen in Hall 29 
under the various plant families to which the spices and condiments 
belong; viz., vanilla (Case 804), ginger (Case 806), onion (Case 812), 
pepper (Case 819), nutmeg (Case 839), cinnamon (Case 839), tonka 
bean (Case 849), and clove (Case 858).