Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Benefits of Basil, Part Two

A good deal of research has been done on this remarkable little spice with several interesting findings coming forth as a result. Basil appears to be a very effective anti-inflammatory. Many products are currently on the market, which take advantage of this fact. Other studies have shown that basil has cancer-fighting properties and can even work as an anti-viral. Tests have clearly shown that basil is also high in antioxidants.

Like many spices, basil can be enjoyed both in its dried form and in its fresh herb form. Both forms of basil have their advantages. Dried spices, however, have the advantage of being available year round and are easily stored right alongside one's pepper grinder and other spices.

Few spices can lists as many benefits as basil. In fact, it is safe to state that basil deserves to be mentioned alongside garlic and oregano when discussing spices that can fight disease and prevent disease. Around the world, basil has been used as medicine for generations. When one considers that basil also tastes great, it is easy to see why mankind has been cultivating.

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The Benefits of Basil

The best spices are the ones that can be enjoyed in a variety of foods and used in a variety of ways This simple fact is part of the reason that spices like pepper, red pepper and garlic have been so popular for so long
The best spices are the ones that can be enjoyed in a variety of foods and used in a variety of ways. This simple fact is part of the reason that spices like pepper, red pepper and garlic have been so popular for so long. These spices have literally spread out to be used by almost every society on the planet.

Few spices are as tasty as basil, and this is part of the reason that this incredible spice is believed to have been cultivated for thousands of years. Cultures all over the world have taken advantage of what basil has to offer. You can expect to find basil used in a variety of dishes. This complex spice has found its way into Chinese, Italian and Greek dishes to name but a few.

Like oregano, basil works well with other spices and seasons, such as salt, pepper and garlic. In part, this is why basil is a staple in most kitchens. It can often be found not too far away from the family salt mill and pepper mill.

Yet there are additional reasons that this enduring spice has been with us for thousands of years. One of the most important reasons that basil has remained a popular staple of the human diet is the nutritional spread of this hearty spice. Just a small amount of dried basil has numerous vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Vitamin A and magnesium. The fact that basil contains Vitamin K makes it a very useful spice. After all, Vitamin K is often lacking in many people's diets. Thus, by just adding a little basil to your meal, it is possible to greatly increase your daily intake of several key vitamins and minerals. Considering the fact that basil is extremely low in calories, there is really no reason that it can't be incorporated into any diet.

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Enhance your Cooking with Ginger

Science has definitely made us aware of the health benefits of spices. As it turns out, spices of all sorts are yielding interesting results in study after study. It seems as though spices are able to address a wide range of medical conditions and appear to even prevent disease. There are many spices that can help people achieve better health. One great example is ginger.

Ginger is a spice that is uniquely versatile and has made its way into cuisine from different cultures around the world. Ginger, for example, is widely used in both Chinese cooking and Indian cooking and for good reason. This vibrant spice has a powerful taste that works well when used in conjunction with a sweetener and can easily liven a great many different types of dishes. Due to the fact that ginger works well in sweet dishes, it is often found in such favorites as cookies, cakes and gingerbread.

Ginger is often associated with the holiday season, and it sadly can be overlooked during the rest of the year. This is, however, a spice with a lot to contribute to both your diet and your taste buds year-round. Some of the most popular uses for ginger include as an accompaniment to sushi, blended into a salad dressing, as a spice for cooked carrots, or in an Asian-inspired marinade for chicken or beef. These are just a few of the many exciting dishes that can be made with ginger.

Ginger also works very well in tea form and, in part explains why one sees ginger tea used around the world. Ginger tea is easy to make. Just peel and slice a fresh ginger root and add it to boiling water. Cover the water and ginger mixture and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Simply strain the tea and add whatever sweetener you might prefer.

Another reason that ginger is used with such frequency is that it has been shown to help with stomach related medical issues such as diarrhea and nausea. Ginger is one of those spices that can make your mouth water and even ease an upset stomach. Ginger has been shown to be safe in the treatment of both issues. In fact, ginger is widely and safely used for the treatment of nausea in pregnant women.

Ginger is one of the more versatile spices as it can be used both in its raw form and fresh form, is available year round, and can be found in most grocery stores. Increasingly, fresh ginger root is available in health food stories, ethnic food stores and more and more often at your local grocery chain. This of course means that ginger is a spice that is not just easy to use to easy to purchase as well.

For those looking for a spice that works well in a variety of dishes, ginger is a good selection. Dried ginger is normally safe and, while few people have allergic reactions, those reactions are usually mild. While many may focus on ginger''s delicious taste, it should be noted that ginger has been shown to kill harmful bacteria, which only further enhances its usefulness. With so much going for it, ginger is a welcomed addition to almost any spice rack.

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Bulking Up

Customers are seeking out the bulk bins more often when they shop for spices in the supermarket, according to industry experts.

"Bulk is really coming back," says Clint Landis, chief marketing officer at Frontier Natural Products Co-Op, a Norway, Iowa-based spice firm that started out in the bulk business, but now also produces the Simply Organic and Frontier packaged brands. "It's like a new wave. We're experiencing double-digit [bulk] growth, which we haven't seen in a long, long, time."

Frontier is promoting its bulk spices with the tag line: "Buy a pinch or a pound." "The nice thing about bulk is the ability to do that," Landis says. "Natural food stores are where the majority of the bulk business is, but we're starting to see it in grocery stores."

Another good thing about spices is that the possibilities they offer are virtually endless.

"We have approximately 6,000 formulas that are both proprietary as well as confidential," says Bob Blefko, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Old World Spices, a private label and bulk blend manufacturer based in Overland Park, Kan.

Manufacturers say today's consumers are looking for quality. The C.F. Sauer Co., based in Maple Valley, Wash., offers some 130 different items under its Bama, Sauer's, The Spice Hunter and Duke's brands that company officials bill as being a step above some of the mainstream competition.

"What sets us apart is quality," says Lon Kollath, natural and specialty account manager. "Spices in glass jars are generally considered a gourmet spice, but beyond that is where the spices are sourced from. There are different growing areas in the world where you can get the best cinnamon, for example."

To further liven up the category, new spices are always coming on the scene. Baltimore-based Vanns Spices has just introduced Dill pollen, packaged in small round tins.

"Dill pollen is new to the market and new to us," says sales manager Nick Ciotti. "It has really bright dill notes to it, almost like fresh dill, but more complex, almost reminiscent of honey and hay. It goes really nice on fish, maybe basting it on at the end of the cooking process. It's also great as a garnish for potato salad, chicken salad, or even something simple like tomatoes and mozzarella."

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Make Your Dollars Stretch

Variety is the spice of life, so it's only natural for retailers stocking a vast array of spices to see sales heat up, not only in the spice aisle, but in meat, produce, seafood and everywhere else a little dash of this or that can be used to turn an ordinary meal into an extraordinary one.

"Due to the current economic condition, people are eating out less and cooking at home more often," says John Lazowski, director of marketing at ACH Food Companies, the Ankeny, Iowa-based manufacturer of the Tone's, Durkee, Spice Islands, French's and Weber spice brands. He says while the spices and extracts category has remained relatively flat over the past few years, in the latest 52 weeks ended Dec. 27, the category has grown 4.2%.

ACH officials expect the upward trend to continue through 2010. "The spice category has seen 4% growth as budget-conscious consumers continue to cook more meals at home. This is a big improvement in what has historically been a flat category," Lazowski says, adding that ACH is also seeing growth in the gourmet side of the business. Sales of its high-end Spice Islands line are up 7.3%. "Shoppers who, in more prosperous times, might have gone out for an expensive meal are cooking more special meals at home and they are looking to premium spices for a richer culinary experience," he says.

Big flavors and new definitions of "dinner party" are bringing the best of restaurant meals into the home, says Laurie Harrsen, director of public relations, activities and policies used to create public interest in a person, idea, product, institution, or business establishment. By its nature, public relations is devoted to serving particular interests by presenting them to the public in the most and consumer affairs at Hunt Valley, Md.-based McCormick & Co. "People are looking for new at-home options--staying in is the new going out," she says. "It can be casual, economical, and a great way to have a variety of tastes at one gathering. A whole new generation of potluck concepts is helping bring the best of restaurant meals home."

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