10 Neat Things About Spices
by Shauna Dobbie
by Dorothy Dobbie

The Local Gardener magazines, Ontario Gardener, Manitoba Gardener and Alberta Gardener, are published by Pegasus Publications Inc.

Drawing on her 30 years' experience as a senior executive in the magazine publishing industry, Dorothy launched Manitoba Gardener in 1998, initially running the business out of her home. Two years later, Dorothy's daughter Shauna, living in Ontario, jumped into the fray with Ontario Gardener. And two years after that, they started Alberta Gardener. Visit us at and register for our "Ten Neat things" newsletter. Watch Shaw TV for garden tips and Listen to CJOB for the Gardener Sundays at 9:08

February 18, 2019

1. Mustard.

This one you knew could be grown in Canada; Canada and Nepal are the world leaders in mustard exports. But did you know that it is a brassica? Brassica juncea is the variety of mustard we grow here, related at the genus level to Brassica oleracea, which is responsible for broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts and cabbage.

2. Fenugreek.

Usually thought of as an Indian ingredient, with the leaves often included fresh and the seeds used dried in curries, fenugreek is commercially grown in Saskatchewan. The plant has a variety of uses. One of its more secret uses is that it serves as a constituent of artificial vanilla and maple flavouring.

3. Coriander.

This plant will give twice, first as the herb, cilantro, then the seeds will do duty as the spice, coriander. The herb is love it or hate it (though I used to hate it and grew to love it) but the seed is quite different. It has a nutty, spicy, orangey flavour. Coriander is another spice being grown in Saskatchewan.

4. Dill seed.

You may grow this herb in your garden in the summer. It's the seeds that are used for spice, which tastes rather like the herb. The Latin name is Anethum graveolens, the first word meaning, simply, dill or anise and the species name meaning foul-smelling. Odd, because I rather like the smell of dill.

5. Horseradish.

The root of this pungent-tasting plant is what is used as a spice, though the greens have the same flavour. A root of horseradish isn't strong tasting until you grate it. That breaks up the cells, releasing the enzyme myrosinase, which activates other elements to become tear-inducing. It is meant to repel animals from eating it, but instead it has attracted many human animals.

6. Ginger.

You can grow ginger in a pot, keeping it indoors during the winter. It is easy and you can use ginger you buy from the grocery store. Get a big piece and soak it for a couple of hours in lukewarm water, then plant in a wide container, in light potting mix, not quite covering the ginger. Water it well and then wait. It can take a few months for the tuber to send up shoots, but it will either do that or rot.

7. Turmeric.

The deep golden spice comes from the dried, crushed rhizome of the turmeric plant. Fresh turmeric is becoming more popular in Canada these days, which means you can buy the tubers and plant them in pots, similar to ginger. Turmeric is used in the traditional pre-wedding ceremonies of gaye holud in Bengal; the groom's family decorate the bride with turmeric paste and the bride's family do the same for the groom.

8. Saffron.

The delicate threads of saffron are stigmas from the Crocus sativa, which might be hardy in your area, or you might have to grow them in pots. The crocus puts forth leaves in the spring which die back, then flowers come out in the fall. The bulbs will die at -10 degrees Celsius, but the temperature a couple of inches underground is not the same as the temperature above ground. There are some growers in Quebec and a number have started in Ontario, including around Ottawa, who grow them in the ground.

9. Cinnamon.

Yes, you can grow your own cinnamon tree indoors if you can get hold of one. Sage Garden, a nursery in Winnipeg, sells plants. You won't get a big tree, but you will get a small bush that you can harvest twigs from. They are good to chew on or for using in drinks. The leaves are a milder version and are good for making tea.

10. Paprika.

If you can grow peppers, you can grow paprika. Paprika is the dried and ground flesh of pepper fruits. You'll need to grow pepper varieties that are destined to be dried, though; bell peppers you get at the grocery have a pericarp that is too thick. Although it is associated with Hungarian food, peppers are from the New World and paprika did not become popular in Hungary until the 19th century, according to The Glutton's Glossary by John Ayto.

Shauna Dobbie

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