Ginger is the root of a shrub first known in Asia, and now cultivated in the West Indies and Sierra Leone. The stem grows three or four feet high and dies every year. There are two varieties of ginger - the white and black - caused by taking more or less care in selecting and preparing the roots, which are always dug in winter, when the stems are withered. The white is the best.
Cinnamon is the inner bark of a beautiful tree, a native of Ceylon, that grows from twenty to thirty feet in height and lives to be centuries old.
Native to the Molucca Islands, and so called from resemblance to a nail (clavis). The East Indians call them "changkek," from the Chinese "techengkia" (fragrant nails). They grow on a straight, smooth-barked tree, about forty feet high. Cloves are not fruits, but blossoms, gathered before they are quite unfolded.
A berry so called because it combines the flavor of several spices - grows abundantly on the allspice or bayberry tree; native of South America and the West Indies. A single tree has been known to produce one hundred and fifty pounds of berries. They are purple when ripe.
Black pepper is made by grinding the dried berry of a climbing vine, native to the East Indies. White pepper is obtained from the same berries, freed from their husk or rind. Red or cayenne pepper is obtained by grinding the scarlet pod or seed-vessel of a tropical plant that is now cultivated in all parts of the world.
Nutmeg is the kernel of a small, smooth, pear-shaped fruit that grows on a tree in the Molucca Islands, and other parts of the East. The trees commence bearing in the seventh year, and continue fruitful until they are seventy or eighty years old. Around the nutmeg or kernel is a bright, brown shell. This shell has a soft, scarlet covering, which, when flattened out and dried, is known as mace. The best nutmegs are solid, and emit oil when pricked with a pin.
To prepare herbs for winter use, such as sage, summer savory, thyme, mint or any of the sweet herbs, they should be gathered fresh in their season, or procure them from the market. Examine them well, throwing out all poor sprigs; then wash and shake them; tie into small bundles, and tie over the bundles a piece of netting or old lace (to keep off the dust); hang up in a warm, dry place, the leaves downward. In a few days the herb will be thoroughly dry and brittle. Or you may place them in a cool oven and let them remain in it until perfectly dry. Then pick off all the leaves and the tender tops of the stems; put them in a clean, large-mouthed bottle that is perfectly dry. When wanted for use, rub fine, and sift through a sieve. It is much better to put them in bottles as soon as dried, as long exposure to the air causes them to lose strength and flavor.