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PepperPepper was used to pay taxes in ancient times and even rents in England in the Middle Ages. One of it’s first internal uses was as a medicinal remedy for intestinal problems and to treat the fevers of malaria and cholera over 4,000 years ago. Considered an appetite stimulant by many healers, pepper soon found its way into culinary uses, adding its fiery, pungent flavor to many dishes.

Pepper was first grown in India, and today that country produces half of the world’s supply. It traveled to Malaysia, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia 2,000 years ago. Today, pepper is also grown in Sri Lanka, China, Madagascar, and Brazil.


History of Salt

Posted by Janie Franz Categories: History, Condiments,

Salt CellarSalt has been with us for thousands of years. The Egyptians used salt to preserve mummies 3,500 years ago, and the Chinese were using salt some 5,000 years ago for medicinal purposes.  Salt was used in pottery making, preserving meat and fish, dying cloth, and cleaning a variety of objects. Our grandparents knew that their livestock needed salt and provided large blocks of salt, called salt licks, for their cattle. Today, it has 14,000 known uses, including seasoning our food.

In various times in ancient history, salt has been used for currency.  In ancient Greece, slaves were bought with salt. Therefore, if someone acquired a lazy slave, it was said that the slave “wasn’t worth his salt.”

Salt also has been the cause of social unrest and even warfare. In England, British monarchs gained revenue for their treasuries through taxes on salt. These were often steep for a commodity that was so essential that made a loyal subject turn smuggler, bringing in shipments of plain salt. Even Thomas Paine, the Revolutionary War journalist and political activist, wrote of the high British salt tax shortly after the Revolutionary War.

In many cultures, even today, it is polite to offer guests bread and salt. Giving the bride and groom salt on their wedding day is considered good luck.

Salt ShakersSalt shakers were invented in 1858 by John Mason, the guy who invented the screw-top Mason jar.  He made little screw-top jars to keep salt in at the table and keep it from caking from the humidity.  But these were short-lived. Just over a decade later, salt was more finely milled and ceramic containers with perforations in their tops were invented.  In between these two salt containers, C. P. Crossman patented an agitator in his shalt shaker in 1871 that broke up the clumps that always formed so the salt would always be free-flowing.  Before these inventors, there were salt mills like pepper grinders, that ground up the salt into small bits.

The salt cellar, also called the open salt, was a special dish that held salt. These were bowl-shaped dishes without lids. As early as the middle ages in well-to-do households, the head of the house was given a salt bowl called a master salt with a tiny silver spoon. He would pass it around the table to his guests, and each would help themselves. This custom continued until WW II in some households, but has since passed by the wayside.

Today, however, you can still find salt cellars, but these now have lids. These salt cellars come in porcelain, glass, or wood, but aren’t usually placed on the table for service during a meal. They are used at the stove or on the counter so that modern cooks can grab a pinch of salt as they prepare food.

MesclunMany of the greens found in the wild have become legitimized by the popularity of mesclun mixes and intentionally cultivated. Mesclun, comes from a French word meaning “mixture.”  Originating in Provence, France, mesclun traditionally was a blend of chervil, arugula, lettuce, and endive. These were usually grown together and harvested when only a few inches high.

Mesclun in America is much more varied. Not only are the blends packed with eight to sixteen different kinds of greens, but they are also geared for different tastes.  Some are quite mild and contain much more lettuce. Peppery mescluns can have cresses, chicory, arugula, and mustards mixed with regular leaf lettuce. Many of the greens in these salad blends are: lettuces, endives, mustards, purslane, cresses, escarole, arugula, chard, and spinach. Exotic greens like mizuna from Japan or tat-soi from China are popular, too. Some mescluns even have herbs, like parsleys and fennels, and edible flowers.

LettuceThe foundation of most salads is a leafy green, usually lettuce.  A member of the daisy family, lettuce is thought to have come from Central Asia and was cultivated in the royal gardens of Persia around 500 BC. Four main types of lettuce exist today:  looseleaf, cos (romaine), butterhead, and crisphead (Iceberg).  Looseleaf varieties include black-seeded Simpson, Oakleaf, Salad Bowl, and the red varieties (Red Sails and Red Salad Bowl). Butterhead lettuces, Bibb and Boston, are most prized by chefs for their tender, sweet leaves.  Romaine lettuce is crisper than looseleaf and has a longer shelf life. Escarole, a peppery green, is highly prized for its peppery taste and its spiky look.