Processing Spice Crops, Part 4 Laurel, Cloves, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Anise

LAUREL (Bay Leaves)

Laurel leaves contain a volatile oil, fixed oil, protein cellulose, pentosans, pigments, mineral elements, etc. The principal constituents is its volatile oil, present in amounts of about 2%. The chief constituent of the oil is cineol (about 45-500%), a colorless liquid with a strong aromatic, camphoraceous odor and cooling taste.

Only the dried leaves are employed as a spice. It has an agreeable odor and when bruised or crushed yield a very fragrant and aromatic aroma. The taste is bitter and aromatic. Laurel leaves are employed to flavor meat, game, poultry and fish dishes, soups and sauces. Crushed laurel leaves are an ingredient of whole pickling spice.


Cloves contain a volatile oil, fixed oil, resin, tannin, proteins, cellulose, pentosans, mineral elements, etc. The volatile oil of cloves contain from 70 to 90% of eugenol. Eugenol is a colorless, or faintly yellow, optically inactive liquid with the aromatic odor and pungent taste of cloves.

When the base of the buds turns reddish in color, they are ready for harvesting. Pickers climb the trees and remove the clusters by hand. The buds are later separated from the stems and spread on grass mats or cement drying floors for 4 to 5 days to dry. Drying is an important part of the preparation of the spice. Too rapid drying can cause the cloves to become shriveled and brittle. Under bad drying and storage conditions the color becomes darker and the cloves turn musty. Finally, the epidermis becomes pale and wrinkled. Cloves must bee handled with care, especially when dry, since the heads or crowns are easily broken off.

Good quality cloves are large, bold and not too wrinkled. Cloves are graded on appearances and allowances for maximum impurities. Clove stems are largely used for distilling oil of cloves.

This widely used spice is employed whole or ground. Its use include the studding of hams and roast pork and the flavoring of meat dishes, gravies, pickles, preserves, desserts, cakes, pudding, etc. It is an ingredient of many spice mixtures including curry powder, mincemeat spice, pastry spice, sausage seasoning, and others.


Ceylon cinnamon bark contains a volatile oil, fixed oil, tannin, resin, proteins, cellulose, pentosans, micilage, starch, calcium oxalate, mineral elements, etc. On distillation the bark yields from 0.5 to l% of volatile oil, the chief constituent of which is cinnamic alddehyde. It is an aromatic pungent, sweet- tasting and yellowish, oily liquid. Cinnamon oil is distilled from the chips and trimmings of the quills; and this is known as “Barl Oil”. Before distillation the chips are macerated in sea water or strong solution of brine for 2 to 3 days. The active constituent of bark oil is cinnamic aldehyde whereas that of the leaf oil is eugenol. Leaf oil is sometimes designated “clove oil”.

After cutting, the shoots are bundled and taken to sheds for peeling. The shoots are first trimmed of twigs and leaves, then two longitudinal slits are made on the bark, which is gradually loosened with the knife and removed. The sections of bark are then carefully put one into the other, the outerside of one piece against the inner side of another. These are then collected and firmly bound together in bundles and set aside for 24 hours to “ferment”. Following the process, each section of bark is placed on a cylindrical piece of wood about two feet long, one end of which is supported by a low tripod of sticks, the other resting on the ground. The peeler sitting on the ground opposite the tripod, hold lathe section firmly with his food and using a small curved knife scrapes off the outer layers of the bark.

After a few hours, the smaller sections of scrapped bark are introduced into the larger and pieced together to a length of about 36 inches. As the bark dries, it contracts and gradually acquires the form of “pipe”” or “quill”.

Ground cinnamon is employed to flavor breads, buns, cakes, cookies and pies. It is used with apples, stewed fruits, and in confectioneries. It is used commercially by bakers, confectioners and other food processors.


Nutmeg or mace contains a volatile oil, fixed oil, proteins, cellulose, pentosans, starch, mineral elements, etc. The volatile oil is obtained by distilling; the fixed or expressed oil by pressure accompanied by heat. The volatile oil of nutmeg (oil of myristica) is a colorless or pale yellow liquid with the odor and taste of nutmeg. Nutmeg yields from about 24 to 30% of fixed oil expressed oil of nutmeg, also known as nutmeg butter, or oil of mace.

Nutmeg and mace are products of the same tree. Nutmeg is the seed and mace is the aril of the fruit.

As soon as the fruits split, they are collected by hand. The nutmegs are taken to curing houses where the mace is carefully removed. The nutmegs and mace are dried separately. The drying of nutmeg is a slow process involving exposure to the sun for limited daily periods and turning them twice daily over a period of 6 to 8 weeks. When dry, the shell is removed by breaking with the aid of a wooden truncheon or by mechanical means.

The mace is flattened by hand or between boards. It is then dried by exposure to the sun for varying daily periods. In drying, the color changes from the natural crimson to a pale yellow or buff color, and the spice becomes horny and brittle.

Nutmeg has a characteristic aromatic odor and an aromatic, warm, gently bitter taste, Mace has fragrant nutmeg-like odor and an aromatic, slightly warm taste.

Nutmegs are available whole or ground. The culinary uses for nutmeg include the flavoring of sweet dishes, pies, pudding toppings, and some meat and vegetables dishes and beverages. It is an ingredient of a number prepared ground spice mixtures including mince-meat, poultry dressing, sausage, bologna and frankfurter seasonings.

Mace is available whole, broken or ground. It is used to flavor cakes, biscuits, preserves, sauces, pickles, meat and fish dishes. It is employed in the commercial manufacture of a number of feeds including relishes, sauces and some fancy meats. It is an ingredient of mincemeat spice, poultry dressing, pork sausage spice and other ground spice flavorings and seasonings.


Anise fruit contains a volatile oil, fixed oil, proteins, cellulose, sugar, pentosans, calcium oxalate, mineral elements, etc. The volatile oil, which is colorless or pale yellow liquid and is the most important constituents of anise is about l.5 to 3.5%/. Of this, 80 to 90% is anethole which possess the aromatic odor and sweet taste of anise.

The fruit is harvested when they begin to ripen. They are piled into stacks and left in the field until ripening of the fruit is complete. The fruits are then separated by threshing.

Dried anise fruit, commonly called aniseed, has a pleasing aroma and taste. It is used to flavor rolls, cakes, cookies, biscuits, licorice and confections.

For more information contact:

Dept. of Science and Technology
Rm. 303 DOST Bldg., DOST Complex,
Gen. Santos Ave., Bicutan, Taguig City 1631
Telephone Nos: (632) 837-20-71 to 82


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