Ripening Beans Madder Family

The Madder family (Rubiaceae) is also known as the Bedstraw Family and the Coffee Family. It contains over 611 genera and over 13,000 species, but less than a handful have culinary usages, entirely for flavoring beverages and a few foods. Coffee, however, is an economic blockbuster.   Photo of ripening coffee beans in Java by Jmhullot distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

More on the Gentian Order.




Coffee   -   [ Coffea arabica, C. canephora (robusta), C. liberica ]
Roasted Beans

Coffee, which is thought to have originated in Ethiopia, is the economic blockbuster of the madder family. Its cultivation has resulted in great fortunes, and in great sorrow. Today there is a Fair Trade movement to see that beans are from sources that treat the laborers and the local community fairly. Coffee now has its own Coffee page.

Gardenia Fruits   -   [Cape Jasmine; Chija (Korea); Zhi Zi (China); Gardenia jasminoides]
Gardenia Fruit Pods

Gardenia fruits are used in Korea as a natural yellow food coloring, and to dye cloth. A typical culinary use is to give pickled daicon radish a bright yellow color. The orange-yellow color is from Crocetin, the same substance that is responsible for the color of saffron. Gardenia fruit also has a number of medicinal qualities, particularly repressing inflamation and helping to control arthritis. The photo specimens were purchased at a Korean market in Los Angeles in a 1/2 ounce bag at the cost of 2015 US $3.98 per ounce, but lower prices can be found on the Internet when buying in larger quantity. They are typically around 1-1/4 inches long, 5/8 inch diameter and weigh 16 to the ounce.

Kratom   -   [Ketum; Mitragyna speciosa]
Young Kratom Plant

This Southeast Asian tree can grow to about 82 feet, but the photo shows a very young plant. It has a long history of medicinal use in it's native region. In North America, some people are using it for relief from chronic pain, opium withdrawal, and increasingly as a recreational drug.

Kratom has a wide range of side efects, which can become severe, even deadly, when it is mixed with other substances. There have been more than 16 deaths in the United States between 2014 and 2017, though kratom has not been the only factor in any of them. There have been some tests on animals, but there have been no clinical trials in the United States to verify effectiveness and safety. Kratom is illegal to various degrees in a number of countries and is illegal in a number of US states. It is illegal in Canada for any ingested use, but not for incense or similar applications.

Lady's Bedstraw   -   [Yellow Bedstraw; Galium verum]
Flowering Plant

This low, scrambling perennial herb is native to temperate zones of Europe, North Africa and Asia, from England to Japan. It is naturalized in Canada, Tasmania, New Zealand and the northern half of the United States. It's main use was for stuffing mattresses, because its scent was effective against fleas. Culinarily, it was once used to coagulate milk in making cheese, and to color Double Gloucester cheese, for which annatto is now used. In Denmark it is still used to color and flavor the alcoholic drink Bjæsk.   Photo by distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

Quinine Bark   -   [Fever Bark, Jesuit's Bark; Cinchona officinalis, C. pubescens, C. ledgeriana and others]
Fragments of Bark

The powdered bark of Cinchona trees was found by Jesuit priests in South America to contain an effective treatment for malaria, quinine. Peru and surrounding countries tried to maintain a monopoly, but the English and Dutch had a great need for this medicinal in their tropical empires, so seeds and cuttings were smuggled out and planted in India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Java.

The problem with Quinine was bitterness. To make the medicine more palatable, British officers in India mixed it with gin, water, lime juice and sugar - the original gin and tonic.

Today, quinine is still the bitter ingredient in tonic water, though the allowed amount is well below a therapeutic dose. Most bars, however, make a gin and tonic with plain soda water from a hose, unless you demand it be made with bottled tonic water. For malaria, quinine has been replaced with other drugs. The photo specimens were purchased from a market serving a Latin American community in Los Angeles.

Sweet Woodruff   -   [Sweetscented Bedstraw; Waldmeister (Germany); Galium odoratum]
Flowering Plant

This low, scrambling perennial herb is native to temperate zones of Europe and Asia, from England to Japan, including parts of western Siberia. It is sparsely naturalized in Canada and the northern half of the United States. It's main culinary use is in Germany, to flavor May wine, beer, brandy, punch, jellies, jams, ice cream, sherbet powder and herbal teas. It is also used in Georgia, along with tarragon, to flavor the soft drink Tarhun. Versions of this beverage are now also bottled in Russia and Estonia, with some apparent plan to bottle or distribute a version in the United States.   Photo by J.F. Gaffard distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Unported.

gn_coffee 130806   - ©Andrew Grygus - - All photos on this page not otherwise attributed are © cg1. Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted.