Spice Rack: Calamus

Description: This perennial, reed-like aquatic plant has sword-shaped and sweet-scented green leaves that can be infused with milk for custards and rice puddings in the same way a vanilla bean or cinnamon quill is. The majority of culinary use, however, is made of the roots, which, when dry and powdered, are used for their delicate cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger notes in sweet Indian and Arab dishes. Calamus can be difficult to find in US stores since the FDA discovered one variety (acorus calamus) contains the carcinogen beta-asarone, which resulted in the labeling, “Not Recommended for Culinary Use.” 

You Might Like to Know: Calamus was in the original recipe for Dr Pepper.

Purported Effect: Large doses are alleged to cause mild hallucinations.

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