Whether you drink your Manhattan with bourbon or rye, this grass is a key ingredient.
The grain has been fermented since at least 3000 BC, for good reason: it is rich in enzymes that help break starch into fermentable sugar.
To kick-start this process, the grains are dampened to force germination. As the embryo sprouts, those enzymes are activated to provide sugar for the seedling—or for the fermentation tank.
Oak (Quercus alba)
As oak trees mature, the older vessels become plugged with crystalline structures called tyloses. As a result, the center of the tree—the heartwood—doesn’t conduct water at all, making it well-suited for use as a watertight barrel. Whiskey gets an astonishing array of flavors from the barrel.
American white oak produces the same flavor molecules found in vanilla, coconut, peach, apricot, and cloves.
Marasca Cherry (Prunus cerasus var. marasca)
In the distant, boozy past, a maraschino cherry was not an artificially dyed and overly sweetened atrocity.
It was a dense, dark, sour cherry called the marasca that grew particularly well in Croatia, around the town of Zadar.
Fortunately, fine marasca cherries soaked in their own liqueur can still be found in some specialty shops.
The world is full of bizarre wonders, from flowers that look utterly alien to otherworldly landscapes and terrifying deep-sea creatures that seem to have sprung straight from your nightmares.
This particular tree might not look quite as monstrous as six-foot-tall blooms or carnivorous plants that are large enough to consume rats, but it’s certainly strange: it grows its fruit directly on its trunk.
Jabuticaba is native to the Minas Gerais and São Paulo states of southeastern Brazil, and starts off looking ordinary enough, save for the salmon-colored leaves it sprouts while it’s still young.
As it matures to fruiting age, the first sign of something unusual are the starry white blooms that appear not on its branches, as you’d expect, but on its trunk.
When uncultivated, it flowers and fruits once or twice a year, but when regularly irrigated it can produce its grape-like, thick-skinned berries year-round.
In Brazil, where it can be eaten immediately, it’s typically served fresh.
Since it starts to ferment within three days of ripening, it has to be preserved into jam, tarts, wine or liqueur to give it a longer shelf life.
Attempts to grow it commercially in North America haven’t been successful, since the climactic conditions aren’t quite right and the trees tend to grow very slowly, making it a treat you should really travel to South America to enjoy properly.
The normally parched landscapes of southern and eastern California have been transformed into a colourful oasis in the past week as swathes of wild flowers have burst into life across the region’s deserts.
Unexpected heavy autumn rains and cold winter conditions have caused a rare “super bloom” that last occurred in the El Niño years of 1998 and 2005.
These purple sand verbena and desert sunflowers can be seen around the Amboy Crater in the Mojave Trails national monument off Route 66.
Image Credit: Photograph by Planetpix/Alamy Live News