Herbs and spices are used widely in the food industry as flavors and fragrances. They are a great way to add natural flavor to any dish without significantly increasing the calorie count and they offer great health benefits also.
But what are the difference of herbs and spices?
Herbs are the leaves, flowers, or stem part of a plant, it can be fresh or dried. Spices are usually dried, it can be the seed, fruit bark, or root which are usually used for flavoring or coloring of foods.
Here the list of common herbs and spices and which food to use them best.
Bayleaf is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, smooth leaves. It has more aroma when dried and it is best in pickling, marinating, and to flavor stews, stuffings, and fish.
Basil leaves are solid and oblong with a pointy end and it comes in many varieties. It is most commonly used fresh in recipes because it has more flavor than dried. Basil can be used in many dishes, including pasta sauces and pesto.
Coriander is a soft plant and the leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems. As a herb, it is highly aromatic with the scent of orange peel. Its delicate young leaves are a common ingredient in spice rubs, marinades, chilis, sauces, soups, and curries and work well with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes.
Dill also called dill weed, the plant has slender stems with alternating soft leaves. The feathery leaves enhance seafood sauces, salad dressings, chicken, and soup. Dill is also used as an attractive garnish.
Lemongrass is a plant that has several stiff stems and slender blade-like leaves which droop towards the tips. It is usually used to flavor teas and soups and is often found in Thai and Vietnamese cooking.
Marjoram is similar to oregano but is sweeter and milder. It is a bushy aromatic plant that has square branching stems that are densely covered with hairy ovate leaves, arranged oppositely in pairs. Marjoram goes well with meats such as pork, lamb, and veal. Its flavor is best when added near the end of the cooking process. Its mild flavor makes it a good addition to uncooked preparations like salad dressings.
Oregano is also known as wild marjoram. Oregano has purple flowers and spade-shaped, olive-green leaves. Some of the most common uses of oregano include tomato-centric recipes, like pizza and pasta sauce, as well as olive oil-based dishes. Oregano is commonly combined with olive oil to create flavorful oregano oil, Italian vinaigrette, and marinades for lamb, chicken, and beef dishes.
Parsley is a bright green, biennial plant that consists of two main varieties: curled-leaf of common parsley and flat-leaf or Italian parsley. Many dishes are served with fresh green chopped parsley sprinkled on top or commonly known as garnishing. But it can be used also in soups, stews, braises, and sauces to infuse an herbal flavor into dishes.
Rosemary is a shrub with fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves and white, pink, purple, or blue flowers. Rosemary is used as a seasoning in a variety of dishes, such as soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. Because of the high aromatic smell, it is best with game, chicken, lamb, pork, steaks, and even fish, especially oily fish. It also goes well with grains, mushrooms, onions, peas, potatoes, and spinach.
Sage is a short woody plant with grayish leaves and blue to purplish flowers. It has a savory, slightly peppery flavor. Fried sage can be crumbled over a dish to heighten flavor at the last moment. Sage can also be used to add fragrant to sauces, compound butter, meat marinades, pastries, and breads. Adding fresh sage leaves to cocktails and teas can hit an instant herbal flavor.
Thyme is a low-growing plant with wiry stems that are stiff and woody. The leaves are small and oval with gray-green color. Flowers can be white to lilac and are in small clusters. Thyme is highly aromatic with a hint of clove and mint fragrance. Thyme is used for adding layers of flavor without being overwhelming. It’s commonly used to season soups, sauces, and braises. It can be added to potatoes, rice dishes, vegetables, and even fresh bread.
Now let’s talk about spices. Spices are usually dried and grounded in a powder for convenience. A whole dried spice has the longest shelf life, so it can be purchased and stored in larger amounts, making it cheaper on a per-serving basis.
Allspice tastes like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, which is why it is named “allspice”. Allspice is brown and resembles large, smooth peppercorns. Fresh leaves are similar in texture to bay leaves and are similarly used in cooking. Ground allspice is used to season meat, soup, stew, vegetables, and baked goods as you would use ground nutmeg, cinnamon, or cloves. Allspice is usually added at the beginning of cooking or baking.
Star anise seeds are larger and a dark reddish-brown color while anise seeds are smaller and look more like fennel seeds. It is also important not to confuse star anise with the Japanese star anise, which is highly toxic and must not be consumed. Despite its sweetness, star anise traditionally is used in savory recipes, particularly with meats. It is often added whole to soups, stews, and braising broths, to which it adds a sweet-licorice-peppery flavor. Star anise can be used whole or ground.
Cardamom is recognized by its small seed pods: triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin, papery outer shell and small, black seeds. Cardamom has a strong, unique taste, with an intensely aromatic fragrance that can quickly overpower other ingredients, so moderately add it in. It’s ideal in curries, teas, baked goods, and sausages.
Cayenne peppers are generally skinny, mostly red-colored peppers, often with a curved tip and somewhat rippled skin. Cayenne pepper is widely used in Mexican, Asian, Indian, and Southern cooking, among others. Just a pinch adds a sweet-spicy heat to an entire pot of beans, enchilada sauce, fried chicken. It also adds a nice kick to egg dishes and dry-rubs for meat and seafood.
Cinnamon is a fragrant bark with a sweet, woody, and fruity flavor. Cinnamon is found in a huge variety of sweets:
Breads, such as cinnamon rolls, hot cross buns, and morning buns. Cookies, such as snickerdoodles, rugelach, and baklava.
Apple desserts such as baked apples, apple pie, apple crisp, and apple crumble.
Cloves are the dried, unopened, nail-shaped flower buds of an evergreen plant. They are reddish-brown in color and have a strong, aromatic flavor and aroma. Cloves give lending flavor to meats, curries, and marinades, as well as fruit such as apples, pears, and rhubarb. Cloves may be used to give aromatic and flavor qualities to hot beverages, often combined with other ingredients such as lemon and sugar. They are a common element in spice blends like pumpkin pie spice and speculoos spices.
Coriander seeds are ovate globular and have many longitudinal ridges on the surface. Its color, when dried, is usually brown but maybe green, straw-colored, or off-white. Coriander is often used in Spanish, Mexican, Latin, and Indian cuisine. It’s a common ingredient in spice rubs, marinades, chilis, sauces, soups, and curries and works well with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes.
Cumin is oblong in shape, it is longitudinally ridged, and yellow-brown in color. Cumin can be used both as the whole seed or ground. Cumin seed can be toasted before use in cooking to bring out its aromatic, nutty flavor. Cumin is the main ingredient in most curry powders and many spice blends. It’s reserved primarily for savory recipes, like chili, stews, meat, fish, and vegetables.
Curry powder a mixture of powdered spices that will differ depending on the region and dish. It usually includes a combination of coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, mustard, fenugreek, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, chilies, and black pepper. It is commonly used to flavor soups, stews, sauces, marinades, meat, and vegetables. As the popularity of curry flavor increases, creative chefs are finding more unconventional uses for the seasoning such as hamburgers, scrambled eggs, and potato salad. Curry powder is popular in Indian dishes.
Dill also called dill weed has brown, flat, oval seeds. In seed form, dill is used as a pickling spice and to flavor pizza, breads, and vegetables.
Fennel seeds have an oblong shape, it has a stripe color of dark-green to white or dark-brown to white. All parts of the fennel plant can be eaten, but it’s the seeds that generate the most culinary interest, thanks to their warm, anise-like aroma and fresh, slightly sweet flavor.
Fennel seeds can be used for making fish soup or fish stock, sausage mixtures, any pork dishes such as stews or casseroles, salads particularly cucumber salad, or making bread or biscuits.
Ginger root is beige in color with a knotted, rough appearance. Once peeled and grated, ginger can easily be thrown into various sauces, glazes, and marinades to brighten up the dish. It is popular in many traditional Asian recipes like noodle bowls or stir-fry. One of the many uses of ginger is that it can tenderize and add flavor to meats. Ginger is also famous for its medicinal uses.
Mace is the spice made from the reddish seed covering the nutmeg seed. Its flavor is similar to nutmeg but more delicate; it is used to flavor baked goods, meat, fish, vegetables, and in preserving and pickling. It is also used in dishes like stews, curries, and savory sauces.
Nutmegs are egg-shaped dried seeds. It is slightly sweeter than mace, nutmeg is essential to flavoring sauces and also goes well with baked or stewed fruit, custards, eggnog, punches, curries, sauces (particularly onion-based and milk sauces), pasta, and vegetables (especially spinach).
Paprika is a ground spice made from dried red fruits of sweeter varieties of the plant. It is made from special kinds of sweet orange and red peppers. Paprika spice adds vibrant color to any dish. It can be sprinkled as a garnish over deviled eggs or potato salad, or used as a flavoring for meat rubs. It has a sweet pepper flavor, without any heat.
and finally in our list,
Turmeric is a bright yellow spice powder that is made from the root of a plant in the ginger family. Turmeric has a pungent, earthy odor. The flavor of turmeric is described as a little bitter, a little peppery like mustard or horseradish, with a slight ginger flavor. Turmeric is always added at the beginning of the cooking process. It will add a deep golden color which brings warm flavors to any curry or stew.
These are just the common list of herbs and spices at home, there are a lot more. Keep in mind that every herbs and spice have a different aroma, flavor, effect, even color on food once we add them. If in doubt, just add a little. You can always add more if you’re not satisfied because it’s hard to remove what you’ve already added.
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