Day 147 – Herbs vs Spices – Tuesday – June 21, 2016 – Many times these two words “herb” and “spice” are used interchangeably. I’ve written several posts about using herbs and spices in recipes but I’ve never quite clarified the difference. Herbs and spices are vital ingredients in many dishes and add flavor, aroma, color, texture and even nutrients. They are similar but different.
What is an Herb?
Fresh herbs come from the leafy and green part of a plant. Some plants such as cilantro is both. The leaves of cilantro are an herb and the seeds of the cilantro plants are the spice.
Herbs stems do not produce woody tissue and do not persist above ground after the end of the growing season. Herbs are aromatic, seed-bearing plants and are often used in medicines as well as seasonings.
- Basil, Bay Laurel, Caraway, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Lemon Grass, Lemon Verbena, Lovage, Marjoram (sweet), Mints, Nasturium, Parsley, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Salad Burnet, Savory (summer), Tarragon, Thyme.
What is a Spice?
Pretty much any part of the plant that is NOT a leaf can be turned into a spice. Spices come from the roots, bark and seeds of plants.
There are so many spices that I can’t begin to list all of them. Some sources say 350, other sources say over 6,000.
- Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Chili Powder, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cream of Tartar, Ground Cumin, Curry Powder, Ground Ginger, Whole Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Crushed Red Pepper, Dried Rosemary, Sesame Seed, Dried Thyme and Vanilla Extract.
Using Herbs and Spices
- Spices should go into your recipe at the beginning, so the taste blends well with the other ingredients.
- Dried herbs should be added early in the cooking process. They need more cooking time to draw out their flavors.
- Fresh herbs are added at the end, so their taste stays fresher and better defined.
- For long cooking dishes such as stews, add ground spices and herbs near the end of the cooking time to minimize the “cooking off” of its flavors.
- Crush leaf herbs, such as oregano, thyme or basil, in your hand before use for a more immediate release of flavor.
- Avoid sprinkling seasoning directly from the container into a steaming pot. The rising moisture may diminish the potency of the spice or herb remaining in the jar, or may cause it to clump or spoil more quickly.
- Use a dry spoon when measuring.
- Whole spices and bay leaves release flavor more slowly than ground or leaf form and are ideal for using in dishes with longer cooking times. For easy removal after cooking, tie in cheesecloth or place in a tea ball before adding to foods.
- For uncooked foods, such as salad dressings, fruits or fruit juices, add spices and herbs several hours before serving to allow flavors to develop and “marry” or blend.
- For salad dressings, add the spices to the vinegar and allow to stand before adding the oil.
- There is no general rule for the correct amount of spices and herbs to use–the pungency of each spice and herb differs and its effect on different foods varies.
- When no recipe is available, try starting with 1/4 teaspoon for 4 servings, per pound of meat, or for each pint (2 cups) of sauce or soup; adjust as necessary.
- For cayenne and garlic powder, decrease to 1/8 teaspoon; adjust as necessary.
- Red pepper flavors increase in intensity upon cooking. Use in small increments to allow the flavor to intensify during cooking
Day 147 – Herbs vs Spices
So now the mystery is solved. Herbs come from the leafy and green part of a plant and spices come from the roots, bark and seeds of plants.
Per the American Spice Trade Association, spices are defined as “any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning purposes”. This really broadens the definition of spices, allowing it to include dried herbs, dehydrated veggies, spice blends and spice seeds.
Facing MY FAT,