Herbs versus Spices


Herbs are generally the leaves of low growing shrubs which are available in fresh and dry versions. Dried forms are available whole, crushed, or ground. Examples of herbs are parsley, chives, basil, and thyme. 
See Lesley's Herb Garden

Spices come from seeds, berry, fruit, root, flower, or bark. Examples of spices are mustard (seed), black pepper (berry), paprika (fruit), ginger (root), saffron (flower), and cinnamon (bark).

There is however another category. That is plants that are both herb and spice. Cilantro is one of these. The leaves are known as the herb cilantro, and the seeds from the flower are known as coriander.

Allspice is also known as Jamaican Pepper or Pimento. It comes from a single tree and is not a mixture of spices, like the name would imply. It tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Allspice a key ingredient in ďjerkĒ seasoning.

Anise seed has a very strong flavour of liquorice. It is similar to fennel seed, but fennel seed has a much milder flavour. Itís used to flavour rubs and marinades as well as cookies, cakes, and of course, the liquor Anisette.

Cardamom (cardamon) is commonly found in Indian, Middle Eastern and Scandinavia cooking. If your recipe calls for the whole seed, itís best to buy cardamom still in the pod because the seeds lose flavour quickly without the shell to keep in the oils. Ground cardamom has even less flavour that store bought cardamom seeds.

Cayenne Pepper is ground from small slender red or yellow peppers. It's heat is very hot and should be used in small quantities. Use it to flavour meat, poultry, soups, sauces, chili, seafood, Mexican and Louisiana dishes. Not a substitute for chili powder

Celery Seed is used to impart celery flavour into dishes, commonly found in pickles. A strong flavoured seed, so use sparingly. Is available in a ground powder, and the powder is mixed with salt to make celery salt

Chipotle Pepper (our favourite) is the dried, smoked, and ground jalapeno pepper. The product is made from peppers grown in northern and southern Mexico. Chipotle has a distinctive, smoky, sweet flavor with a medium heat level. Chipotle is used to flavour chili, Chipotle Creole Sausage, soups, stews and Tex-Mex cuisine.
Learn more about Chipotle....
Chipotle Peppers: Learn what they are & how we make them

Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices and is used in breads, cakes, cookies, curries, and drinks. It is a very aromatic spice made from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Is available in sticks and ground

Coriander is the seeds from the cilantro plant. Itís commonly used in India, the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Cumin is a main ingredient in chili powder and curry powder. Used to flavour chili, stews, meats, and sausage 

Fennel Seed is similar to anise, but is sweeter and milder. A favourite use is for Italian sausage. Fennel is also available fresh as a stalk.

Garlic is one of the most popular spices used today. It is available fresh as a whole bulb, jarred in oil, dried as a powder, as garlic salt (the powder mixed with salt), and as garlic flakes. Just about every cuisine on earth uses garlic in its cooking.

Ginger is the root of a plant native to Asia. It can be used whole or dried as powder. Itís what gives gingerbread its flavour. Asian and Indian cooks like to use it fresh in their dishes to flavour spicy sauces and stir-fries. Ginger also a great addition to marinades

Mace is derived from the fruit of the same tree as nutmeg, Myristica fragrans. Mace is the thin, bright red lace-like covering over the shell of the nutmeg. It tastes like nutmeg but milder. Used in the curry spice blend.

Mustard Seeds, ground or whole, have a strong, hot, and tangy flavour when moisture is added. Ground mustard enhances meat, poultry, and sauces. Whole, they are used in pickling and in relishes.

Nutmeg is an oval shaped seed which has a sweet, spicy flavor, the same fruit from which mace is derived. The fruit, when ripe splits in half, expose the mace covering, which has the nutmeg seed inside. Nutmeg is best when grated fresh as the ground nutmeg quickly loses the flavourful oils.

Paprika is the dried, ground pods of Capsicum annum, a sweet red pepper. It has a mild taste and is prized more for the bright red colour than the taste. Paprika is used in seasoning blends for barbeque, snack foods, salads and the cuisines of India, Morocco, Europe, and the Middle East.

Pepper is probably the most popular spice available. Black, white and green pepper are all obtained from the small dried berry of the vine Piper nigrum. For Black Pepper, the berries are harvested in their unripe or green stage, boiled for about 10 minutes, and then are allowed to dry until they become wrinkled and black. For White Pepper, the berry is picked when fully ripe. The outer layer of black shrunken skin is removed, leaving the dried, grayish-white centre. It has a milder, more delicate flavor than black pepper. Green Peppercorns are the unripe fruits which are pickled or preserved in brine. They are less pungent from other forms. Pink Peppercorns aren't really peppercorns at all but are the dried berry of the Baies rose plant with a mild flavour.

Poppy Seeds come from the same flower that produces opium, the Poppy. They are a small black flavourful seeds which are used in baked foods like breads, rolls, and muffins. Along with its crunchy, nut like flavour, these black seeds adds a nice visual effect to baked goods

Saffron is the dried yellow stigmas of the violet flowers of Crocus sativus, a member of the Iris family. It is the most expensive spice to bring to market because of the stigmas must all be harvested by hand. Saffron is used many for its beautiful yellow colour. Saffron is used in spice blends for paella and curry

Sesame Seed is a dried, oval-shaped seed harvested by hand. It has a nutty flavour that really comes out when lightly toasted. Commonly used in baked goods and Asian stir-fries

Turmeric is the dried root of the plant Curcuma longa, which resembles ginger root. It's known for its vibrant yellow colour and is the colouring spice for curry powder. Turmeric's flavor resembles a combination of ginger and pepper.

Chile Pepper Magazine


Chili Powder is a blend of chili peppers, cumin, oregano, garlic, usually salt, and sometimes cloves or allspice. It is the primary spice in Chili con carne

Curry Powder is most often a blend of curry leaves, turmeric, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cloves, chili pepper, bay leaves, fenugreek, allspice and black pepper. Some curry powders are made up of as many as 30 herbs and spices while others may be as simple as four or five ingredients. In India, the blend is usually made fresh daily and everyone has their own unique recipe. If you like your curries hot, look for Madras curry powder

Pickling Spice is a mixture of whole and broken spices and herbs used for flavor in the pickling process. Commonly uses cinnamon, allspice, mustard seed, coriander, bay leaves, ginger, chilies, cloves, black pepper, mace, and cardamom


Harvesting and Drying Herbs