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Herbs and Spices of the World

There is much fun to be had in discovering new herbs and spices to play with in the kitchen. One of my favorite activities on a lazy Saturday afternoon is to head over the the Savory Spice Shop. I always feel like a little kid in a candy shop when I find myself surrounded by bins, jars and sachets of herbs and spices from all over the world.

Each new discovery carries with it an educational opportunity as I learn about the cultural heritage, history, culinary and medical uses of the herbs and spices. If I concentrate, I can imagine myself as an early pioneer or explorer experiencing this strange and exotic find for the very first time. It’s pretty exciting if you start paying attention to the stories behind each of the ingredients neatly stored in jars, tucked all over the store. There was once a time when herbs and spices from the New World were more valuable than gold!

What is the difference between “herb” and “spice?”

Knowing the proper distinction doesn’t change the way we cook with them, but there is a difference between herbs and spices. Herbs are the leaves of the plant, while spices come from almost every other part such as the bark, seeds or roots. So just keep this in mind, if it’s not a leaf it’s most likely a spice.

Here are a couple examples:

Cinnamon is made from the bark of several different types of trees… so that would make cinnamon a SPICE

Oregano is made from dried leaves… so that would make oregano an HERB

Cilantro is an unusual case as it offers us both herb and spice. Cilantro leaves are an HERB . The seeds of cilantro, known as coriander are a SPICE.

If you haven’t already, please check out the Savory Spice Shop. The store holds a special place in my heart because the staff are always so friendly and knowledgable, greeting me with huge smiles as I walk through the door. And perhaps it’s because they love my cookbook, The Cultured Chef! In fact, I’ve done a number of signings at various locations throughout the US.