- Posted February 18, 2013 by
Magic of Herbs and Spice
What would any of the world’s cuisines be without herbs and spices? Most likely bland and boring. Though there is something to be said for simple dishes of meat, poultry, fish, seafood and vegetables, usually these still use a pinch of salt and a dash of pepper, the latter of which is a spice.
Practically all countries use them in various culinary applications to add flavor, depth and aroma in a dish. Many add distinct tastes that range from sweet, spicy, sour, fruity, smoky, woody, while others simply complement the natural flavors present in the main ingredients. To help clear the confusion regarding the difference between the two culinary terms, here are some helpful distinctions: herbs come from the green leafy parts of the plant, usually used fresh, while spices are derived from other parts except the leaf such as the flower, bark, fruit, seed or root and are usually dried. Some plants yield both like dill whose aromatic seeds and aromatic leaves are used. Both pertain to thousands of species of plants or their parts that are used not only for cooking but also for medicine and other applications like the manufacture of aromatherapy products, ointments, balms and massage oils. This is due to their unique flavors, aromas and medicinal properties.
Among the most popular herbs used in a variety of global cuisines include basil, lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, anise, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, and parsley, chamomile and tarragon. The list is endless with some used in many countries like pepper while others are prevalently used in a number of countries’ cuisine like saffron widely used in Spain and its signature dish paella. Botanists classify them based on the species or families they belong to while chefs group them according to the flavor profiles of even the cuisine these are most prevalently used in. Recipes here showcase a wide variety of meat, chicken, vegetables and dessert applications.
To list down the wide variety of herbs and spices and more so their flavor characteristics and applications would fill up an entire cookbook. A key to help one who wishes to improve home cooked meals through their use would be to visit the spice rack or fresh herb section of a supermarket and read the labels of the products which provide tips on their culinary and even medical applications. Some countries’ markets even have an entire section devoted to them. Taste and smell and note recommended pairings like salmon-dill, apple-cinnamon. Lastly, if you’re lucky enough to have a space in your home with access to sunlight, you may want to start off a small garden as fresh usually has a better flavor than their dried counterparts. Just like vegetables, ensure your plants can grow in the climate you’re in.