Introduction: How to Use Herbs and Spices in Cooking

Picture of How to Use Herbs and Spices in Cooking

Or, cooking 101.

Food is always better when properly seasoned. You'll enjoy cooking a lot more once you've mastered the herb and spice basics. The food will taste better, smell better, and impress your friends/family/coworkers/pets. Hooray!

I'm going to go over the seasonings I keep in my kitchen and use frequently. You don't necessarily need all of these to cook - I just tend to go a little nuts. ;)

These will also be listed in alphabetical order so you can find what you're looking for easily!

Have any suggestions for ways to use a certain herb/spice or a herb or spice that should be added? Tell me in the comments section. Let's collaborate! :D

( I apologize for the duplicate pictures and the one that I stole from wikipedia. Turns out I need to go shopping for a few things. ;) )

Step 1: Herb Basics!

Picture of Herb Basics!

Most herbs can be found dried or fresh and can be used either way with ease. Herbs are considered ro be the leaves and greener parts of the plant - the seeds, bark, roots, etc. are normally considered a spice. Some plants are both. :)

Fresh herbs are great for garnishes and they provide bold flavor. They have great aromatic qualities and work very well for roasting and sauteing, or for chopping and mixing into foods such as mashed potatoes. Yum!

I haven't had a ton of luck growing herbs... well, except for mint. Mint is very low maintenance! I tend to buy fresh herbs and store them in the fridge in a ziploc bag with a slightly damp paper towel wrapped around the stems. Parsley, cilantro, and basil have all stayed nice and fresh with this method. :)

Dried herbs are best when used with oil (or butter, fat) or water - this way they can infuse the oil or cooking liquid. Make sure to crush the herbs with your fingers or saute them a bit to wake them up. Crushing a bunch of them in a mortar and pestle also works very well.

I tend to use more when I use a dried herb. Most dried herbs lose a significant amount of spunk when dried - especially basil, oregano and sage. Rosemary and thyme hold up a little better.

This is why it's so important to keep tasting during cooking!

Step 2: Spice Basics!

Picture of Spice Basics!

Spices are almost always used in their dried form. They can be found whole (peppercorn, nutmeg, strips of cinnamon bark, various seeds, roots) or ground.

Spices are much more varied in flavor than herbs and tend to pack a bigger punch.

When storing both spices and dried herbs, it is best to keep them away from air, heat, and sunlight. They'll last longer that way. I try to keep most everything in a covered cupboard. The ones I use most often and go through more quickly, though, they sit on the windowsill within easy reach.

We all cheat at something, and this is it for me!

Step 3: Allspice.

Picture of Allspice.

Allspice is available whole (looks a bit like a large peppercorn) or ground. Most times you will find it ground.

Similar to nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon in flavor (though I think it's even more peppery than the strongest clove!), it can be used in both savory and sweet ways.

I think allspice goes great with beef, it's a good addition to curry powder mixes, and works really well when added to anything containing apples. (Apple muffins, for example!)

It can be very strong, so it's best to experiment with a smaller amount at first to suit your tastes. :)

Step 4: Basil.

Picture of Basil.

Basil can be found both fresh and dried. There are many varieties, as well, though sweet basil seems to be the most common. Sweet basil has a slightly sweet, bold flavor with a bit of a peppery bite. Sometimes it can be almost minty!

Fresh basil is very temperamental - once it's cut from the plant you need to be very careful in how you store it. The best way I've found of keeping it is to wrap the bottoms of the stems in a slightly damp paper towel and throwing the whole thing in a ziploc bag. Many other people freeze it, as seen in these ibles:

Frozen basil bullets
Basil and olive oil ice cubes

I tend to use dried basil more than fresh. Fresh basil can be expensive and I've had very little luck growing it! When using dried basil, I always use more than the recipe calls for.

Basil goes really well with tomatoes, mild cheeses, and pork. I really love it with pork. It is the primary ingredient in pesto, and used extensively in Mediterranean and Asian cooking. It's very good chopped and mixed into pasta with a little butter. Also compliment peppers and potatoes quite nicely, as seen by the recipe below, which I actually made up the day I was typing this ible. :)

Red pepper, potato and onion home fries with basil!

1 small red pepper
3-4 red potatoes, skins on
1/2 red onion
5-6 basil leaves cut by chiffonade
salt and pepper
small bit of olive oil

Cut the potato, red onion and pepper into a 1/2 dice.

Add olive oil to skillet and and heat over medium high heat until the oil shimmers. Add potatoes and cook for about five minutes, until you can smell them cooking and they're getting slightly brown. Stir occasionally. Then add the pepper, and lower the heat a bit. Cook for another ten minutes or so, until the onions are soft and the potatoes nice and soft. (Taste test the potatoes a lot during cooking, that's the only way you'll know they're at a good level of done-ness for you.) Then add the peppers and toss for a few minutes, until just beginning to soften. Turn off the heat and throw in the basil, salt and pepper to taste. Toss liberally and serve right away.

Step 5: Bay Leaves.

Picture of Bay Leaves.

Can be found fresh, but are more commonly sold dried. Fresh bay leaves have a more mild flavor. I would describe the flavor as similar to oregano, but more pungent.

Bay leaves are used most often in soups and stews, and normally used to flavor braised meats. Bay leaves can also be found in bouquet garni.

Bay leaves are an integral ingredient in Cuban and French cuisine. They're also excellent to use in bean soups. I always throw one in when I cook dried beans.

Just remember to remove the bay leaf when serving. They taste awful. Very bitter!

Step 6: Cardamom.

Picture of Cardamom.

I love, love, love cardamom. It has a sweet, spicy flavor I can't get enough of. It's extremely aromatic - just smelling it is like eating a whole bowl full of your favorite comfort food!

Cardamom comes in two common varieties: black and green. Both can be found ground and in whole pods. I'd say green is more common where I live - I can find nearly anywhere these days!

Most food snobs agree that cardamom is best freshly ground. I am very lazy, though, and I've always used it ground from a can. I have no problems with this! As long as you're buying high quality stuff (try your local ethnic grocer!) you'll be just fine!

Cardamom is everywhere in Indian cooking (especially curries!) and baking all over world. It is also a main component of chai - which is a spiced black tea.

If you'd like to try it in the best way possible, try my ible for kheer! It's a rice pudding. It's also one of the tastiest things in the world.

Step 7: Cayenne Pepper, Chiles, Crushed Red Pepper, Chili Powder.

Picture of Cayenne Pepper, Chiles, Crushed Red Pepper, Chili Powder.

I frequently use all of the above in cooking. Cayenne and dried red chiles are the most common for me, though.

Cayenne is very, very hot and bright red/orange. You'll find it in any grocery store. It's not so much about the flavor as the heat that it brings to a dish as far as I'm concerned. If I have something that needs a little pep, I'll add a pinch of cayenne.

I always keep dried red chiles on hand. They add color, flavor and heat to a dish. I don't even soak them before chopping. I just cut the end off, dump out the loose seeds, and slice thinly. They rehydrate in whatever I'm cooking. I normally add these to vegetable dishes, stir frys or dried beans while they cook. They're also super cheap. I got a 1 lb. bag for $4 at the ethnic grocery across from where I work!

Crushed red pepper is an old standby. I use it with pasta, in sauces, with vegetables, while marinating meats, etc.

Chili powder is typically much more smoky than the above. I use it for Cuban, Spanish, Mexican, and Indian cooking. It's great in ground beef for tacos or chili.

Step 8: Cilantro & Coriander.

Picture of Cilantro & Coriander.

When I say cilantro, I am referring to the leaves of the plant.
When I say coriander, I am referring to the seeds, which are typically ground.

I know we Americans look at this a little different than the rest of the world, so it's best to clarify up front.

Cilantro is one of the most pungent of herbs - citrus-y and bold to some, soap and metallic to others. I personally don't care for it as much as other herbs, but I will put it in salsas, tortilla soup, curries, etc. I think it can do a really good job of balancing the sweet flavors of onion and tomato, for example.

Keep in mind that cilantro can get bitter very quickly if overcooked (go to Qdoba and eat their rice to get a taste of that.) so add it right at the end of cooking or keep it raw.

Coriander is one of my most favorite spices. I use it to make my curry powder. When combined with dried oregano and rubbed into porkchops, it's heavenly. It has a strong citrus flavor, and it's a bit peppery.

I use it in Indian, Cuban and Mexican cooking the most.

Step 9: Cinnamon.

Picture of Cinnamon.

Cinnamon can be found in rolled bark form (cinnamon sticks!) or ground. I normally keep both on hand.

Cinnamon is sweet and spicy and extremely aromatic. It can be used in savory and sweet dishes.

Cinnamon goes well with apples, beef, chocolate, in curries, stews and spicy dishes. I really like the way it tastes with chickpeas and carrots. It's used a lot in baking. It's also great for flavoring teas and coffees.

Step 10: Cloves.

Picture of Cloves.

Cloves can be found dried whole or ground. I would describe the flavor as a cross between cinnamon and allspice.

Ground cloves are often used in curries and in baking, and whole cloves are used to add flavor to broths, meats, vegetables, desserts, etc. Whole cloves can simply be pushed into the item being cooked to add a bit of flavor and removed before serving.

A little bit of clove goes a long way, so it's best to use a little and add more as needed.

And you can make necklaces from the whole ones!

Step 11: Cumin.

Picture of Cumin.

Cumin can be found ground or as whole seeds. Cumin has a very strong flavor and taste that nothing else can compare to. I suppose earthy and pungent are two good ways to describe it!

I use cumin powder in curries, soups, stews, with beans, in spice rubs, for taco seasoning, etc. Cumin seeds are great sauteed in a little butter or olive oil - I normally cook rice this way - just dump it in the butter and saute along with the seeds until the rice is translucent and then cook the rice acccording the package directions. Very tasty!

If you'd like to try cumin in something, try my tortilla soup.

Step 12: Curry Powder.

Picture of Curry Powder.

Curry powder is something that varies so much from recipe to recipe that you'll never find two that are alike. You can buy curry powder ready made or mix it yourself. I do a little bit of both.

Common spices used in curry powder include:
chili powder

Curry powder is great for seasoning meats and, beans and vegetables. I would suggest trying several different curry powders, or making your own each time you make a curry.

I typically use equal amounts of cumin, coriander, and chili powder (say maybe a couple teaspoons each?), and then half the turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon/cardamom if I make my own. I normally use a mix like this with potatoes, cauliflower and onions. Delicious!

Step 13: Dill.

Picture of Dill.

Dill is best when fresh. I actually used to eat it right out of my grandmother's flower beds. It's so good. It's kinda like spicy, tangy parsley, and it's really aromatic.

Dried is not bad, but not nearly as tasty.

Dill goes well with lemon, fish, vinegar and potatoes. It is also used in pickling. :)

Step 14: Ginger.

Picture of Ginger.

Ginger can be found fresh in root form, or ground and dried. You can buy it grated or minced in little jars. It's also pickled and dried! It's very versatile.

Ginger is hot, sweet and lemony. When fresh, the inside is very fibrous. Like most of the sweeter herbs and spices, it can be used in sweet and savory dishes.

I love fresh ginger in stir frys, marinades, grated into sugar cookies batter, in muffins, curries, etc. Ground ginger works well in curry powders and other spice mixes, and in general baking.

Instructables user woomyse also gave a really nice tip in the comments:
"When I buy fresh ginger, I get about a pound and give it a quick rinse. Then chop it into the usual size chunks I use for recipes and freeze it. When frozen it also shreds/grates easily."

Step 15: Mint.

Picture of Mint.

Real mint is so much better than any mint candy you've ever had. It's fresher, stronger, and just as sweet. It also comes in many flavors - some taste like lemon, some are warmer, spicier.

I much prefer fresh mint over dried - dried lacks much of the flavor that fresh possesses. Plus, mint is amazingly easy to grow. It spreads like wildfire and needs very little care.

Mint can be used in a variety of ways - in hummus, with chocolate, in teas, in alcoholic drinks (such as mint juleps or mojitos), mixed into a fruit salad, with meats, peas, etc.

It will typically overpower other flavors in a dish, though, so be careful!

Step 16: Nutmeg.

Picture of Nutmeg.

Nutmeg can be found whole or ground. It's better whole. Alton Brown says so. And we should all listen to the great AB.

Nutmeg is strong and sweet, and often used with cheese sauces. It's also a frequent flier in pastries and sweets. Like cloves and allspice, a little goes a long way!

Step 17: Oregano.

Picture of Oregano.

Oregano is amazing fresh, but can be just as good if you use a good quantity of dried. It's peppery, aromatic and earthy.

It's used primarily in Mediterranean, Greek, Italian, Mexican and Cuban cooking. Most Americans are very familiar with it thanks to pizza and pasta, but it can do much much more!

It's great with vegetables, in beef stew, in sauces, with meat and fish, and with beans. I especially love it with parmesan cheese and white beans. I used it dried most of the time - especially in homemade tomato sauces, like the one I use in my lasagna. Combine it with lemon, garlic and olive oil - marinate some beef or pork in a mixture of that and you'll be in food heaven.

Step 18: Paprika.

Picture of Paprika.

Paprika is also known as that red stuff people sprinkle on deviled eggs.

It can be sweet, hot, or smoky. Most are labeled as such. It's bright red in color, and is used for both color and flavor.

It is necessary to make goulash. Mmm. Goulash.

Also very good with roast potatoes, as part of a dry rub, a garnish for potato salads or other creamy concoctions, or in soups and stews.

An addition from TheJovialOne:
"Also, it's a great way to kick up your hamburgers. Just sprinkle some on either the raw meat before mixing or across the top when on the grill. It's great!"

Step 19: Parsley.

Picture of Parsley.

Parsley is probably the most famous of all the herbs, and used the most widely. Its leaves can be curly or flat, I prefer flat. It has a very fresh, green taste and works well with spicy or heavy foods. It can also be used to perk up soups, stews and sauces. It's a very common garnish.

It can also be found dried. One of my favorite uses of dried parsley is in plain white rice. Just add some butter, salt and pepper and a generous amount of dried parsley and you have the only way my grandmother would make rice. Simple but satisfying.

You can top almost any dish with parsley to make it better: curries, anything with a tomato based sauce, dishes heavy with lemon or garlic, nearly any dish with Asian flavors, fish, etc.

Plus, it keeps very well in the fridge using the damp paper towel and ziploc bag trick. I've been able to store it for a few weeks. A $2 bunch of parsley can greatly improve your cooking and eating. :D

Step 20: Pepper.

Picture of Pepper.

Pepper comes in two forms: peppercorns and ground.

I am a pepper snob. I am a firm believer of copious amounts of chunky, freshly ground pepper on everything. I only use tellicherry peppercorns - I love them because they're fruity, complex and warm. I could talk about tellicherry all day, so you should probably just go buy some before I talk your ear off. (Or eyes out?)

You can, however, get pink, green, white or assorted black peppercorns. Or find them all mixed together.

Black pepper & white pepper at the top - red is in the middle, and green is on the lower end of the hotness spectrum.

Black pepper looks the way it does because it's dried in the sun. White pepper is basically the same as black, but they're allowed to ripen more fully and the outer shell is removed. Red peppercorns are fully ripened a freeze dried. Pink peppercorns actually aren't pepper at all, even though they're included in peppercorn blends. :)

Green peppercorns are typically pickled and found in small glass jars, but you can also find them dried. I actually just bought a jar of the pickled ones a few days ago, and when I get around to trying them I'll report back. I hear they're similar to capers!

Oh, and I refuse to talk about pre-ground pepper. SHAME ON YOU FOR ASKING!

This is one of my only food snobbery bits. Please allow me this moment of eliteness!

Step 21: Rosemary.

Picture of Rosemary.

Rosemary is very good dried or fresh. Fresh it has a stronger pine-y flavor, but that's about it. The only problem with dried is that it can become very hard and it can be a little nasty to bite into a large piece of it. I combat this my crumbling the leaves in my fingers while adding them to things.

Fresh rosemary still on the stem is great for adding to soups and stew for flavor - just pull it out when you're done simmering. You can also stuff poultry with a few sprigs of it during cooking. Many people also use it during grilling - when laid in coals it gives a great flavor to meat and vegetables. I also love it with potatoes - especially gnocchi. A little rosemary and butter with gnocchi is amazing.

Rosemary is a great partner for any root vegetable, honestly. Try it with everything!

Sea salt and rosemary is also an amazing combination.

Step 22: Saffron.

Picture of Saffron.

Saffron is the most expensive of spices, but it is used sparingly. (I really only use a pinch anytime I use it!) A small tin can last a good while and it imparts a wonderful bitterness to food. While this sounds bad, it's not. When used in dishes with lots of sweet or acidic flavors, it balances it out.

Saffron should be dark red/orange in color, and when added to cooking liquid it will begin to turn the dish a lovely yellow color. It is used mostly with fish and rice, and is a key ingredient in paella. I also like it with chickpeas and with chicken.

I do not recommend buying it in powdered form, because it's harder to tell if you have the real thing. Saffron is very commonly mixed with other spices and sold as pure saffron and that's not what you want!

Step 23: Sage.

Picture of Sage.

Sage is available dried and fresh. When fresh, the leaves are dark green and fuzzy, very pungent and earthy. Dried sage can be found rubbed or as whole leaves.

Sage is another herb that can greatly overpower other flavors in a dish, so use it sparingly. It is often paired with poultry, cheese and vegetables. The fresh leaves are amazing when fried in a little bit of olive oil or butter. I think a good example of this is one of my favorite recipes on ibles, sage gnocchi.

(image from wikipedia)

Step 24: Thyme.

Picture of Thyme.

Thyme is more often available dried, but can also be found fresh. I find the flavor similar to rosemary, but not as strong and more grounded. Perhaps a cross between rosemary and sage? And like basil, it comes in lemon varieties as well!

Like rosemary, I use thyme with each and every root vegetable. It's also good in butter sauces. It's a common part of a bouquet garni in French cooking. I love it with most beans - especially with a lot of onion.

Step 25: Turmeric.

Picture of Turmeric.

Turmeric is a deep orange color, with a bitter, slightly spicy taste. It is used in many curry powders for color and flavor. I also add it to soups and stews for extra color.

Turmeric is sometimes used as a substitution for saffron in packaged foods, and it's also used as a food coloring and dye.


PaulG390 (author)2017-12-28

Nice article. Some big omissions though. You could probably write all day about the different types and uses for chilli. Once you get the bug they are addictive.
Chives are a very nice herb with mild onion flavour. Superb with tomato. Flowers also look great in salads.
Think curry leaves are worth a mention too.
Rosemary is low maintenance to grow in your garden. Once it gets established you will have a hard time stopping it.
Serious about food get some Rosemary. Mint. Thyme and a bay tree in your garden. These are pretty low maintenance and pretty hardy. The rest need a bit of attention.

dimaoxygen15 (author)2017-09-14

nice hurbs

sunita212jain (author)2017-01-20

yummy for every dish these herb....

galanthanos (author)2016-08-23

Θα πρέπει να προσθέτουμε αξία στο διαδίκτυο, και μέρος αυτής είναι και ενα τόσο επίκαιρο και ενδιαφέρων αρθρο.

Μεγάλο άρθρο, ευχαριστώ για τη μετοχή!

<a href="">votana-herbs-votana therapeutika</a>

DianeW58 (author)2016-06-10

I would recommend try out some coriander -
It grows reasonably well, especially in the greenhouse, and I like
used crushed seeds in salads.

Green leaves can also be used.

Mint is a great addition to most of main courses. It is very
refreshing, especially if it's home-grown.

It also makes for some interesting cocktails and a great herbal tea
with some calming properties:

And yes, as you pointed out, it is quite easy to grow.

putudhiany (author)2016-04-27

Great article. I love cooking with herbs and spices especially coriander and spring onion, I mostly add them in all of my cooking.

Sacogun (author)2016-03-19

I like to cook shrimp, any size, in garlic infused oil with chili powder, red pepper, minced garlic, and curry powder...I love curry powder. I have not made my own curry powder, but haven't had any issue with using ready made. It takes minutes to cook. I serve it with fresh linguine and Alfredo sauce. I can't say how much of any of the spices I use because I don't measure and go by the way it looks. Obviously, the more you use of any of these the hotter it will be. I like hotter and my husband likes less hot, so I alternate each time I make it to be

imaneisraa2010 (author)2015-02-03

Great article, thanks

KenW1 (author)2014-12-29

Good article. One thing needs to be said about Turmeric. It should never ever,ever,ever be used as a substitute for saffron. If you have a recipe that calls for saffron and you don't have it-just leave it out. Also, to get the most punch from your saffron infuse it in hot water/stock, wine/lemon juice, or milk for at least 20-30 minutes prior to use.

B Takes a Bite (author)2014-12-17

What an awesome job you did, thanks! I enjoyed reading it.

I was trying to figure out why many recipes require boiling spices, maybe you know? For instance, when I make a herbal tea with cinnamon, ginger and fresh turmeric, I just heat it a little, careful not to destroy the nutrients in the turmeric (maybe 50ºC - 122ºF). I can't find a difference in taste when boiling those spices. But perhaps I miss some basic spice-knowledge here?

Maybe you know more? Thank you in advance!

Lunatic0 (author)2014-01-04

One of my fav spice. And besides, Goulash is the kind of food that makes my mouth water! Yummy

Lunatic0 (author)2014-01-04

Really enjoyed the instructable! Nice work there, spices and herbs are the heart of a nice meal!

I have some experience growing basil, both in my yard (I live in a a farm ATM) and in plant pots.

From my experience, get medium light (can grow in direct sunlight, if well watered) and water once a day, or less if the earth is not very dry (get dirty! Put your finger and check it!). Some nutrients once in a while never hurt.

If you live somewhere cold, put it indoors, close to a window . Remember, most basil plants are annual, except for warm climates, like my beloved country Brazil, that have perennial plants. Take a green branch from your basil, put it on water for a week and voila! You have roots! Plant the new one on a pot and watch it grow!

chiliroberto (author)2011-08-03

Read the first two pages of comments - very interesting. And entertaining. I've just retired and never cooked since I was in business for myself and we all know what those hours are like. I love good food, though, and I've always really liked a good bowl of chili con carne. So, I've been experimenting, and have found a recipe that I REALLY like - so does family (I think; they say they do, and they clean their bowls). My question is: Given that there are so many brands of spices, can it be said that the more expensive the spice, the "better" the spice? Without naming names, I've priced out Basil, and the range is $7.98/oz, $8.38/oz, $2.07/oz, $5.48/oz, something from a "dollar" store at $0.80/oz, and finally something called Mediterranean basis at $16.19/oz. Is Basil Basil or is there high end and low end Basil? Also, one of the labels says the Basil is "sweet". Is there non-sweet Basil? Thanks!

Javin007 (author)chiliroberto2013-05-29

I've actually found "cheap" spices to have better flavor than the expensive stuff. The cheap stuff comes in plastic bags, and there's so much that you could consider them "bulk." I assume the cheap stuff gets packaged, and perhaps has more turnover than the expensive stuff? I don't know why, but they're far more "fresh" and "powerful" than the jarred stuff. So we just keep the jars and refill them with the stuff in the bags.

This said, we only do this for the stuff we wouldn't normally grow ourselves. (Such as paprika, allspice, cloves, ginger, etc.) Most of the leafy stuff you can grow year-round (just bring it indoors for the winter) in pots. We have basil, mint, oregano, thyme, dill, chives, and rosemary fresh year-round. In fact for some of them (mint/oregano) I would strongly recommend you NOT plant in a garden. They'll grow so fast you'll play hell keeping them under control. Most herbs are, after all, considered "weeds" in the way that they grow. (I know basil and chives do well to keep pests out of the garden, and don't tend to go crazy, though.)

implet (author)chiliroberto2012-09-27

There are different breeds of basil. Sweet basil is the stuff that gets used in a proper pesto. Thai basil has a more intense anise flavor. If you're near a good spice store, like Penzey's, for example, you can pick up bulk bags of dried basil for not a lot of money. The only difference I've seen in herbs & spices is the speed with which a vendor can get the product to market. It sounds wierd but the fresher the dried herbs & spices, the better. After a year or two, the oils fade or start to go rancid.

Another great place to go for a limited selection of herbs & spices is Trader Joe's. Good quality, great price.

For all that I mentioned Penzey's above, never buy their Five Spice Powder. They took out the pepper and replaced it with anise. Tastes wrong. Hit Whole Foods for their 365 Brand Five Spice Powder or hit a Chinese or Vietnamese grocery.

Indian groceries are fantastic places to buy bulk spices, too. Much better on your budget.

Herbs, not so much. When I'm buying herbs I only try to make sure that I'm buying them in a glass container so I can see how they look. You want them to retain their shape, not be crushed or brown, that sort of thing. If you can find a local place where you can smell before buying, even better! :D

Oh, and basil is always kinda sweet, but some varieties are much sweeter than others!

Spices are a little different - many times more expensive is better. Spices are easier to add fillers to. I would try to avoid buying bargain spices, but you don't have to go super expensive either.

Overall, I try to avoid paying more than $6 for a jar of any herb or spice, well... except saffron... because that's always at least $8 for a little tin. :P

Snotme (author)2013-04-16

One herb that I think is under appreciated is Water Cress! It grows wild anywhere in North America where there are running streams. I grow it in a garden pond, as it is usually not found in stores.
I use it in place of cilantro in my salsa. It is great in a salad, as it has a taste like a good radish, high in vitamins and minerals. It can also be used in soups and stews.

capngp (author)2012-02-26

I am a bit of a pepper nazi myself. It is amazing what a broad range of flavors there are. Tip: Penzy's spice house sells an extra bold peppercorn from India. It is strong, so a little goes a long way, but it is delicious. I am in no way affiliated with Penzy's myself.

GainEnergy (author)2012-01-30

LOVE Basil sooo very much! We do grow our own basil and I do put basil in almost everything! ha! Enjoyed your article very much!

dalecarlile (author)2011-05-13

Another use for fresh ginger is nausea. A small slice placed in the mouth will calm a queasy stomach. Used to use it when the kids started getting car sick. Sucking on a small slice did the trick in minutes.

cook maria (author)2011-03-13

Fresh herbs are great for garnishing and are perfectly healthy and all-natural food while dried herbs make your food perfect from the start it is added during cooking, plus, they give wonderful and zestful aroma to dishes. A great experience of mine. Things I learned from Your Smart Kitchen. Thanks. CookMaria

chifdarksoul (author)2010-11-02

hey i am learning how to use my spices and pepper is one of the spices i need so i can study on spices and how to use them. cause i want to be a chef!

b1russell (author)2010-03-08

My goodness, what a thorough job you did on the herbs and spices you listed - and use!  I'll have to print this out for my mom, who thinks seasoning consists of salt and pepper - and pepper is optional!  (OK, she's 81 and has NEVER been the world's best cook!)  I'm now feeling an urge to do an 'ible of my own (I can be very competitive, I find!), too.  ; )

backyardmunitionist (author)2009-09-25

Any idea where to buy coriander seeds in the eastern US?

At Indian groceries, you can get bags of whole or coarsely ground coriander seeds.  I haven't found any pods, but I'm actually still working on using up the rather giant bag of seeds I got.  Most Indian restraunts have an associated grocery store, either attached to the restraunt or in the block -)

ok thx, I managed to find a small jar of whole seeds of the McCormick brand. I just kept going to different grocery stores until I found it.

Wolfbird (author)2009-11-25

My french cookbooks tells me to use twice as much fresh herb when converting from dried. I always found this funny, because it does not make much logical sense. I've only listened to them once when I was making soup, and it came out so horribly over-flavoured.

It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who questioned that logic.

imrobot (author)2009-11-20

I've always wondered, if you burn cinnamon does it release it's aroma? 

Goodhart (author)2009-10-24
I wanted to look something up on your ible here, and I found what I needed.....but while scanning down I noticed something missing (nothing IMPORTANT, just a bit of trivia really:  Paprika is hungarian and it means  PEPPER.    Whether sweet, hot, or whatever. 

In order to back this up, I looked up a reference:  Paprika

And a portion of a book: 

Paprika: a spicy memoir from Hungary

WILL62 (author)2009-09-12

It is really good in my chili, cummin makes the dish.

WILL62 (author)2009-09-12

My aunt Norma taught me when planting herb seeds (very tiny) not to bury the seed, but to place on top of the potting soil, in a 3/4 filled container of "GOOD" potting mix from a local nursery. water with a spray bottle keeping the soil moist, "covered", and dark till they sprout. then put them under a grow light (as close as you can get the plant to the light) they will still be a little leggy (spindly) thats why 3/4 full, when they get their 2nd leaves you can add more soil so the stems will be sopported. then put in a sunny window adding a little fertilizer to the watering can and they will...."take off", When you need some, snip off what you need and your herb guy will keep producing snipping is like pruning its good for them oh yeah! if its warm stick em in the ground if they are getting to big for their pots or get bigger pots.. hope this helped someone.

trailgrind (author)2009-09-11

Just in case you didn't know, there are actually different types of bay leaves. I learned that while living in the caribbean. The island that I lived on grew 3 different types, one being the more common flavor we generally find in grocery stores, then one with a slight citrus scent to it, and another variety which I never actually got to try. They also grew cinnamon there that was to die for, though they probably don't export any of it.

jessyratfink (author)trailgrind2009-09-11

I've heard tale of these but never seen anything other than the generic grocery store brands. :) Is there a huge flavor difference, or is it more like basil, where the basic flavor is the same with a hint of something else?

minerug (author)2009-08-30

If you want to really make something spicy, try fresh Indonesian bird's eye chillies

casino_dave (author)2009-08-23

Great tips. Although one thing I'm not sure most people know about Bay leaves is they are very sharp even when wet after boiling and you should never eat one or you'll risk puncturing your stomach lining or intestines. Removing them from the food you cook is definitely mandatory and not optional! Cardamom is great in coffee, an old Lebanese friend mixed it into coffee, in fact if you buy Lebanese coffee it's already mixed into the coffee in the bag. Rosemary is fantastic in gravy especially with turkey or chicken, it makes for a wonderfully savoury flavour and smell.

sharlston (author)2009-08-20

hi jess i always burn bay leaves then smell the scent mmm burnt bayleaves :D

merijnvw (author)2009-08-10

Thanks this is a useful overview of herbs, when it comes to cooking ingredients and recipies my mind is like a strainer... I forget it all.

jessyratfink (author)merijnvw2009-08-18

You're welcome sir! I used to be that way, put pushing myself to cook the same things over and over again and learn basic techniques really helped!

Yerboogieman (author)2009-08-18

It seems like the only seasoning i use too much of is ground cumin.

Too much?

Lies! Never too much!

sonipitts (author)2009-07-26

Tomato dishes can almost always benefit from a few grinds of nutmeg. It's amazing how much depth and complexity it gives to otherwise same-old-same-old Italian and Mexican dishes.

porcupinemamma (author)2009-07-02

helpful advice JovialOne :0)

Cherubaby (author)2009-06-25

not to use in tip..a coworker swears by this..if u have hemmeroid problems..just carry a whole nutmeg in your pocket..she says her husband has for yrs now and haven't had anymore swollen hemmerhoids..

evilkillermonkey10 (author)2009-06-23

What kind of Indian dishes do you make? Just curious because my parents are Indians.

KEYBOARDISBROKEN (author)2009-06-19

one teaspoon of nutmeg can make you Hallucinate? (my spelling is crap)

actually you spelled everything right.

My second oldest brother got very sick and out of his mind after consuming a mixture of half and half nutmeg and milk. After surviving that, he wouldn't even take a sprinkling of a few specks on his eggnog.

thepelton (author)2009-06-15

Plants of the Mint family (Mint, Peppermint, Spearmint, Catnip) have square stems. This can help to identify them in the wild.

thepelton (author)thepelton2009-06-18

Wild Onions can be identified by their flower heads. The poisonous Camas has a spike of flowers, the onion and relatives (chives, leek, garlic) have a ball of flowers, and the ball shape of the flower bases remains after the flowers are gone.

thepelton (author)thepelton2009-06-19

Most wild onion bulbs are about pea size (1cm), but are far more intense in flavor than the domestic ones, and would spice up a dinner while out camping.

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