Spices and Herbs

spice jarsI like to buy most of my spices in small quantity because they go stale over time. I keep them in standard plain spice jars with plain easy to read labels.  I have bought several Glass Spice Jars- Set of Six Glass Spice Bottles for this purpose. They have a classic design with shaker tops and white lids. Their height is 3-3/4″ from top of cap to bottom of jar, and they come out of the dishwasher looking brand new every time.

taller spice jarFor spices I use in large quantities, there is a version that’s a couple of inches taller than average, RSVP Large Square Glass Spice Bottle – Clear. These work better for cinnamon sticks, vanillas beans (some exceptionally tall ones may not fit), saffron and frequently used bulk herbs and spices. Dimensions: 5-3/4″ x 2″

labelsIf you’re buying spice jars, its a good time to add on labels and a spice funnel. Both are included in the RSVP 96 pc Spice Label Set and Stainless Steel Spice Funnel. The clear adhesive spice labels are ideal for glass or stainless steel spice containers. This set contains 84 pre-printed labels and 12 blank labels (for custom herb and spice mixtures) — totalling 96 labels. Each label measures 2″ wide by 1/2″ tall. The spice funnel is the perfect tool for transferring herbs, spices and liquids to narrow jars and bottles. Made from sturdy dishwasher safe stainless steel.njhhb

pepper millPepper is the most common spice used world wide. And yet there are so many poorly constructed pepper grinders on the market that people get frustrated and often stop buying whole peppercorns in favour of ground pepper. Currently, the most popular variety considered to be the “world’s best pepper grinder” is the Unicorn Magnum Plus Pepper Mill. It can deliver a range of grind sizes (from powdery to coarse), it’s built to last and it’s easy to clean.Extra large steel mechanism, huge capacity, infinitely adjustable grind size with bottom thumbscrew, sliding ring side loading, comfortable grip, very fast grinding. If you use a lot of pepper, this is the grinder for you.

herb millI recently bought an herb mill because I grow a lot of herbs. Norpro 810 Herb Mill will mince parsley, chives, dill, mint, cilantro, sage and more herbs. Designed for both left and right hand users with a reversible handle. The aroma of fresh herbs will permeate your kitchen. Body is made of durable plastic and blades are constructed of stainless steel. Dimensions: 3.25″ h x 3.00″ w x 8.25″

If you buy seeds that you use sometimes in ground form, you can use a mortar and pestle or you can use a grinder.  I prefer a grinder.  I keep one separate from my coffee grinder to only use for spices.

grinderSharp Crusher is the newest grinder brand on the market. It is the only non-aluminum grinder. The metal alloy making up the Sharp Crusher grinder is much stronger and far superior to aluminum grinders. Zinc and steel are forged together under extreme heat to produce the highest quality metal alloy. The heavier weight of the grinder feels great in your hand. Its quality is the finest among grinders. Sharp Crusher is the only metallic black chrome polished grinder on the market. The special coating minimizes scratches and wear and tear.


Allspice is the dried, unripe berry of Pimenta dioica, an evergreen tree in the myrtle family. It tastes like a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and pepper, which adds spiciness to all dishes. Frequently used in Indian cuisine. Said to have digestive properties.

Anise has a strong licorice flavor.  Its seed is popular in cakes and cookies. Ground anise seed is used with fruit or cabbage.

Basil has a distinctive warm, minty flavor, and is commonly used for pesto sauces and tomato dishes. It goes well with most Mediterranean-style dishes. It has a sweet aromatic smell. It makes a nice simple salad tossed with tomatoes. Easy to grow.

Bay leaf comes from the sweet bay or laurel tree, and has a pungent flavor and aroma that complements meats, soups, and stews. Add the dry, brittle leaf at the beginning of cooking to allow time for it to release its flavour. Remove leaf before serving.

Black Cardamom pods are large brown pods. Essential to Indian cooking and native to southwestern India, this spice is coarser in flavor and larger in size than the green cardamom. It is used in flavoring meat, poultry and rice dishes. Remove before serving.

Black peppercorns are sun dried, hard, black, brittle seeds with a sharp and aromatic taste. Commonly used in bunches in pickling. Freshly ground black pepper from a pepper mill gives the most flavor. Probably the most popular and universally used spice.

Capers are the small buds of a shrub grown in the Mediterranean. They are pickled in vinegar or dried and salted.

Caraway seeds, small and aromatic, have an anise-like flavour. They add flavour and a nutty texture to breads, cakes, cheeses, vegetables, and meats.

Cardamom comes from the ground seed of an Indian plant in the ginger family. It is a spice used mainly in curries in India and baking in Europe. Strongly flavored.

Cayenne, ground dried red chili peppers and their seeds, is hot and peppery in sauces and stews. Try adding a bit to baked macaroni and cheese.

Celery seeds are tiny and can give a strong celery flavour to sauces, dips, stews, or soups.

Chervil is an anise-tasting herb that enhances egg, chicken, shrimp, and salad dishes.

Chili powder, which comes in hot or mild versions, is a mixture of ground dried chilies, and other herbs, such as garlic, oregano, cumin, coriander, and cloves.

Chives add a sweet onion like flavour to salads, omelettes, sauces, and dips. Easy to grow.

Cilantro, also called Chinese parsley, is a member of the carrot family and has green leaves which are very aromatic and distinct in their flavour. Cilantro is popular in Mexican, Carribean and Asian dishes. The ground seeds are used in curries and spice cakes. Easy to grow.

Cinnamon is native to Sri lanka. Cinnamon sticks are the aromatic brown bark of the cinnamon tree and are made from long pieces of the bark that are rolled, pressed, and dried. Ground cinnamon is perhaps the most common baking spice. It is good for spicing up hot ciders or ground (mix with sugar for cinnamon toast). Cinnamon flavours sweet rolls, spice cakes, and puddings. It is also used in Moroccan and Greek entrees and pilafs. Try adding a dash of it to home made tomato sauce.

Cloves are the dried flower buds of the East African clove tree.  They are strong, pungent and sweetly flavoured. They are used in many “garam masalas”, or to stud hams before baking or spike apples for a cider punch. Use ground cloves for spice cakes or puddings. Cloves are sometimes chewed to relieve toothache.

Coriander is a member of the parsley family. The seeds are used as a seasoning. When sprouted the leaves are referred to as cilantro or Chinese parsley. Coriander is available ground or whole.

Cumin seeds and ground cumin have an earthy flavor that adds richness to Mexican, bean, and shellfish recipes. In Indian cooking whole seeds are often roasted or added to hot oil to add flavor.

Curry leaves are available fresh or dried and are used fresh in many Indian dishes to flavor vegetables, lentils and breads, or ground with coconut and spices to make chutney.Curry leaves are added to hot oil for tempering. Like bay leaves, they are added for their flavor and removed before eating. To dry the fresh leaves, place leaves in the microwave between two dish towels on high for a minute or two.

Dill is a tall annual from the parsley family. Either freshly chopped or dried, dill gives a fresh flavour to carrots, cucumbers, pickled vegetables, vinegars, shell fish, potatoes, and seafood. Leaves are often used whole in cooking and removed before eating. Dill seed is used in pickling.Easy to grow.

Fennel seeds have an anise flavour that goes well with fish and pork. Said to possess digestive qualities, it is used in “Gripe Water” that is still used to relieve stomach pain in babies, and is often used in a hot tea for coughs. Fennel is easy to grow, looks like dill in the garden.

Five spice is a mixture used in Chinese cuisine to season roast meat, poultry, and stir fry dishes. Ingredients include anise, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and ginger. Good in fried rice.

Garlic is a member of the same group of plants as the onion. Robust flavoring, although best fresh, it also comes in the form of garlic powder, garlic salt, garlic chips, garlic seasoning powder, and garlic juice, and is commonly used in many dishes.

Gingerroot has a sharp, lemony flavour. Fresh gingerroot is peeled and grated or diced and added to stir-fries or spicy stews. Store fresh ginger, well wrapped, in the freezer. Ground dried ginger is used in cakes and cookies as well as some curries.

Juniper berries are from an evergreen shrub and are used in marinades and sauces for game and lamb.

Mace is the external covering, or aril, of the nutmeg seed that has been ground for use as a spice. It is hotter and less subtle than nutmeg and a classic spice for pound cake. Strongly flavoured.

Marjoram has a spicy, fresh flavour that goes with most vegetables, especially those used in Mexican, Greek, and Italian recipes. Easy to grow.

Mint has a light, fresh taste that enlivens fruit drinks like lemonade and fruit salads with its cool aftertaste. It also enhances the taste of lamb and fish. Very easy to grow, don’t let it take over your garden.

Mustard seed is commonly used in Indian cooking and is popular in commercial spreads from Dijon to hot dog mustard. Ground mustard seed is used in many sauces and gravies served with fish, poultry, and meat. In north India, mustard plant leaves are used as a vegetable (Sarsoon).

Nutmeg has a warm, sweet, nutty flavour common in pumpkin pie, and is commonly used in sweet, spicy dishes — pies, puddings, custards, cookies and spice cakes. Good in cheese dishes too.

Oregano is like a stronger version of marjoram. It enhances stews, and pizza and tomato sauces. Common in Mediterranean and Mexican cuisine. Oregano also has a large amount of antioxidants in its oil and leaves. Easy to grow.

Paprika, like cayenne, is ground dried red peppers but in a combination that is milder and sweeter. Hungarian paprika is among the best, aromatic and delicious.

Parsley comes in two versions, curly-leaf and flat-leaf. The two kinds can be used interchangeably to add a fresh taste to potatoes, grains, mushrooms, and meat. Chewing fresh parsley is said to freshen the breath. Easy to grow.

Poppyseed is commonly used for fruit salads and salad dressings, sprinkled over yeast breads or rolls or muffins before baking.

Red pepper flakes are made from crushed, dried chili peppers and are very hot. Use them to add hotness to chilies and stews.

Rosemary has an intense, earthy flavour that makes it especially good for marinades and grilled foods, such as lamb. It is used with  beans, mushrooms, peas, summer squash, and zucchini. Common in Mediterranean dishes. Rosemary is said to stimulate the immune system, increase circulation, and improve digestion. Easy to grow.

Saffron, the most expensive of all spices, is obtained from the stamens of a single variety of fall crocus called the Crocus Sativus. It has a unique aroma and is used to flavour and color rice, vegetable soups, fish dishes, and sweet rolls.

Sage has a woodsy, aromatic flavour that is often used in Italian cooking, blending well with garlic and tomatoes. It also goes well with onions, legumes, pork, poultry, and stuffing. Strongly flavoured.

Savory is ground from the dried brownish-green leaves of a plant of the mint family,.It has an aromatic piquant flavor and blends well with other herbs. May be used alone or in combination with other herbs in stuffings for meat, fish or poultry, egg dishes, soups, meatloaf and hamburgers, stews, cabbage, peas and tomato juice. Very good on green beans.

Sea salt, such as fleur de sel from France and alaea from Hawaii, is literally taken from the sea; it’s what is left when the water is evaporated. Depending on its source, sea salt has subtle flavours from trace minerals.

Sesame seeds are annual with a sweet, nutty flavor used in appetizers, breads, meats and vegetables.

Star anise is a spice similar to anise. It is the fruit produced by a small evergreen tree grown in Asia. It is star shaped, and each of it’s eight points contains a star anise seed. Used for vegetable and rice dishes.

Summer savory is a slightly peppery herb used to flavour green beans, dried beans, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and potatoes as well as fish, poultry, and pork.

Tamarind is the fruit of tamarind tree. The ripe brown pods are cleaned and the brittle brown skin and hard seeds are removed. The deseeded tamarind is stored with salt. Has a sweet and sour taste, often used in pickling or jams and desserts. In Western cuisine it is found in Worcestershire sauce and HP sauce.

Tarragon, a popular French herb, has an anise-like flavour that complements carrots, greens, chicken, seafood, and egg dishes.

Thyme has a light, spicy flavour that goes well with carrots, mushrooms, and salad greens, as well as beef, pork, lamb, poultry, soups, and stews. It is said to have widespread health benefits. Easy to grow.

Turmeric is the root of a plant belonging to the ginger family.  It has a very intense, bright yellow-orange color and bitter taste. It is used in almost all vegetarian and non-vegetarian preparations and is a staple in Indian cuisine.

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