Herbs/Seasonings/Spices Buying Guide

It’s interesting how food is one of the most advertised products all over the world. There’s nothing a good meal can’t do - right from satiating the taste buds to providing innumerable health benefits, consuming food is no longer just a necessity but also a pleasure. And what’s food without some good dose of seasoning and spices ? A range of cuisines all over the world use various herbs and spices depending on their tradition and culture. More often than not, it also depends on the races living in a particular region that determine the taste of food available there.

Herbs:

Adding flavour to food, herbs are also known all over the world for their scent and medicinal properties. It is culinary herbs that play a role in enhancing cuisines. They are different from spices as they are mostly the leafy green parts of a plant while a spice may include other parts like the seed, stem etc. Generally used in very small proportions, herbs have no role as such in adding substance to a particular food. The current health fad that has stormed nearly all nations across the world has generated a renewed interest in herbs for cooking purpose.

Types of culinary herbs:

There are number of dried and fresh herbs used to add flavor to food. While some are perennial, others are beiennial and a number of shrubs also feature as herbs used to augment the taste of the food. Still, many others are employed as both herb and spice. Basil is believed to be one of the most important culinary herb and used in the preparation of a range of foods. Mediterranean dishes in particular use basil. Rosemary from the mint family is also native to the Mediterranean regions and gives off an aroma very similar to tea. Some other popular herbs are :
  • Lavender,
  • Mint,
  • Marjoram,
  • Bay Leaves,
  • Curry Plant,
  • Dill,
  • Mustard Sage,
  • Garden Cress,
  • Oregano,
  • Parsley,
  • Angelica,
  • Chives,
  • Catnip,
  • Fennel,
  • Lemon,
  • Thyme etc.

Storing and cooking herbs:

When you intend using fresh herbs, keep them away from moisture as that could rot them sooner. It’s best to use fresh herbs as soon as they’ve been plucked or acquired from the market. It’s best however to dry and store herbs for long use. They can also be ground into a powder or refrigerated depending on the time they need to be stored for. To get the best flavours from the herbs, they must be used in the right proportion and temperature. It is additionally advisable to avoid having two or more very strong herbs in one dish depending on the main ingredient’s prowess. Herbs that are used for cold dishes should typically be at room temperature while fresh herbs when chopped finely release the most flavour. Herbs can also be used to prepare butters and cream cheeses.

Seasonings:

Seasonings are added to food to either boost the aroma and taste of the dish or just to give it a good odour. They may comprise of a mix of herbs and spices with salt which impart their flavour to the food. Besides, choosing the appropriate ingredients to prepare the seasoning, it is also important to add it in the dish at the right time. A blend of various seasonings is also used sometimes in one dish only, provided they complement each other well. The method used to season meats, fish and vegetables generally differs depending on not just the dish but also various cultures.

Types of Seasonings:

Saline, saccharine, hot and acidic are the most common seasonings used with the most common one being the saline type. A saline seasoning is more often than not plain salt, saltpepper or spiced salt while saccharine includes a dressing of honey or sugar. In acid seasoning, plain vinegar is a key ingredient. It may also be combined with lime and orange juice, tarragon and verious other juices to give aroma. A hot seasoning is mostly strong in flavor and is prepared from food constituents like
  • paprika,
  • peppercorn,
  • mignonette pepper,
  • cayenne,
  • curry or just a concoction of mixed pepper spices.
For most meat and poultry dishes, seasonings are rubbed on to transfer maximum flavors of the seasoning.

Spices:

Over the centuries, the importance of spices in food has increased with many of them having curative powers too. Commonly used in many world cuisines, spices are known to be the seed, root, fruit, vegetative substance or bark of a plant when dried. Conventionally spices are employed in very insignificant proportions and give the dish flavour, aroma and flavour. In some recipes, spices are also used as preservatives. History reveals spices to have been used in as early as 50,000 BC . They were of great value then as now with their demand and price being the most in the Middle Ages.

Types of Spices:

  • Seeds like mustard, black pepper, fennel;
  • barks like cassia and cinnamon;
  • roots like turmeric, ginger;
  • arils like mace;
  • flower buds that have been dried like cloves;
  • resins like asa foetida and stigmas such as saffron are among the most common spices used all over the world.
People from various cultures across different countries also use certain spice mixtures known specifically to that terrain only. Chilli powder and curry powder though are among the spices that are common among most cultures.

Storage and use of spices:

It is essential to store spices well especially if they have long term use and the technique used for storage adds to the shelf life of a spice. There are various forms in which spices may be acquired such as whole dried, fresh or pre-ground dried. When storing in larger quantities, it is best to pick a whole dried spice. Seeds like mustard,fennel, cumin, pepper, cardamom etc are used either whole or ground as a powder. Fresh spices are rare to find and generally have a very strong flavor. It is best to store a spice whole and powder it only when needed as it restores the maximum flavors of the spice. Also powdered spices should be stored away from light. Adding a spice early to a dish and in the right amount enables it to impart the most taste.

Related Appliances

  • Herb Screen
  • Herb and Spice Mill
  • Herb and Spice Grinder
  • Herb Grid
  • Food Dehydrator
  • FoodSaver jar sealer

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