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carnatic.com > Karmasaya > Health > Herbs > Herbs & Spices

A complete listing of Herbs and Spices

Allspice

A New World spice from the Jamaican Myrtle tree with a sweet and savory flavor reminiscent of nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and a hint of pepper. This spice is also known as Jamaica or Myrtle pepper. This spice works well in pickling spice mixtures and in marinades for fish, poultry and meat. It especially works well with ham, rice, puddings, cakes and pies.

Anise

Native to China, it is the star shaped fruit of a small evergreen with a licorice taste much stronger than the aniseed.

Aniseed

A Middle Eastern spice with a sweet licorice taste that is particularly popular as a flavoring for alcoholic drinks. It is best used as an accent to sweets, breads, fish and shellfish, and dried fruit and nut mixtures.

Annato

From seeds extracted from a small fragrant, flowering tree grown in the Caribbean, Central and South America. This herb has a gentle flavor and is used most as a coloring agent. It is also known as achiote, bija, roucou or lipstick tree. This spice works well in a variety of dishes including legumes, grains, rice, seafood, meats, stews, chili sauces and spice mixtures.

Arrowroot

A tropical American plant with roots that yield edible starch known as Arrowroot Powder. It has been used by American Indians to absorb poison from wounds.

Basil

An extremely versatile herb in the mint family, with many types which vary by flavor, color and size. The domestic version, native to India and Iran, has a large leaf with a flavor that greatly enhances tomatoes, pesto and Italian foods of all kinds. Sweet basil has a smaller leaf and has a sweet taste as its name suggests with a more pungent aroma. Sweet basil also works well in Italian foods. Basil also has blends nicely with other herbs and spices such as parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage and saffron.

Bay Leaves

An herb of the Mediterranean region, it has substantial culinary versatility. Its strong taste works well in soups, with meat and poultry dishes, pasta sauces, fish and is also used to flavor some desserts.

Caraway

A flavoring that has been in use as far back as the Stone Age. With a tangy flavor similar to dill, it was once popular in English foods and is most used in Austria and Germany, where it is used in breads and pastries. It is also used as a seasoning in potatoes, cabbage, carrots, sausages and rich meats.

Chinese 5 Spice Powder

A blend of star anise, fagara (Szechuan pepper), cassia (cinnamon), fennel and clove. It is heavily used in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine.

Cardamon

A native Indian spice in the ginger family, it has a spicy, sharp and sweet taste with a aroma reminiscent of cinnamon.

Cayenne Pepper

A seasoning ground from small, red chili peppers (of the Capsicum frutescens variety). It has been used as a spice in the dishes of many countries and is also used as a table condiment. It's heat and spiciness varies.

Celery Seed

Originating in seventeenth century Europe, there are three types: white, green and turnip rooted. Celery seed tastes like celery and is aromatic with a slight bitterness which enhances other flavors. It's best uses are in breads and cooked dishes that are enhanced by a celery-like flavor.

Chervil

An essential spice in French cuisine, it used like parsley and provides an herbal taste with the slight flavor of anise. Chervil is used much like parsley, but is more delicate. It is most commonly used on fish, egg dishes, salads and as a glaze on vegetables such as carrots.

Chile

First cultivated in Mexico and South America 9,000 years ago, chile peppers are members of the Solanaceae plant family, to which tomatoes, potatoes and eggplants belong. All chile peppers fall into genus Capsicum, which includes 20-30 different species. The plant pods are really berries, but are referred to as fruits by horticulturists. When harvested green, pods are considered vegetables, and when harvested red, are referred to as spice. "Heat" comes from Capsaicin, which can be measure in units called Scoville units. For more information on specific chilies, please see (add link to another page/section? on chile).

Chile Powder

Made from dried chilies, usually blended with garlic, onion, cumin, oregano, allspice and salt. Color and spiciness varies.

Chives

An herb in the onion family, but with a milder, more delicate flavor. It is rich in vitamins A and C and tastes great with eggs, salads, baked potatoes, soups and sauces.

Cilantro

An herb of Southern European as well as Middle/Far Eastern origin, it is one of the most widely used flavorings in many world cuisines. It has a flavor reminiscent of anise and is used a seasoning in stews, soups, curries, vegetables, salads, relishes and tomato based sauces.

Cinnamon

Native to Sri Lanka, it comes from the bark of a small evergreen tree. Cinnamon is fragrant with a slightly sweet taste and works well in sweets and also with meats, stews, vegetables and curries. In the United States, cinnamon is the same as cassia.

Cloves

Of Southeast Asian origin, an unopened flower bud of an evergreen clove tree. It has a sweet, strongly aromatic flavor best used as an accent to baked goods, stews and soups and meats.

Coriander

A popular herb in the carrot family, its flavor is reminiscent of an orange peel. It is commonly used as a companion to curry and to flavor meat and poultry.

Cream of Tartar

White crystalline powder used in baking powder (potassium bitartrate).

Cumin

Of Eastern origin, it has been a spice used since early times. Currently, it is a vital flavoring in East Indian and Mexican cuisines and is used in dishes such as curries, stews, chili and couscous

Curry

An East Indian Blend which usually contains turmeric, ginger, black pepper, coriander, cumin, chilies and fenugreek and can also contain cinnamon and clove.

Dill

Used in both a seed and leave (known as dill weed) form, it is known for it's distinct flavoring in the cuisines of Germany, Scandinavia and Central and Eastern Europe. It works well with a variety of culinary dishes such as omelets, soups, stuffed grape leaves, potato salad, cucumber, veal, breads, cabbage, meat stews and rice. It is also widely used with herring, salmon and other seafood dishes.

Fennel

An herb and spice with a substantial history, it's most extensive use was and remains in Europe with fish both fresh and cured. It has a sweet licorice taste milder than anise. It is best used as a seasoning for seafood, pork, soups, dressings and bread.

Fenugreek

A Mediterranean/West Asian spice with a bitter, maple-like flavor. It is primarily used in Indian cuisine and is also used with curry, as a pickling spice and as imitation maple.

Filé Gumbo

A blend of dried ground sassafras leaves and thyme. It is used as a thickener in and with soups, gumbo, meat, fish, stew and poultry.

Garam Masala

A Northern Indian blend of cumin, coriander, cardamom, black peppercorn, clove, mace, bay leaf and cinnamon.

Garlic

Of central Asian origin, it is the bulb of a plant in the lily family. It comes in many varieties, most commonly as white, pink and purple skinned cloves, the latter considered to be the best. One of the most versatile and useful flavorings, it is widely used spice in many cuisines, most notably Italian and Mexican.

Ginger

Ground from a tropical Asian root, it has a rich and warming spicy-sweet flavor and is most commonly used in Asian dishes and in sweets such as cakes, cookies, puddings and sweet breads.

Herbs De Provence

A Mediterranean blend containing oregano, savory, rosemary, thyme and marjoram, use to flavor stews, chicken, kabobs and tomato dishes and pizza.

Italian Seasoning

Most commonly a blend of marjoram, basil, Mediterranean oregano, thyme and rosemary and used, as its name suggests, in a variety of Italian dishes, especially tomato-based sauces.

Jamaican Jerk

Ground chilies, accented heavily with thyme and allspice. Used as a spicy flavoring to meats and vegetables.

Juniper Berries

The fruit of a small evergreen shrub, it is aromatic and spicy with the slight flavor of pine. It is mostly used a spice for meats--in marinades, on roasts and in sausage mixes.

Lavender

Flowers mostly used to make herbal infused teas called tisanes. It's most valuable use is its calming and sedative qualities.

Lemon Peel

The zest or dried skin of the lemon, which is the most aromatic part of the fruit where the citrus oil is contained.

Mace

From an evergreen tree grown on the Spice Island of Moluccas, it is the red, lacy covering of the nutmeg fruit. It has a cinnamon and pepper flavor making it excellent for desserts and sauces.

Marjoram

An herb similar to oregano with a more light and delicate flavor. Native to the Mediterranean region, it has a sweet, minty flavor, used most widely in French, Italian and Greek dishes.

Mint Leaves

Mint exists in more than 600 varieties, with a wide range of distinct scents and flavors. In cooking, the two best known mint flavorings are spearmint and peppermint. Spearmint is most widely used in tea and in sauces and jellies that are used to accent lamb and vegetables such as potatoes and carrots. Peppermint has a strong aroma and is most frequently used to flavor candy and desserts.

Mustard Seed

From the cabbage family, mustard seeds come in a variety of flavors and colors. Mustards made from the brown and black seeds have the strongest flavor. White mustard which bears large, yellow seeds is most commonly used in American mustards. Yellow mustard is more spicy than white and is used to accent sauces, meats, stews and dressings. Colmans mustard is even spicier and is used for pickling and in sauces.

Nutmeg

A fruit seed from an evergreen tree grown on one of the Spice Islands, it has a strong cinnamon, nutty flavor used to flavor sweets, fruit dishes, sauces and vegetables.

Onion

Native to Asia, there are hundreds of types which vary by size, color and flavor. The flavor is dictated by the climate in which they are grown; the milder the climate, the sweeter the onion. Onions, pungent when raw and sweet in flavor when cooked, are an extremely versatile flavoring and can used to accent nearly any kind of dish.

Orange Peel

Taken from the dried skin or zest of the orange which contains the citrus oil, it is the most aromatic part of the fruit.

Oregano

A wild variety of marjoram, it has a stronger flavor and is native to the Mediterranean region. It most commonly appears in French and Italian cuisines, especially in tomato-based sauces. It is the most recognizable flavor in pizza and is a favored accent in both Greek and Mexican cuisines.

Paprika

Originating in Southern Mexico, it is a bright red sweet pepper with a vibrant flavor most popularly used in Hungarian foods. It is also known as pimiento or tomato pepper and tastes great with eggs, poultry, stews and vegetables.

Parsley

Native to Southern Europe, it is grown worldwide in temperate regions. Curly and flat-leaf are the two main types, and both are rich in vitamins and minerals. Flat-leaf parsley is heartier and more flavorful. Curly is milder and is widely used to garnish a large variety of dishes. Parsley goes well in and with sauces, salads, potatoes, omelets and soft cheeses.

Pepper

The black variety originates from unripe green berries that ferment before drying, which results in strong flavor and aroma. White pepper originates from ripe berries soaked to remove the red skin and are hotter than black pepper with less aroma and flavor. Pepper is used as an accent to a wide variety of dishes. White pepper is best used in dishes requiring a milder pepper flavor such as soups, sauces and eggs.

Peppercorns

Peppercorns, from which pepper originates, are also available whole in a variety of colors and flavors. Green peppercorns are milder and fruitier than the berries used to ground white pepper. These corns, used ground and whole, are best used in seafood sauces, egg salads, and cream-based sauces served with meat and poultry. Pink peppercorns are harvested as an almost ripe berry, prior to drying. These corns have a slightly resinous flavor and are mostly used in the visual presentation of food. Tellicherry peppercorns are grown on the Malabar coast of India. They have a clean flavor with an aroma less pungent than black peppercorns. Peppercorns also come in a medley, which is a blend of black, white, green and pink peppercorns.

Pickling Spice

A blend used for pickling usually consisting of black peppercorn, mustard seed, hot red pepper flake, allspice berry, dill seed, mace, cinnamon, bay leaf, clove and ginger.

Poppy Seed

Of Middle Eastern and European origin, it is the ripe seed of the opium poppy with a crunchy, nutty flavor.

Red Pepper

A chile pepper that when hot is Mexican piquin chile and when milder is Indian tsin tsin. Crushed red pepper is commonly used a table condiment.

Rosemary

A Mediterranean spice with a sweet, pungent flavor and an aromatic needle-like leaf. It is considered to the most excellent herb to use as an accent for poulty and veal. It also works well with stews, sauces and in Italian dishes.

Saffron

A Spanish spice originating from the stigma of a flowering crocus. It has a pungent taste and is yellow in color. It is most commonly used to flavor bouillabaisse and paella and also accents fish, poultry and breads well.

Sage

A Mediterranean spice in the mint family, it has a sweet taste and herbal fragance. It can be used to flavor a variety of foods including pork, veal, stuffing, sausage and tomato sauces.

Sassafras

From a tree in the laurel family native to North America, it is primarily used is as a filé powder consisting of the dried ground leaves of the tree. It's most common use is as a thickening agent in Cajun or Creole gumbo. It is also used in and with soups, fish, shellfish, poultry, highly spiced meat and in savory dishes requiring a thickening agent.

Savory

Another Mediterranean spice in the mint family, it has a strong, slightly peppery flavor and is used to flavor legumes, meat, fish (especially trout), sausage, stuffing and tomato sauces.

Sesame Seed

An African and Indian spice with a mild toasted nut flavor. It is harvested unripe and is used as a sprinkle on rolls and breads and as a flavoring in halvah, tahini paste and with rice and vegetables.

Szechuan Peppers

Also known as Fagara and originating in China, it is not a true pepper but a dried berry of a prickly ash tree. It has a woody aroma with a spicy, tingly taste. It is an essential ingredient in Chinese 5 Spice.

Tarragon

Originating in Siberia, it is an essential flavoring in French food. It is rich and sweet with a faint anise-like flavor. It is an excellent seasoning for sauces, dressings, and with meat, poultry and fish.

Thyme

An herb in the mint family of Mediterranean origin, it is aromatic with an herbal flavor. It can be used to improve the flavor of most dishes, especially slow cooked dishes.

Turmeric

A spice in the ginger family, it has a warm, mild aroma with a yellow/gold color. It is most often used in East Indian foods such as chutney and as an accent to legumes, vegetables and meats.

Links

Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages


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(last edited October 6, 2002 by Kishore Balakrishnan - @bekishore - Contact for feedback and suggestions) [info] [diff] [full] EditText of this page

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