FOOD FACTS: The Difference Between Herbs & Spices | THE NIBBLE Blog - Adventures In The World Of Fine Food FOOD FACTS: The Difference Between Herbs & Spices – THE NIBBLE Blog – Adventures In The World Of Fine Food
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FOOD FACTS: The Difference Between Herbs & Spices

From its dawn, mankind has sought herbs and spices to flavor food and to cure ills. Ancient travelers brought them back from foreign lands. Given the long and treacherous journey, imported spices and herbs were costly, beyond the reach of the common man.

Some spices were often used as currency: 3,000 pounds of peppercorns, the world’s most popular spice, were required to ransom Rome from the Visigoths 410 C.E. (Learn more about pepper.)

But is there a difference between herbs and spices? Actually, yes: It depends upon what part of the plant the seasoning comes from.

  • Herbs are the leafy parts or petals of plants. Along with basil, cilantro and oregano leaves, tea leaves are also herbs. Herbs can be used fresh or dried and stored.

There is a difference between herbs and
spices. Photo courtesy Allen-Cowley.com.

  • Spices are derived from the bark, fruit, root, seed or other part of the plant. Saffron, for example, comes from the stigmas of the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus), a beautiful flower. Vanilla is the dried pod of an orchid plant, Vanilla planifolia. Peppercorns are the dried fruit of Piper nigrum, a tropical flowering vine.
  • Salt, which falls into neither description, is a mineral—sodium chloride.

Most people have difficulty distinguishing between herbs and spices. The American Spice Trade Association describes spices as “any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning purposes.” While this is botanically inaccurate, it does simplify things for most people.

 




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