Kitchen Chronicles: All About Herbs and Spices

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The difference between tasty and not-so-tasty food lies in the use of herbs and spices to make it more flavorful and aromatic. If you want to ensure your food always tastes delicious, make way for rich and earthy flavors with pleasant and heavenly aromas from herbs and spices.

Kitchen Chronicles

But their role is not just restricted to adding flavors to a dish. Herbs and spices also impart important health benefits. The correct usage of herbs and spices in a meal can help you cut out processed sauces and condiments. Moreover, their use in different cuisines gives a taste of different cultures.

But what exactly can herbs and spices do, and how do they benefit you? Learn more about herbs and spices to make your cooking and eating experience more delightful.

What are herbs and spices?

Herbs and spices

The terms herbs and spices are used interchangeably, but it should be noted the two are different types of flavoring agents. Herbs and spices come from different parts of the plant and are processed differently. Thus, they both differ in taste and aroma significantly. 

Herbs can be used in fresh and dried form, whereas spices are always used in their dried form. Thus, they differ in terms of taste and aroma. Spices have a potent flavor in comparison to the delicate flavors of herbs.

The easiest way to identify herbs is by looking for leaves in your meals. Examples of herbs include basil, rosemary, sage, thyme, parsley, and oregano.

On the other hand, spices come from a tree or plant’s fruit, bark, seeds, stems, flowers, and leaves. They undergo specific processes to utilize their flavors and aroma. Some popular spices include cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, star anise, allspice berries, cloves, and turmeric.

Use Of Herbs And Spices In Cooking

Herbs and spices

Herbs and spices are used in different ways in cooking. As a general rule of thumb, herbs are usually added to the end of cooking to maximize flavor. Too much exposure to heat destroys their flavors.

Herbs are found in fresh, dried, or ground form. They are great for adding in salads, roasted or sautéed vegetables, meats, dips, etc. Fresh herbs make for wonderful garnishes. They offer a burst of fresh flavors to any meal. 

On the other hand, dried herbs release their flavors wonderfully when mixed with butter or oil. Another method to maximize the flavors of dried herbs includes crushing them with a mortar and pestle before adding them to a dish. 

In contrast to herbs, spices are added at the beginning of the cooking process as the natural oils trapped within them are released when exposed to heat, and their flavors are enhanced by dry roasting. Thus, you will find spices added to hot oil in the first step itself of a recipe.

Preservation and Application

Herbs and spices

Each herb and spice have a unique characteristic to deliver the desired taste and aroma of the food. They can be applied as extracts, powder, or used as just dried resized parts. A correct preservation and extraction method is essential to achieve the best quality of herbs and spices while retaining their properties and desired characteristics. 

The most common preservation method of herbs and spices is drying or dehydration. It is the oldest method of food preservation which removes the moisture of the plant, to prevent the growth of microorganisms while preserving it.

This process can be done using mechanical dryers or sun-drying. Drying allows the plant to be processed without altering most of its properties, such as its savory or aromatic properties. On the other hand, in the case of spices, drying retains the flavors and they tend to get potent.

As compared to their fresh forms, dried herbs and spices have an extended life span.

How to Store Your Herbs and Spices?

Herbs and spices

Different ingredients have different storage requirements and storage limitations. They can be stored in dry, frozen, chilled, or vacuum-packed form. However, proper storage will preserve your ingredients’ potency, and most importantly, prevent early deterioration caused by intrusion and growth of some pathogens.

Pathogens are microorganisms that include bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi. These pathogens can cause serious illnesses when ingested via contaminated food or transmitted to humans. Thus, it is very crucial to have proper food storage to avoid contamination of food.

Different storage methods are applied to fresh and dried spices. Some can be stored at room temperature or chilled at a specific temperature. Whereas, leaves can be wrapped with paper to protect from unnecessary contaminants or moisture increases. This method also preserves the freshness of the leaves by blocking the moisture, which will slow down the deterioration process of the leaves.

Processed spices have different storage requirements. Powdered spices are porous and require an airtight container. Such storage prevents lumping of the powder when exposed to moisture after opening. The other can stand in a container at room temperature.

The Best Spices to Have in Your Kitchen

No matter what you cook, herbs and spices are always integral to any recipe. Therefore, to make a stellar meal, you should store some herbs and spices in your pantry.

Let’s look at some herbs and spices you should keep at hand.


Herbs and spices

Black Peppercorns – Black peppercorns are used in almost every savory dish. You can use them whole or ground. They are used to add spice to a dish.

Cumin – whole or ground cumin is a great way to add earthy and slightly nutty flavors. This spice works well in various dishes like stews, pickles, barbecue sauces, soups, bread, rice, and chili con carne recipes. 

Dried Red Chilies -Having chile flakes or whole dried chiles at hand is a great way to spice up your meal. You can add them to salad dressings as a seasoning or crush them to make curry paste.

Turmeric: Turmeric is a versatile spice. It is part of the ginger family, having a bright, floral, mild taste. Turmeric is used in soups, stews, sauces, marinades, pickling brines, and seasoning bean, rice, and whole grain dishes.

Bay Leaf: Bay leaf is a staple of French and Indian cooking. It is used to flavor soups, stews, curries, meat, and sauces. 

Cinnamon: Cinnamon is a great spice to have at hand for both sweet and savory dishes. You can add them to baked goods, make hot lattes, or add them to meat dishes like pork chops, short ribs, chicken, soups, etc.



Parsley – Parsley has fresh, herbaceous, and bright flavors. It is used in dishes like pasta, sauces, salads, meat dishes, and vegetables. 

Basil: Basil is widely used in many cuisines around the globe. You can find it in a variety of dishes like pizzas, pasta, sauces, salads, and soups. It has a sweet, pungent, and slightly spicy flavor.

Sage: Sage has an earthy and slightly peppery taste with hints of mint, eucalyptus, and lemon. It is used in sauces, meat marinades, pastries, bread, and compound butter. 

Rosemary: Rosemary is used as a seasoning in a variety of dishes, such as soups, casseroles, salads, and stews. It has evergreen, citrus, sage, pepper, mint, and pine flavors.

Thyme -earthy, minty, and slightly lemony in flavor; thyme is commonly used to season sauces, soups, and braises. It is also used in rice dishes, potatoes, bread, and cookies.


Herbs and spices are two of the essential ingredients that you should have in your kitchen. You can have them fresh or processed; it may be in the form of extracts or dried plant parts. They have several uses, such as in cooking or even as medicines for healing alternatives. 

It is best to know each of their characteristics and properties to determine the proper use, preservation, and storage. Proper storage would help prolong its use, avoid contamination, prevent you from acquiring potential health hazards, and save your money from possible trash and toss.

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