You say “spice” and I say “herb” – what is the difference?

When thinking of spices, one automatically envisions a “spice rack” or “spice shelve” as they impact the taste of food or beverages. On the other hand, herbs are often associated with healing due to medicinal properties – medicine cabinet. And, then there are helpful weeds…but that will have to be another blog topic!

Can a plant be both an herb and a spice? The answer is yes. Generally a spice comes from the stem, root, berry or flower. Whereas, an herb from the same plant may come from the green leafy part. However, that is not always true as there are many medicinal herbs that use roots, stem, berries and flowers as well.

Although both can be used in the cooking process, spices, which are usually dried, can be added early in the cooking process as they can withstand the heat. Herbs, whether fresh or dried, tend to be a more fragile plant and therefore, provide better flavor when added towards the end of the cooking process. Caution: not all herbs can be ingested – some medicinal herbs are only for topical use. And just to add to the confusion, some spices are used for their healing properties.

My favorite cooking herbs are: basil, rosemary, parsley, marjoram, oregano and dill. And, they are easy to grow in Pennsylvania from seed or starter plant. And, some of my favorite spices are cinnamon, turmeric, pepper, nutmeg, and cloves. Spices aren’t easy to grow unless you are in tropical or subtropical regions.

Going forward, this blog with feature a variety of spices and herbs – their uses and properties for both cooking and healing.

Next blog will be on cinnamon – a spice with both food and healing impacts.