Thursday 13 – Herbs and Spices

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Thursday 13, but here goes:

13 Herbs and Spices

What’s the difference between an herb and a spice?

It depends who you ask.

To a botanist, an herb is a plant lacking a permanent woody stem. To an herbalist, it is any plant used medicinally (which can include trees and fungi). To a cook, an herb is the above-ground part used in cooking, as opposed to the root or the seed (celery, celeriac, celery seed). A spice, therefore, to an herbalist is the same as an herb (cinnamon is an herb used medicinally). To a cook, though, a spice is the dried part of a plant, i.e. the seeds, roots, bark, flowers, fruits and rhizomes that also are used as a flavoring agent in food,(rhizomes are an underground, horizontal stem such as ginger). Herbs can be used in either a fresh or dried state; spices are almost always dried.

Here is my favorite place to learn about spices and cooking, as well as to purchase your supplies:

Here is my favorite place to learn about medicinal herbs and techniques:

1. Cinnamon

I love cinnamon-sugar on toast. It makes me feel comforted, like good comfort food should. I also like to sprinkle it on the coffee grounds before I brew a pot of coffee. It makes the area smell nice and the coffee taste really good.

2. Salt

While it may not be the most healthful of spices, I have to say I love salt. I recently got introduced to different kinds – and colors! – of salts and have had fun taste-testing them.

3. Jane’s Krazy Mixed-Up Salt

No, this isn’t a hoity-toity blend. But my grandma had it in her kitchen and it’s tasty. I have had trouble finding it since then, but whenever I do I make sure I buy it. Turns out they have their own website:

4. Oregano

Other than its uses in cooking, once I came to Chicago I got turned on to the concept of oregano on pizza. Try it.

5. Garlic

Need I say more?

Well, okay, I do. In Jeanne Rose’s class, one of the projects is to make a garlic soup. You’re supposed to simmer like 20 cloves, right? Then it says, take the cloves out, press, and discard.

Apparently, in my world, discard means “eat.”

I figured, garlic broth good, garlic cloves AND broth, better.

Don’t do it.

Just, don’t.

6. Onion

Yum yum yum. Just brush yer fangs afterward, will ya?

7. Ginger

Yummy! I love this in tea. It’s fun to buy, since it looks like a mutated plant part that’s going to eat your refrigerator…

8. Lavender

It’s edible. I read a book on it, you can make candies, and put it in a marinade for lamb. I tried it.

It tastes like soap.

Oh well.

It’s good in tea, though.

9. Basil

One of my favorite spices. I put this in my garden every year. We have Genovese, Opal, Purple, Cinnamon, Lemon, all sorts of basils. It’s good stuff, Maynard!

10. Curry – not really one spice, but a blend

I didn’t know that it’s a blend. I like mild curry, particularly in egg salad. Raz al Hanout is really good in coffee with cocoa.

11. Vanilla

Sex on a plate. ‘Nuff said.

12. Anise

I love anise. Tea, in my chicken soup, all sorts of ways.

13. Thyme

This is a really good tea for when you have a cold. I love it!

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