We all know, if you want to make something delicious, you have to add an herb or spice to affect the aroma, color, flavor and heat of your dish. But have you ever wondered how to differentiate between the two? Simple.
What are the differences between herbs and spices?
Herbs are typically the fresh or dried leaves of a plant with a non-woody stem, such as parsley, cumin, thyme and marjoram. Basil is also considered an herb even though it does have a woody stem.
Spices on the other hand, are usually made from dried seeds, fruits, bark or the root of a plant with a wood stem. Common examples are garlic powder, paprika, turmeric and ground black pepper.
Why Should You Have Both
Just like a composer, who uses varying amounts of instruments to create a symphony, chefs creates a harmony by balancing a collection of herbs and spices, paring them together to craft the soul of a dish.
Along with adding unique flavors and textures, certain herbs and spices can can help replace and/or reduce the amount of sugar or salt in your recipes. Substitutes for salt can range from garlic, black pepper, oregano and cumin. While replacing sugar in a dish can call for cinnamon, clove or even onions.
How to tell if your bulk herbs and spices are still fresh
Technically, dried spices and herbs don’t ever truly “expire,” in the sense that they will make you sick, but it will lose most of its color, flavor and potency. The best way to check if you need to replace your supply of herbs and spices is to check the expiration date.
Another method will rely on your senses. You can rub, for spices or crush for herbs, a small amount in your hand and take a whiff. If the aroma is more muted than when you purchased it, you’re probably ready to restock.