An herb or spice can be a seed, fruit, root, bark, berry, bud or leafy part of the plant. They are principally used for flavoring food among other uses. They can be used fresh or dried.
Herbs And Spices Through The Ages
By 1000 B.C. medical systems based upon herbs were found in China, Korea, and India. Also the Egyptians used herbs and spices for their embalming practices and their demand for exotic herbs and spices helped stimulate world trade.
The flavor of an herb or spice is derived by exposing the volatile oil compounds of the seed or leafy part, that oxidize or evaporate when it comes in contact with air.
As an example, fresh ginger is usually more flavorful than its dried form, but fresh spices are more expensive and have a much shorter shelf life.
Flavor of herbs and spices can be maximized by storing them whole and grinding when needed, as grinding greatly increases its surface area and so increases the rates of oxidation and evaporation.
If you decide to use dried spices, be sure to use them within 6 to 8 months of purchase. Ground spices are better stored away from light, as it also increases the oxidation of the volatile oils.
How To Use Herbs And Spices
When using herbs and spices you’ll want to pick flavors that complement each other, such as the spice mix known as “pumpkin pie spice.” The ratios of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg add great flavor to the pie, and each spice doesn’t over power the other.
The key or rule of thumb to spicing things up is that less is more. Avoid adding too much all at once. Instead, add a little at a time and add more to taste.
A good example of over spicing and unable to fix it, is when you use oregano or cloves. Their volital oils are great for flavoring culinary and pastry dishes, but they are strong in flavor, and only require a small amount.
When using spices to flavor your meat or vegetables, use only 3 different types at a time. You can even use herbs and spice to replace salt. Choose your spice or spices, add a little lemon juice and unsalted butter.
Which spices pair well together for the best culinary dishes you can make? Let’s examine some of the most commonly used spices and which spices pair well with them.