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Learning about Herbs and Spices

Spices and herbs have been used in foods for centuries. Archaeologists estimate that by 50,000 B.C. primitive man had discovered that parts of certain aromatic plants help make food taste better, according to the American Spice Trade Association (ASTA).

Spices were once so costly only the wealthy could afford them. In 11th Century Europe, many towns paid their taxes and rents in pepper. The reason for Columbus’ voyage in 1492 was to seek a more direct passage to the rich spices of the Orient.

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

  • Herbs are leaves of low-growing shrubs. Examples are parsley, chives, marjoram, thyme, basil, caraway, dill, oregano, rosemary, savory, sage and celery leaves. These can be used fresh or dried. Dried forms may be whole, crushed, or ground.

  • Spices come from the bark (cinnamon), root (ginger, onion, garlic), buds (cloves, saffron), seeds (yellow mustard, poppy, sesame), berry (black pepper), or the fruit (allspice, paprika) of tropical plants and trees.

  • Many dehydrated vegetable seasonings are available. These include onion, garlic, and shallots.

  • Seasoning blends are mixtures of spices and herbs

Continued tomorrow....

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