Cultural to Exotic

The use of herbs and spices in cooking offers the chance to prepare exotic, gourmet dishes, or cultural meals and a way to cut or save calories and fat in cooking.

Using herbs and spices can moderate dietary levels of fat, sugar and sodium. For example, removing a tablespoon of fat removes about 10 grams of fat and 100 calories – an amount which could represent a 10 pound weight loss in a year. The calories in herbs and spices are far less than in breadings, batters, gravies, sauces and fried foods. Cost savings are realized by reducing the number of ingredients in preparation and/or by the possibility of dressing up inexpensive foods for a special meal.

Herbs & Spices Add Zest, Flavor

Many people are looking for flavors to substitute for salt or sodium. A teaspoon of salt has 2300 mg sodium — almost the amount recommended as the daily requirement. Many other condiments as well as packaged and processed foods contain around 1000 mg salt. Seasoning salts are regular salt with seasoning. A teaspoon of most herbs and spices contains few calories and little or no sodium. Herbs and spices add zest and flavor to unsalted foods.

  1. The average person consumes about 4500mg of salt per day, about 2 teaspoons. The body only requires about 200mg.
  2. Flavoring extracts come in two forms: Pure extracts and imitation flavorings. The pure is derived from natural sources and diluted with ethyl alcohol. Imitations are man-made chemicals concocted in a laboratory.
  3. Spices should never be stored near a microwave exhaust fan or range top. The heat tends to cause a loss of flavor, potency and even color. All spices should be stored in a cool dried location or in the refrigerator.
  4. If your spices seem to have lost their potency, try rubbing them between your fingers for a few seconds to rejuvenate them.
  5. Hot or spicy foods do not irritate your stomach or aggravate ulcers in most people.
  6. Place a toothpick in a garlic clove before placing it into a stew and it will be easy to retrieve.
  7. When you are doubling a recipe, do not double the seasonings until you taste the dish.

To store red spices like cajun, paprika, etc. in the refrigerator to extend their life.

Select Spices and Herbs

Allspice:  Allspice has the aroma of a blend of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Allspice is grown in Jamaica, Central and South America. Allspice is sold both whole and ground. Whole allspice is mainly used in pickling, meats, fish and gravies. Ground allspice is used in baked goods, relishes, puddings and fruit preserves. It can also be found in a number of ready-to-serve foods such as hot dogs, soups and baked beans.

Anise:  Used in licorice, anise is imported from Mexico and Spain. Anise is marketed as anise seed. Also, used in candies, cookies, pickles and as a flavoring for beverages. Anise gives the liquor anisette its aroma.

Basil:  Basil comes from a plant belonging to the mint family, native to India and Iran. Also known as Sweet basil, which is grown in the United States. Basil is sold in the form of basil leaves. Used in tomato paste and tomato and squash dishes and, of course, turtle soup. Commonly found in ready-to-serve products such as pizza sauce, soups and dressings. Try adding a small amount of sweet basil to your tuna salad for a great taste.

Bay Leaf:  Oblong green leaves, sold as leaves and used in stews, sauces, soups and pickling. Bay leaf is used in numerous ready-to-serve foods such as soups, French dressing, dill pickles, etc.

Caraway Seeds:  Ripe caraway seeds are usually harvested at night before the dew evaporates. Most seeds come from the Netherlands. Used in rye bread, cabbage, sauerkraut, soft cheese spreads, sweet pickles and French dressing.

Cardamom Seed:  Spicy, sweet seeds that belong to the ginger family. They are native to India. They are sold whole or ground and are widely used in Scandinavian dishes. Used in pickling, as a demitasse flavoring, grape jellies, marmalade and frankfurters. These seeds are also used as an excellent cover-up for liquor breath.

Cayenne Pepper:  Also known as red pepper, cayenne is available in crushed, ground or whole form. Used in relishes, salsas, chili products, Italian foods, sausages, and dressings.

Celery Seed:  Celery seed and celery salt are used in salad dressings, fish dishes, salads, pickling and many vegetable dishes. The supply comes mainly from India and France.

Celery Flakes:  Made from dehydrated leaves and stalks of celery. Made in the United States and are used in stews, stuffing, soups and sauces.

Chervil:  A French herb excellent for flavoring salad dressings. Chervil is used similar to parsley.

Chili Peppers:  To prepare chili peppers you must toast them with a long handled fork on top of the stove making sure that they blister on all sides. As soon as the skin is evenly blistered and puffed up away from the pulp, lay the pods on a cloth, sprinkle them with water and cover them with another cloth so that they steam. The skins will then pull away easily and the seeds and veins can be removed. All of the pulp can be used, but only use a few of the seeds. Chili peppers and paprika are high in vitamin A. One teaspoon can supply up to 25 percent of your daily requirement.

Chili Powder:  The major ingredients are cumin seed, chili peppers, oregano, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic and allspice.

Chives:  Chives are a member of the onion family, but much milder. Chives are used to flavor dips, sauces, spreads and, of course, baked potatoes.

Cinnamon:  Obtained from the bark of the laurel tree, native to China and Indonesia. The cassia variety is used in the United States. In the whole form, it is used in preserving, flavoring puddings, pickling and hot wine drinks. Ground is used in sweet pickles, ketchup, vegetables, apple butter, mustards and spiced peaches.

Household helper. Sprinkle cinnamon on aluminum foil and place it in a hot oven, leaving the door open. As the cinnamon heats, the cinnamon scent will permeate the house.

Did you know? Did you know? Ants will not cross a line of cinnamon – and the cinnamon smells nice, too.

Clove:  Cloves come from a tree which is a member of the Myrtle family. First discovered in Indonesia. Whole cloves are used for pickling, ham roasts and spiced syrups. Ground cloves are used for making baked goods, puddings, mustards, soups, hot dogs, sausage and barbecue sauces

Coriander Seed:  Coriander seeds come from a small plant of the carrot family. They have a sweet musky flavor and are native to the Mediterranean area. Coriander is sold in seed and ground forms. Normally used in gingerbread, cookies, cakes, biscuits, and poultry stuffing. Coriander seed is excellent rubbed on fresh pork before roasting.

Cumin Seed:  The flavor resembles caraway seed and it is native to Egypt. Cumin seed is sold in both seed and ground form. It is an essential ingredient in curry, chili powder, soups, stuffed eggs and chili con carne.

Curry Powder:  Curry powder is a blend of 20 spices, herbs and even some seeds. Some of the ingredients are chilies, cloves, coriander, fennel seed, nutmeg, mace, cayenne, black pepper, sesame seeds, saffron, turmeric, etc. The turmeric gives many of the dishes its yellow color.

Dill:  Dill is used for pickling, soups, sauerkraut, salads, fish and meat sauces, green apple pie and spiced vinegar. When making egg salad, try adding a small amount of dill to liven it up.

Fennel:  Fennel has a sweet anise-like flavor and is available in seed form. It is used in Italian sausage, sweet pickles, fish dishes, candies, pastries, oxtail soup and pizza sauce. Fennel can be brewed as a tea and served hot.

Fenugreek:  Fenugreek has a similar aroma to curry powder and is bitter in flavor. Its main use is in imitation maple flavor.

Garlic:   Garlic is grown in the United States and is a member of the Lily family. It is sold as garlic salt and garlic powder. Used in hundreds of dishes from pizza sauce to chicken pot pies. There are 300 varieties of garlic grown worldwide. Garlic has been used for centuries as a blood cleanser and in recent times to help lower blood pressure.

  1. To peel garlic more easily, place it in very hot water for two to three minutes. Garlic cloves should be stored in a small amount of vegetable oil. They will not dry out and the oil can be sued with a garlic flavor.
  2. When peeling garlic, try rinsing the garlic in hot water first. The skin will come off easier. 
  3. To preserve garlic cloves after they have been peeled, try placing them in a sealed jar and cover them with olive oil. They will stay fresh for three to four months.
  4. Before adding your salad ingredients to a bowl, rub a clove of crushed garlic on the sides of the bowl.
  5. Garlic is more nutritious than onions.
  6. Garlic salt may contain over 900mg of sodium per teaspoon. Our average daily consumption should be no more than about 1500mg.
  7. If you nick a clove of garlic, it must be used or it will get moldy very quickly.
  8. To make garlic vinegar, place two to three fresh cloves in each pint and let stand for two weeks before using. Works great for your oils, too.
  9. Never freeze garlic, it will kill the flavor.
  10. Garlic oil products should contain an antibacterial or acidifying agent such as phosphoric acid or citric acid or at least be kept under refrigeration.
  11. Garlic butter should only be stored in the refrigerator for no more than 10 to 14 days for maximum safety.
  12. Once garlic has been processed it is more perishable than most people realize.

Ginger:  Ginger has a pungent spicy flavor and is grown in India and West Africa. Sold in whole or ground form and is used in pickling, conserves, dried fruits and of course, gingerbread and pumpkin pies.

Mace:  Mace is a fleshy growth between the nutmeg shell and the outer husk. It is sold in ground form and used in pound cake and chocolate dishes. In its whole form it is used in pickling, ketchup, baked beans, soups, deviled chicken and ham spreads and French dressing.

Marjoram:  Marjoram has a sweet mint flavor and is an herb of the mint family. It is available in leaves and is imported from France, Chile, and Peru. Marjoram is usually combined with other herbs and used in soups, stews, poultry seasonings, sauces and fish dishes.

Mint Flakes:  Mint flakes are dehydrated flakes of peppermint and spearmint plants and have a strong sweet flavor. Grown in the United States and Europe. Used to flavor stews, soups, fish dishes, sauces, desserts and jellies. For an instant breath freshener, try chewing a few mint leaves.

MSG:  Monosodium glutamate has no taste of its own but helps to bring out the natural food flavors as well as helping foods blend better with one another. MSG has been implicated in enough adverse physical problems that it is recommended not to use it.

Mustard:  The yellow or white seeds produce mild mustard, while the brown seeds produce the more spicy variety. Powdered mustard has hardly any aroma until mixed with a liquid. Mustard has hundreds of uses and is one of the most popular spices worldwide.

Nutmeg:  Nutmeg is available in ground form and is imported from the East and West Indies. Nutmeg is used in sauces, puddings, as a topping for custards, eggnogs and whipped creams. Also used in sausages, frankfurters and ravioli. Nutmeg is best used in ground form only.

Oregano:  Oregano is a member of the mint family and also known as origanum and Mexican sage. Available in leaf or ground forms, oregano is used mostly in Italian specialties such as pizza and a variety of spaghetti sauces. Some oregano on a grilled cheese sandwich will really perk it up and you will probably never eat another one without it. Oregano has supreme antioxidant abilities (up to 20 times the antioxidant activity of other herbs, and ounce-for-ounce beats out apples and oranges). Oregano is a potent anti-inflammatory agent too. That is what German and Swiss researchers found recently when they gave oregano’s active ingredient to mice with swollen paws. The swelling subsided in up to 70 percent of the mice.

Paprika:  Ground pods of sweet pepper. The red sweet mild type is widely used and grown in the United States. Used in a variety of dishes such as vegetables, mustards, dressings, ketchup, sausages and fish dishes and, of course, as a garnish.

Parsley:  Parsley is grown in the United States and Southern Europe. Used as a flavor in salads, soups, vegetable dishes, chicken pot pies, herb dressings and even peppermint soup. A favorite garnish and high in nutrients, makes your breath fresh since it is high in chlorophyll. When storing it should be kept in a plastic bag in the freezer. Parsley can be dried in the microwave and frozen.

Pepper:  Pepper is the most popular spice in the world. Sold in both black and white varieties and for the most part is imported from India, Indonesia and Borneo. Sold in whole or ground varieties. Used in almost every dish imaginable at one time or another.

Poppy Seed:  Poppy seeds have a nut-like flavor and are used in salads, cookies, pastry fillings and as toppings for numerous baked products.

Poultry Seasoning:  The major ingredients are: Sage, thyme, marjoram and savoy.

Rosemary:  A sweet fragrant, robust, spicy herb, Rosemary imported from Spain and Portugal, is used in stews, meat dishes, dressings and Italian foods to add “oomph”. Rosemary is great in gin drinks. The woodsy flavor and aroma of these silver-green leaves goes well with meat and potatoes. But can Rosemary crack down on cancer? Scientists think so, at least a concentrated extract of the herb might. Some researchers believe oregano can block dangerous carcinogenic compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCA) from forming during cooking.

Saffron:  Saffron is one of the most expensive of all herbs. It is derived from the stigma of a flowering crocus. It is imported from Spain and is used primarily in baked goods and rice dishes. This spice is what turns rice yellow in the Spanish dish paella. Both the petal and sought-after stamen of saffron have shown potent antidepressant effects in several studies. In fact, a few studies found that 30 milligrams of saffron was just as effective as commonly prescribed fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem) and imipramine (Tofranil) for treating mild-to-moderate depression. Other research suggests saffron has anticarcinogenic properties.

Sage:  Sage is another member of the mint family and is available in leaf or ground form. Sage is used in pork products, stuffing, salads, fish dishes and pizza sauces. Both sage oil and thyme oil are thought to help maintain and protect brain function. Early research on rats suggets thyme oil works as a brain antioxidant, protecting polyunsaturated fatty acids and omega-3 fatty acids from oxidation as the brain ages. Sage oil’s antioxidant powers may improve cognitive function in mild-to-moderate cases of dementia. In healthy adults, sage oil has been shown to improve mood and performance on simple tasks.

Salt:  In the purifying process of salt, the native minerals are stripped away and it is then enriched with iodine and dextrose to stabilize it, sodium bicarbonate to keep it white and anti-caking agents to keep it free flowing. Mortons Salt is said to be the only salt that has no additives. Salt is used in almost every food in the food processing industry.
*A simple barometer of our salt intake is to eat a slice of bacon. If it does not taste excessively salty, you are probably eating too much salt.

Savory:  Another member of the mint family, savory has a sweet flavor. Savory is available in leaf and ground forms and primarily is used to flavor meats, poultry and fish.

Sesame:  Sesame has a nut-like flavor with a high oil content. Primary use is as a topping on baked goods and in halavah.

Tarragon:  An anise flavored leaf that is a native of Siberia and imported from Spain and France. Used in sauces, meat dishes, salads, herb dressings and tomato casseroles.

Thyme:  Thyme belongs to the mint family and is available in leaf or ground form. Used in soups, stews, sauces, chipped beef (old army favorite), sausages, clam chowder, herb dressings and mock turtle soup.

Turmeric:  Turmeric is a member of the ginger family and imported from India and Peru. Turmeric is used in meats, dressings, curry powder, Spanish rice, relishes and mustards.

Vanilla:  Long, thin dark brown beans are expensive and not as easy to use as the extract. To use the bean, split it and scrape out the powder-fine seeds. The seeds from a single vanilla bean are equal to two to three teaspoons of extract. Beans should be stored in a sealed plastic bag and refrigerated.

  • Pure Extract:  Comes from the vanilla bean, but the taste is less intense. Has excellent flavor, similar to the real bean.
  • Imitation Extract:  Made from artificial flavorings, tastes stronger and is harsher than pure vanilla. Should only be used in recipes where the vanilla flavor does not predominate the taste.
  • Mexican Extract:  A possibly dangerous extract. This poor quality, inexpensive product may contain coumarin, a blood thinning drug and banned in the United States due to possible toxic effects.

Read More: Food Facts