I don’t know about you, but I love trivia. I love to collect bits of information and store it away in the event that I may someday be called upon for an answer to a question that my stored trivia will provide.
Well, that day came last week during the Thanksgiving holiday when I was asked if there was a difference between an herb and a spice. Well, they are both food flavor enhancers, they are both vital ingredients in many dishes. They both add flavor, aroma, color, texture and even nutrients. Herbs and Spices are even used to preserve foods, cure illness and enhance cosmetics. They seem to be the same.
I would think that this question would be similar to a person asking a pilot the difference between aircraft fuels. The answer is . . Yes there is a difference. The difference between the two is where they are obtained from a plant.
Herbs come from the leafy and green part of the plant.Spices are parts of the plant other than the leafy bit such as the root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds.
The Spice Trade Association, defines a spice as “any dried plant product used primarily for seasoning purposes”. This really broadens the definition of spices, allowing it to include herbs, dehydrated veggies, spice blends and spice seeds. With this official definition, there would seem to be no difference, but, let’s look at other differences in the two groups. Culinary herbs are distinguished from vegetables in that, like spices, they are used in small amounts and provide flavor rather than substance to food.
Some examples of herbs are basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley and mint. Herbs are usually grown in more temperate areas than spices and have great medicinal value and are also used in the preparation of cosmetic products.
Spices are usually dried before being used to season foods. Some examples are cinnamon, cloves, ginger and pepper. Unlike herbs, they are grown in more tropical countries. They’ve also been known to preserve foods and some have medicinal value, such as turmeric with its anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal properties. Some plants are used as both an herb and a spice, such as dill weed and dill seed or coriander leaves and seeds.
Herbs and their Nutritional/Medicinal Benefits:
Spices and their Nutritional/Medicinal Benefits:
Considering the nutritional information and medical benefits associated with each of these herbs and spices you can plan the medical result you want when you select your meals by adjusting the seasoning. Crazy thought isn’t it? But it is possible… If you need an anti-inflammatory to relive arthritis pain, or joint pain, you might plan to use more Oregano or Ginger in seasoning your meals. Research shows that an anti-inflammatory diet is ideal for overall good health. Proponents of the diet say” it can reduce heart disease risk, keep existing cardiac problems in check, reduce blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and soothe tender and stiff arthritic joints”.
As one example of a day's worth of anti-inflammatory eating, a breakfast of toasted steel-cut oatmeal with candied ginger and berries, yogurt, or other topping and coffee or green tea. Lunch could be Mediterrean basil tuna salad on 7-grain bread and a smoothie with seasonal fruits. For a snack, try an ounce of dark chocolate and about four walnuts. (now, who wouldn’t love that?) Dinner could be spaghetti with turkey meat sauce, or a curry (also very high in anti-inflammatory powers), spinach salad with oranges and walnuts, and apple cranberry pie made without butter.
If you choose to add any specific herbs or spices to your meal planning to achieve a desired benefit, below are a few simple suggestions that can easily be implemented. The herbs and spices listed here are common enough that it should not pose a problem to have your catering source make any recipe adjustments for you. One thing to remember is that unlike pills for these listed ailments, menu changes may take up to a week to see the results.
- Add a sprinkle of Chili Powder to your leftover hummus to give it new life. Serve with pita or tortilla chips.
- Sprinkle a little chili powder on French fries
- For a quick chili, brown 1 pound ground beef or turkey in large skillet. Stir in 2 tablespoons Chili Powder, 1 teaspoon Ground Cumin, 2 cans (14 1/2 ounces each) diced or no salt added diced tomatoes and 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, drained and rinsed. Simmer 10 minutes.
- Spice up your scrambled eggs in the morning. Sauté 2 tablespoons each diced onion and bell pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder in 1 tablespoon butter. Add 4 eggs, beaten, to the skillet and scramble.
- Sprinkle with shredded low fat cheese.
- Perk up your morning coffee with Ground Cinnamon. Sprinkle ½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon over ground coffee before brewing. Stir some cinnamon into your coffee cream or mix with sugar before adding to your morning drink.
- Next time you order French toast, pancakes, waffles or muffins, request the food source adds ground Cinnamon to the batter.
- Give lunch box sandwiches an unexpected flavor boost. Add a sprinkle of Ground Cinnamon to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Also tastes great on peanut butter and banana sandwiches!
- Perk up jarred applesauce by stirring cinnamon and ground cloves into applesauce.
- For a fragrant fall beverage, simmer 1 bottle (64 ounces) apple juice, 2 tablespoons honey, 4 Cinnamon Sticks, 1 teaspoon Whole Cloves and 1/2 lemon, sliced, in large saucepot for 30 minutes. Strain. Serve warm or chilled.
- Roast fall vegetables with spiced maple syrup. Mix ground cloves with maple syrup. Drizzle over acorn or butternut squash, halved and seeded, or toss with cubed sweet potatoes. Roast in oven until tender.
- For a fresh fruit pick-me-up, try a light sprinkling of ground ginger on peaches, pears, cantaloupe, pineapple or honeydew melon.
- Add a hint of spice to frozen yogurt. Stir ground ginger into a softened pint of frozen vanilla yogurt. Refreeze before serving or have your food source do this for you.
- Quench your thirst with Ginger Lemonade. Add ground Ginger to freshly squeezed lemonade.
- For a twist on the typical grilled cheese, prepare sandwich with sliced mozzarella cheese, sliced tomato and Oregano Leaves.
- Sprinkle sautéed cherry or grape tomatoes with Oregano Leaves, Garlic Powder, salt and pepper to taste.
- Perk up frozen pizza by sprinkling Oregano Leaves over pizza right from the oven.