Anyone who has even helped out cooking or just loves to eat, knows one key thing: herbs and spices are so important. They can drastically change the flavour of a dish and give it more depth and taste. Any dish can be transformed with just a bit of coriander or cloves.
They are all around us and in everything that we eat, but do you know the difference between the two? Many people unknowingly use the terms interchangeably. However there is a difference and it is a very easy one to remember!
Herbs, however you want to pronounce it, are the leafy parts of a plant, they can either be sweet or savoury. They are used for providing flavour or aroma to the dish, like thyme, coriander and curry leaves. They are usually fresh and in some cases dry.
Spices are seasoning obtained from plants, such as the seed, bark, dried buds, stigma, roots and resins. They contribute flavour and colour to the food and they are also used to treat ailments. Like fennel, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, and turmeric to name a few.
Spices tend to be stronger, in terms of flavour and aroma, than herbs as they are richer in essential oils. That is why just a bit of spice goes a long way, as they are packed with flavour.
It can get tricky sometimes. Cumin and cardamom comes from a plant that is botanically a herb. However they are still considered as a spice.
Saffron is the stigma of a purple crocus flower, one of the most expensive spices in the world. But not all flowers get the spice treatment. Orange flowers are usually found in the herb section.
Another case in point is bay leaf. It is used in pickling, marinating, to flavour stews and stuffings. They have a very fragrant aroma and a slight bitter taste. Many argue whether this belongs to the spice or herb section. And there is no solid conclusion. Some say it belongs to the herb section as it is a leaf, others say that it belongs to the spice section as it contains a lot of essential oils that are not regular for herbs. Call it what you may. This debate seems to have no end.
Now that you know the difference, you will seem so much more knowledgeable when you have a chat about food the next time. Happy cooking!