Herbs and spices have played a significant role in our lives throughout history. While many were celebrated for their medicinal properties sat first, the culinary applications also gained appreciation. Many of these provide health benefits when eaten too. In earlier times, some spices were hard to obtain outside their manufacturing region, like pepper, a spice over which battles have been fought. Today, the development of technology has made mass manufacturing and global transportation much more straightforward, making everything available everywhere, like turmeric in Australia. Now there is easy access to most exotic herbs and spices globally.
Even though herbs and spices are often discussed together due to their similar functions, these are two different items. Herbs are plant-based, and spices are dried seeds, bark, or roots.
Spices and herbs are essential in cooking. It gives the food great flavours, colours and fragrances. The variety of food made by mixing and matching such flavours is incredible. For the easy understanding and use of these spices, they are classified into three – dry herbs and spices, fresh herbs and spices, and spice blends and mixes.
Dry herbs and spices – These are used mainly in recipes that need more time to cook. It gives the spices time to rehydrate. Only after this can they release their flavour and essential oils. Herbs like oregano, rosemary and sage are examples where this happens and should be added at the start of the cook. In some cases, like with basil and dill, the oils evaporate quickly and shouldn’t be added initially. Adding them at the end gives the required flavour. When substituting fresh herbs with dry, always use half of what is said in the recipe. It is hard to salvage the dish after one has overdone it.
Fresh herbs and spices – It is always pleasurable to add some fresh herbs to your dish giving it a refined flavour and fragrance. But it is not that easy to bring out the flavours of these ingredients. There are delicate varieties of fresh herbs and spices that have to be added only at the end of the cooking process to utilise them. There are also more sturdy ones that can be added 20 to 30 minutes before finishing. While they can be easily bought from the supermarket, fresh herbs can also be grown.
Spice blends and mixes – From the five-spice powder to curry powder, spice blends are an exciting way of giving flavour to any food. They are essential to many cuisines worldwide. They can be used to provide more authenticity to one’s international cooking.
The choice of spices and herbs can make or break a dish. They are irreplaceable in the culinary world. While they are mainly used for these purposes, many of them also have significant health benefits. These benefits can also be used to combat serious illnesses region-wise, like using turmeric in Australia for its effects against Alzheimer’s. These benefits can also be the reason to add some spices to one’s diet. They are very able in fighting inflammation. They can also be used for cleansing purposes. All this is possible due to the phytochemicals that are present in them. As they provide great flavour, it becomes much easier to reduce the use of less healthy ingredients.
Spices and herbs can do a lot in one’s culinary adventures and help prevent serious ailments. With availability no longer being an issue, the proper use of these ingredients should be practised and encouraged.