Cooking With Herbs and Spices

Posted by Merlin on Aug 21, 2008

Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, and in some cases spiritual use.  General useage is different with culinary, medicinal and spiritual herbs.  In medicinal and spiritual use, any part of the plant may be considered “herbs”, including the leaves, roots, flowers, resin, seeds, berries or other parts.  In cooking, “herbs” are from the leafy green parts of a plant, and “spices” are from other parts of the plant.

Herbs and spices are used in cooking to complement or change the flavor or aroma of a dish.  Every herb and spice has a unique character, but are many times complementary when used together on a particular meal.  Knowing the combination of herbs and spices for a particular dish is part science and part creative trial and error.

One of the most obvious principles of cooking is that you can’t make filet mignon from rump roast, and that principle applies to herbs and spices as well.  If you season good meat with fresh, high quality herbs and spices, you will end with a gourmet dish.  Use old, low quality herbs and spices on that same meat, and you likely will be disappointed with the result.   

Herbs and spices begin to lose their active ingredients as soon as they are crushed or otherwise prepared for the meal.  That means that the flavor, aroma, and medicinal effects begin to drop long before you get them to your kitchen in a jar.