Herbs vs. spices

I always thought herbs and spices were the same and the two words could be used interchangeably.

It was brought to my attention after my previous post that herbs and spices are different.

Both are obtained from plants and are used to add flavor and aroma to foods.

Herbs are obtained from the leaves of herbaceous plants and spices are obtained from roots, flowers, fruits, seeds or bark.

The herb wheel I wrote about earlier does not differentiate between herbs and spices and refers to both as an herb.

Just in case you are wondering, salt is not a spice or an herb. It is a mineral.

Clueless about spices

A big challenge I need to face this year is my lack of knowledge about spices.

I honestly don’t know the difference between parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I have started tasting the spices I am using when I am cooking, but I have a long way to go.

WheelDiagram1_largeTo compensate for my ignorance, my wife was kind enough to buy me an herb wheel.

It is a pretty simple device. You pick a dish that you want to prepare such as shrimp. The wheel lists several spices that work well with the selection you are about to prepare. In this example, cayenne, garlic, parsely, oregano and cilantro are suggested.

The wheel does not give advice on the amount of spice to use or the best way to apply the spices. This would be helpful for me, but the list is a great start.

WheelDiagram2_largeMy only complaint with the wheel is it is constructed out of flimsy cardboard, so don’t expect to have it forever. The wheel does have a coating on it to make it easier to wipe off any spills.

For $10, it is a good learning device or gift for experienced and inexperienced chefs wanting to spice up their cooking skills.

After I have used the wheel for a few weeks, I will let you know if I change my opinion.

Here is a review of the herb wheel on Youtube.