Spices to Know Part 3

Herbs and spices are the kitchen staples used as flavorings. Most herbs are available fresh or dried. Drying alters flavors and aromas, so fresh herbs should be used if possible. Spices are almost always used in their dried form and can be purchased whole or ground. Some plants – dill – can be used as an herb(leaves) and a spice (its seeds).


Mustard seeds
Mustard seeds have a bitter, hot flavor with no aroma. They are available in black, brown, and yellow. Yellow seeds have the mildest flavor and black seeds have the strongest flavor. Mustard seeds are a standard component of pickling spices and are blended for prepared mustards.

The flavor and aroma of nutmeg are strong and sweet, and a small quantity provides a large amount of flavor. Nutmeg is used in many pastries and sweets, but is also important in meat and savory dishes. Nutmeg should be grated directly into a dish. Once grated, flavor loss is rapid.

Mace is an expensive spice. It is similar to nutmeg, but more refined. Mace is used primarily in pastry items and retains its flavor longer than any other spice.

Peppercorns vary in size, color, pungency, and flavor. This results in various climate and growing conditions.

Black and White Peppercorns
Black pepper has a warm, pungent flavor and aroma.

White pepper has less aroma than black pepper but is useful in white sauces where the appearance of black speckles is undesirable.

Green Peppercorns
Pickled green peppercorns are soft, with a fresh, sour flavor similar to capers. They are used in spiced butters and sauces or with fish.

Pink Peppercorns
Although pink peppercorns are attractive, their flavor is bitter and pinelike, with less spiciness than true pepper.

Szechuan Pepper
Also known as anise pepper and Chinese pepper, the berries are extremely hot and peppery with citrus overtones.

Poppy seeds
The tiny seeds are round and hard with a sweet, nutty flavor. They are used in breads and pastries.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. It takes about 250,000 flowers to produce one pound of saffron. There is no such thing as cheap saffron. A tiny pinch is enough to color and flavor a large quantity of foods. Saffron should have a honeylike taste and be a brilliant orange color. It is commonly used with fish and shellfish and rice dishes such as paella and risotto.

Sesame Seeds
Their taste is nutty and earthy, with a heavy aroma when roasted or ground into a paste. Sesame seeds are used for breads and meat dishes.

Although naturally sweet, tamarind contains %12 tartaric acid, making it very tart. It is used in jams, barbeque sauces, marinades, and is the key ingredient in Worcestershire sauce.

Turmeric is only available in dried and usually ground. It has a bright yellow color and strong flavor.

Wasabi is a bit hotter than horseradish. It has a strong aroma and a sharp flavor with herbal overtones. It is commonly served with sushi and can be used to spice up mashed potatoes or a compound butter.

Read Spices to Know Part 1
Read Spices to Know Part 2