Spice Rack - Know Your Spices


Anise or aniseed is a small plant related to fennel and celery. It is grown for its seeds, which have a similar taste to liquorice. It is a different plant to star anise.

Basil is a herb that is often used in Italian or Thai food. Sweet basil is used in Italian food and Thai basil is used in Asian food. Basil has a sweet, strong smell. 
Basil likes to grow in hot, dry conditions and does not tolerate frost at all. Basil stops producing the oil that gives it its flavour once it starts to flower, so you should pick off the flowers as they develop.

Bay leaves are dried leaves from the bay laurel tree. Bay leaves are used to flavour soups and stews. The flavour of the leaves gets stronger when they are dried. 
 Bay trees like a frost-free area.

Cardamom refers to a group of related spices in the same family as ginger. Most commercial growing of cardamom is done in India, and cardamom is a common ingredient in Indian food. Cardamom has a strong flavor, and you don't need to add much to your food.

Chili Pepper, also spelt chilli, is a small fruit that ranges in colour from green to yellow to red, the most common. The chili is very hot, and when you eat one it feels like your mouth is burning. Chilis are in the same family as the capsicum (bell pepper).

Chives are a member of the onion family. Chives grow in clumps from a bulb under the ground. You can use the leaves cut up on salads or on potato or pasta dishes. You can use the flowers in salads too. There are different varieties of chives, one of the most useful being garlic chives, which have leaves and flowers with a strong garlic flavour.

Cinnamon is made from the bark of a small tree native to Sri Lanka. The smell and taste comes from oil that the plant makes. Cinnamon is usually sold as a powder in shops and is simply the bark of the tree ground into powder.

Cloves are the dried flower of a large evergreen tree native to Indonesia and India. They are used whole or ground up in baking, for making cakes, puddings and a lot of Mexican and Indian food. Cloves are very strong, and you don't need much of them to flavour food. 

Coriander also called Chinese Parsley, is a soft, fast-growing annual herb. Coriander leaves are used fresh in a lot of Asian - particularly Thai, Middle Eastern and African cooking. It is also used in some South American dishes. Both the fresh leaves and the dried seed, powdered or whole, are used in cooking. Ground coriander seed is one of the main ingredients in curry powders and mixed spice.

Cress is a herb with a very sharp, peppery taste that is very easy to grow. It is related to mustard.

Cumin is a plant native to the Mediterranean and India, and is related to parsley. It is grown for its seeds, which are ground into a powder. Cumin is one of the main ingredients of a curry.

Dill is a feathery herb and can be used in lots of different types of cooking but goes best with fish and potatoes. The fresh leaves are usually used, cut up finely and sprinkled over food.

Fennel is a plant related to dill and anise. It has a flavour similar to anise but not as strong. The leaves and seeds can be used in cooking as a garnish or flavour, and the bulb at the base of the plant can be cooked as a vegetable.

Garlic is a member of the onion family. Garlic is used as a seasoning in many different varieties of food. Garlic is very strong.

Ginger is a root, which is used in cooking. It is used in stir-fries, curries and has a strong, sharp taste.

Mint is a family of small plants with a strong taste and smell. Fresh mint can be added to drinks, salads or as a garnish on many meals. The leaves of the mint are used for their flavour, either fresh or dried. The flavour is carried in oil in the leaves, and the very strongly flavoured oil can be extracted and stored for later use.

Mustard Plant there are several different kinds of mustard plant. They are in the same family as canola, turnips and cabbages. Mustard is grown mainly for its seeds, although the leaves can be eaten too. Mustard seeds are ground up and mixed with vinegar and some times other spices to make the mustard you can buy in shops. Depending on the type of mustard used, mustard paste can be very sharp or very mild. Sometimes mustard, called wholegrain mustard is made from the whole seeds of the mustard plant and a little oil instead of crushing the seeds to a paste.

Nutmeg comes from an evergreen tropical tree native to Indonesia. Nutmeg comes from the nut at the center of the fruit, while mace is made from the red coating that is found around the outside of the seed. 
 Nutmeg has a strong, warm taste and is used as a spice by many different cultures, in both sweet and savory dishes.

Oragano is a herb often used in Greek, Spanish and Italian cooking. It comes from the Mediterranean region.

Paprika is a spice, usually found as a powder, made from dried and ground up bell peppers (capsicums). Paprika is often smoked to add to the flavour. 
 Paprika is used to flavour or colour many dishes, and is often sprinkled on meat before it is fried.

Parsley is a herb, which means it is not eaten as a food on its own, but it is added to other dishes for flavour. Parsley is used mostly as a garnish, cut up and sprinkled onto food to make it look nicer.

Pepper is usually sold in white and black. White pepper is made from just the seeds of the pepper fruit, and black pepper is made from the whole fruit, seed and all.

Peppercorns are the fruit and seeds of a vine native to India. The fruit is very small and only has one seed, and a thin layer of flesh around the outside. Peppercorns are dried and sold as pepper, either whole or ground up into small flakes or a powder.

Rosemary is a woody evergreen herb, which has very strong smelling narrow leaves and purple flowers. 
Rosemary goes very well with lamb dishes, but can be used to flavor a variety of other foods too.

Saffron is a spice made from the dried stigma of the saffron crocus. Saffron gives a strong golden yellow color to food.

Sage is a shrub originally from the Mediterranean region. It has pale greyish furry leaves, and grows all year around. It is used to flavour fatty meat dishes, and as an ingredient in sausages in some countries. It is very commonly used with onions as stuffing for chicken or pork.

Salt is a mineral that is essential to all animal life, but is toxic to most land plants. It can be used as a preservative as well as adding flavor to dishes.

Sesame Seeds are the seeds of a plant from Africa and India. The seeds can be pressed to extract the oil but are used most often sprinkled on other foods as a flavour and garnish.

Soy Sauce also called soya sauce, is a sauce made from fermented soybeans, water and salt. Soy sauce has a distinctive savory flavor, and is an ingredient in many Asian dishes.

Star Anise is the fruit of a small evergreen tree from China. It has a very similar taste to anise and both are used to give food a liquorice flavor.

Tarragon, or dragon's wort, is a soft, green plant used mainly in French cooking. Tarragon has an interesting flavour that is a little like anise.

Thyme is a small, woody plant with lots of tiny leaves. It grows all year around, and gets tiny pink flowers in the spring. It has a very strong smell, and is used to flavour meat, soups and stews. Some varieties of thyme are lemon scented and can be used in dishes that need a hint of lemon.

Turmeric is a spice made from the root of a plant related to ginger. It is usually sold dried and powdered. It has a slightly peppery flavor, but is mainly used for its bright yellow color.

Vanilla Beans are the seedpods of a kind of orchid. Vanilla has a strong, aromatic smell and is used in many different sweets, particularly ice cream.

Vinegar is made from wine, in a process that turns the alcohol in the wine into acetic acid. Vinegar has a different flavour depending on what kind of wine was used to make it. Balsamic vinegar is very dark, rice wine vinegar is very light and apple cider vinegar is yellow. 
 Vinegar is used to make sauces like ketchup, to preserve fruits and vegetables by pickling, and to dress salads.

Zest is the outside, coloured layer of citrus fruit like lemons and oranges. It is used to add flavour to many different kinds of food.