herbs and spices

Herbs and Spices

A-Z List of Herbs and Spices and Culinary Uses.

Herbs and spices have been traded for thousands of years, beginning with the Arabs in 3000 BC, the Romans who dominated trade from 200 BC to 1200 AD, and later, the Europeans who fought wars for control of the trade in herbs and spices. Imagine how bland food would be without the huge range of herbs and spices available today –  use this list to spice up your cuisine today.

ADDucation Tips: Click column headings with arrows to sort herbs and spices. Click the + icon to show any hidden columns. Set your browser to full screen to show as many columns as possible. Start typing in the Filter table box to find anything inside the table of all herbs and spices.

Herbs and SpicesOriginCharacteristicsCulinary Uses
AllspiceCentral America, West Indies and Jamaica.The evergreen, thin allspice tree grows to a height of 6-12 m and up to 100 years old. The first fruits appear in the seventh year.Dried and ground fruit grains used as a marinade for venison, beef and fish.
AngelicaEuropean temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere to Asia.Thick, hollow stems growing up to 2 m tall on damp meadows. Green – white flowers in summer.In salads, sauces, soups. Also acts as a digestive tea.
AniseA popular spice from the Mediterranean for over 3000 years.Shrub growing up to 70 cm, 3 different leaf shapes, white flowers midsummer.In soups, sauces, salads, spirits and cookies.
ArnicaFrom European mountains, but also moorland and heaths.Up to 60 cm, thin, upright stems with scented resin, yellow flowers in full sun.Although poisonous, used in ointments and cosmetics against infections.
Arugula (rocket)Around the Mediterranean.Fast-growing plant, up to 50 cm tall with mustard-oily leaves, white flowers in summer.Young, tender leaves used for vitamin-rich salads or on pizza, sauces and cheese.
BalmFrom the Orient to the Mediterranean. Known as the basis for melissa spirits.Densely branched, square stems which grow bushy. Leaves smell strongly of lemon.The lemon flavor enhances fish, salads and soups. Tea is invigorating.
BasilHerbs and Spices are originally from India. The Romans brought the plant to Italy.Large, deep green, oval leaves, white flowers in late summer, rarely grows higher than 50 cm.Pesto and caprese flavoring, on tomatoes and pizza, in salads, vegetables and dips.
BorageOriginally from Arabia, came via Spain to Northern Europe.Bushy plant with bristly stems, growing up to 80 cm, blue, star-shaped flowers.Chopped leaves in cottage cheese and soups.
CapersAll around the Mediterranean, mostly from Marseille, Nice and Sicily.Thorny shrub up to 1 m tall, round, smooth leaves with white-pink flowers; often grows wild.Flower buds in sauces and salads, In Italy with veal (vitello tonnato).
CarawayComing from Europe across the Mediterranean to Asia.Biennial plant. In the first year pinnate leaves, then later up to 1 m tall stems and white flowers.The flower seeds are used in bread, brandy, roasts, goulash and cabbage.
CardamomOriginally from India, Ceylon, Malaysia. Today Vietnam, Tanzania and Madagascar among others.Ginger-like shrub, 2-3 m tall, lance-shaped leaves and yellow flowers from which mature small green capsules emerge.The green seeds from the capsules are a typical spice in Asian and Arabic cuisine: masala, chai, gingerbread, mulled wine and spiced biscuits.
Cayenne pepperSouth and Central America, grows from the fruits of birdseye chilies.Pointed, yellow to red fruits. Berries are dried and finely ground.20 times hotter than paprika, used in Asian dishes, stews, soups.
CeleryCoastal regions of Europe, mainly from the Mediterranean.Celery grows thin, branched taproots with strong stems and green, pinnate leaves.For soup flavoring. Sticks used for dipping, the leaves in salads, the tubers as a side dish.
ChamomileOriginally called feverfew, comes from South East Europe and North Asia.Low, bushy herb with white flowers around a yellow head, very fragrant, up to 50 cm tall.In the past for gynecological disorders, antibacterial in tea for stomach and intestinal problems.
ChervilFrom the Caucasus to Asia.Up to 70 cm tall. Bushy, curly leaves resembling carrot greens (related to parsley).As a herb in soup, with chicken and seafood or as garnish on vegetables. Aids digestion as a tea.
ChiliOriginally from South and Central America. Today it grows almost anywhere.The round, tapering chilies are either green (unripe), yellow or red.In Asian cuisine, but also in Latin American dishes.
ChivesCentral Europe, but also the Rocky Mountains and Himalayas.Perennial bulb plant with up to 30 cm long tubular leaves. High levels of vitamin C.Chives season salads, cottage cheese, eggs, sauces, sandwiches and fish dishes.
CinnamonSri Lanka (Ceylon), and Central America, Indonesia, Madagascar.The cinnamon tree grows up to 20 m tall and has shoots up to 2 m long from which the bark is peeled off.Ground cinnamon bark (sticks) used with desserts, pastries, tea and mulled wine.
ClovesIndonesian Moluccas so-called Spice Islands and Madagascar.The evergreen clove tree grows up to 15 m tall, laurel-like leaves with reddish flower buds.The dried, sharp buds flavor meat, game, poultry and red cabbage.
CressOriginally from the Near East, also in the EU. Burial gift of the Pharaohs.This “savory” grows up to 50 cm and has small, oval-shaped, pinnate leaves with white-reddish flowers.Cottage cheese, salad, soups, sauces.
CuminFrom India, Iran, Indonesia, China and the southern Mediterranean.The powder is ground from the brown, dried fruits (similar to caraway) of this Asian goutweed plant.Classic spice of Indian, Turkish, South American and African cuisine. Often in chili con carne and falafel.
DandelionNative wild meadow plant in the Northern Hemisphere.Up to 40 cm tall, smooth stems with non-poisonous milky juice, from spring yellow, serrated petals.Green leaves used in salads, with potatoes and eggs. Also cooked as a vegetable
DillFrom Asia. The Egyptians and Romans brought the herb to Europe.Similar to fennel, up to 1 m tall, hollow stems with pinnate leaves, yellowish flowers.The fresh leaves spice up fish, vegetables and salads. Also added to pickled cucumbers.
ElecampaneFrom Asia, the plant crossed the Mediterranean to Europe.Perennial up to 2 meters tall, up to 50 cm wide, oval leaves, loves sun and humidity.The roots are rich in essential oils, used in desserts and tea.
FennelFrom the Mediterranean to India, China, the Balkans, England and USA.Up to 1.50 m tall with blue-green leaves. Seeds up to 12 mm long, yellow flowers in summer.Seeds used for tea and bread, vegetables and fish.
GentianMountain pastures in south and central European mountain ranges.Up to 1.40 m high, strong stems, blue or yellow flowers in summer, prefers stony ground.Aids digestion in tea and herbal drinks as well as digestive spirits.
GingerSouth and Central Asian tropics, India, China, Japan, South America.Reed-like plant up to 1 m tall, long, narrow leaves with yellow-red flowers.Grated roots in Asian food, poultry, lamb, fish and stews.
HorseradishFrom Southern Europe to Asia. In Europe for 800 years.Vigorous plant with wide, 1 m long leaves. In summer up to 1.5 m long white flowering stem.Grated roots a perfect condiment for beef, eggs and salmon.
JuniperCentral Asia and all of Europe, mostly Mediterranean regions.Evergreen coniferous plant, from 20 cm to 12 m tall (depending on location). Blue-black berries.Classic condiment with game, deer and lamb. Also good with beef, pork and cabbage. Basis for gin making.
LavenderFrom all the Mediterranean countries. Used for centuries to alleviate headaches.Up to 60 cm tall shrub with narrow, aromatic leaves. In summer purple flowers.One of the “Herbes de Provence”, suitable for fish, meat and stews.
LemongrassFrom India via Africa to Central America.The 1.8 m tall grass with green stalks at the top, and white stalks in the bottom third, contains essential oils.A must in Asian cuisine. Goes well with fish, and chutneys.
MaceMace is produced from Nutmeg trees grown in Indonesia (75%), Grenada (20%), India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Caribbean islands.Mace is made from the edible crimson colored aril which surrounds the edible seed of the nutmeg tree (see Nutmeg below).Mace is a delicate spice used to flavor meat, fish, baked goods, vegetables and used in jam, preserves and pickling.
MarjoramFrom Arabia, this aphrodisiac found its way to the Mediterranean.Thin, reddish stems with aromatic, ovate, gray hairy leaves and white-purple flowers.Typical pizza seasoning, also tasty with potatoes, meat and soups.
MugwortOriginally from Asia, but has been in Europe and North America for a long time.Hairy, blue red stems with dark green leaves that have a dense cottony down on the underside.The bitter, astringent taste goes well with goose, duck, pork and lamb.
MustardFrom the East Indies via the Middle East to the Mediterranean.1.2 m tall plant with horizontally projecting pods containing grains. Yellow blossoms in summer.The seeds spice up savory food such as sausages, meat and eggs.
MyrtleAround the Mediterranean, Asia and North Africa, symbol of love.Evergreen shrub up to 5 m tall. Narrow, oily leaves with white flowers and black berries.Whole or ground leaves used with grilled meats and roasts, the berries in sauces.
NasturtiumOriginally from the Andean countries of Peru, Colombia, Bolivia and Ecuador.Climbing plant growing up to 3 m. Round, bright-green leaves with pretty orange-red flowers.Mustard-like leaves season cottage cheese, cream cheese and sauces.
NutmegNutmeg seeds are produced from nutmeg trees grown in Indonesia (75%), Grenada (20%), India, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Caribbean islands.Nutmeg trees, Myristica fragrans (Myristicaceae) can grow up to 20 m (66 ft) tall and live for up to 100 years. The edible fruit opens to release the edible nutmeg seed, surrounded by the edible crimson colored aril which is dried to make the spice Mace (see above).Grated nutmeg is used to flavor potato dishes, rice pudding, pumpkin pie, spicy soups and stews and processed meat dishes. On vegetables to flavor Brussels sprouts, spinach, cauliflower, string beans and cabbage. In mulled drinks including egg-nog. Nutmeg is used to make butter and essential oils.
ParsleyFrom southern Europe through the Alps to northern Europe.Bushy rosettes of yellowish green flowers. The roots and leaves have a high vitamin C content.The leaves add flavor to soups, sauces, eggs, potatoes and salads. One of the most popular herbs and spices.
PepperFrom America to Europe (Spain, the Balkans, Hungary) by Columbus.The pepper plant has strong green leaves and ca. 10 cm long, red peppers. Up to 60 cm tall.The dried and ground seeds are used to flavor and spice up many foods.
Pepper, green (mature)Monsoon forests of India, Indonesia and Malaysia.Evergreen climbing plant growing up to 9 m tall. After 8 years of maturity, it grows berries for 20 years.The green (fresh), black (dried), pickled (green) or ground (black) berries are used for seasoning and sharpening.
Pepper, red / pinkGrows in Brazil and throughout South America.The pepper tree bears not quite ripe, pink berries which are less sharp and have a sweetish taste.Milder than green pepper. Perfect for seasoning and sharpening.
(Pepper) mintThe cross between water-mint and spearmint is native to Europe.Angular stems up to 80 cm tall with serrated leaves (like stinging nettles).Relieves cramps, seasons teas, salads, vegetables and meat.
PoppyTurkey, Greece and India, also partly from Holland.Thin, wiry stems growing up to 1 m, blue-green leaves bearing purple flowers with capsules.Seeds from capsules used with bread, cookies and cakes.
RosemaryFrom the Mediterranean region, grows wild in coastal areas.Shrub with needle-like, hairy leaves smelling of essential oils. White-pink flowers.The needles season meat, poultry and fish. Also used on potatoes and stew. One of the most popular herbs and spices
SaffronFrom the Near East, the Moors brought it to Spain and Greece.The 8 cm high perennial is a Crocus which blooms in the fall with violet flowers and red stigmas. One of the most expensive herbs and spices.Red, dried and rubbed stigmas used in Béchamel sauce, soups and rice
SagePrefers coastal regions of the Mediterranean, but also in Northern Europe.Evergreen shrub with gray-green, velvety leaves. In summer purple flowers.Leaves suitable for soups, meat and fish dishes. Caution advisable – too much of it is toxic. One of the most popular herbs and spices.
SaltFrom the sea (contains 3% salt), from the earth, and from the Himalayas.White salt has been chemically cleaned, natural salt has a grayish tinge. In the past used as a means of payment.The “white gold” is used in almost all dishes.
SavoryEastern Mediterranean region. Today in Central Europe, West Asia and India.Bushy herbal plant that grows up to 50 cm tall, long, narrow leaves, flowers pink to purple.Reduces bloating and therefore suitable for legumes, meat and fish.
TamarindFrom Ethiopia to India and then to the Mediterranean and Central America.Up to 25 m tall, evergreen tree with pinnate leaves and up to 20 cm long, brown pods.Used much like lemon juice or vinegar for fish, meat, vegetables and rice.
TarragonFrom Russia to the Mediterranean.Slender stems with narrow, elongated leaves, rarely blooms in northern climes.Enhances poultry and fish, salads, soups, sauces, pickles, vinegar and oil.
ThymeOriginally from the Mediterranean. Found today in all mid-latitudes.Evergreen shrub with downy stems, many small leaves and pink to purple flowers.Goes well with meat, cabbage, soups, sauces and salads. One of the most popular herbs and spices.
TurmericSouthern Asia, India, Indonesia and now also South America.Up to 3 m tall plant with tuberous root, big, broad, lance-shaped leaves with yellow flowers.The ground root powder tastes good with rice, noodles, soups and fish.
ValerianGrows worldwide, known since the Middle Ages as catnip.Up to 2 m tall perennial with bright green pinnate blades, white and pink flowers.Has a calming and relaxing effect, helps against stress and insomnia.
VanillaSouthern Mexico, Guatemala, and the rest of Central America, Madagascar.Climbing orchid with greenish flowers, hanging pods containing thousands of tiny black seeds and thick, fleshy stems.Added to chocolate, coffee, desserts, pastries, creams, compotes and cakes.
Wild garlicGrows wild in damp areas throughout Europe and northern Asia.Up to 50 cm high, the smooth leaves are reminiscent of lily of the valley, smells strongly of garlic.Finely chopped in butter, cottage cheese and yogurt. Also in salads and soups.
WoodruffEuropean forests, but also from Iran to Siberia.Perennial with 30 cm long stems, star-shaped whorls, lancet-leaves and white flowers.Used as a tea. In Germany, combined with Rhine wine to make “Maibowle” which is drunk on May 1st.
YarrowFrom Central Europe to Central Asia, North America and New Zealand.Bushy perennial, 30-80 cm tall. Multi-jointed, pink flowers in summer.The young, fresh leaves are used in salads, cottage cheese and vegetables.

Be Sage and Spice up Your Cooking With These Related ADDucation Lists:

4 responses to “Herbs and Spices”

  1. Avatar JC says:

    Thanks Evy 🙂

  2. Avatar Evy Virgilio says:

    It’s very interesting to see where they came from.

  3. Avatar gabriella t. says:

    It’s very very interesting reading about spices and herbs I use every day when I cook.

  4. Avatar Raffaella Cardone says:

    Interesting document!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

fourteen + 20 =