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This berry of the allspice tree is a spice unto itself, not a mixture of spices, as the name might suggest. The flavor resembles a combination of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Whole Allspice: Add one or two to a cup of hot tea. Stir into slow-cooking meat and poultry stews and seafood dishes. Crush and add to marinades.

Ground Allspice: Add to spice cakes. Stir into creamed spinach. Add a pinch to cherry pie filling. Use to flavor tomato sauce. Add to mulled cider or red wine.


Also called aniseed. If you like licorice, you'll like anise.

Bring out flavor in fish soups. Sprinkle on seafood cocktail sauce. Stir into cottage or cream cheese. Add to sugar and shortbread. Add to carrot, cauliflower and beet dishes. Toss with coconut, raisins, and dried pineapple for a snack. For a soothing nightcap, stir into warm, sweetened milk.

Anise Seed is a gray-brown oval seed from Pimpinella anisum, a plant in the parsley family. It is related to caraway, dill, cumin, and fennel.

Grown in Spain and Mexico.

Europeans use Anise in cakes, cookies, and sweet breads. In the Middle East and India, it is used in soups and stews. Its licoricelike flavor is popular in candies and Anise oil is used in liqueurs.

Taste and Aroma: Anise Seeds smell and taste like licorice.

Anise is native to the Middle East and has been used as a medicine and as a flavor for medicine since prehistoric times. Ancient Romans hung Anise plants near their pillows to prevent bad dreams. They also used Anise to aid digestion and ward off epileptic attacks. Colonists in the New World used it as a medicinal crop too.

Give fish and shellfish a wonderful Mediterranean flavor by adding Anise Seed to seafood stews. Make a quick sauce for grilled fish by combining melted butter, toasted Anise Seed, lemon juice, and minced green onion. To add special flavor and texture to baked goods, brush rolls or sugar cookies with beaten egg white and sprinkle with Anise Seed before baking. Anise Seeds naturally have short, hairlike "webs." Most of the webs are removed in processing, but since they carry flavor it is not necessary for all webbing to be eliminated.


Arrowroot is a white powder extracted from the root of a West Indian plant, Marantha arundinacea. It looks and feels like cornstarch.

Arrowroot is grown in Brazil and Thailand.

Arrowroot is used as a thickening agent for sauces, fruit pie fillings and glazes, and puddings.

Taste and Aroma: Arrowroot has no flavor.

Arrowroot is indigenous to the West Indies, where native people, the Arawaks, used the powder. The Arawaks used the substance to draw out toxins from people wounded by poison arrows. Its name is thought to be derived from that practice.

Arrowroot mixtures thicken at a lower temperature than mixtures made with flour or cornstarch. Mix Arrowroot with cool liquids before adding hot liquids, then cook until mixture thickens. Remove immediately to prevent mixture from thinning. Two teaspoons of Arrowroot can be substituted for 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. One teaspoon of Arrowroot can be substituted for 1 tablespoon of flour. Arrowroot makes clear, shimmering fruit gels and prevents ice crystals from forming in homemade ice cream.


There are more than 40 different varieties. Very aromatic when raw; sweet and mild when cooked. Used extensively in French, Southeast Asian, Italian and Greek dishes.

Pull leaves from stems and wash well. Use leaves whole, cut in shreds or chopped. Snip into salads and stir-fries. Stir into softened butter, spread on toasted Italian bread, and top with chopped tomato and basil leaves. Top grilled or broiled swordfish or tuna with shredded basil and lemon or lime wedges. Toss with sauteed zucchini or summer squash. Add to meat loaf or meatball mixture.


Bay Leaves come from the sweet bay or laurel tree, known botanically as Laurus nobilis. The elliptical leaves of both trees are green, glossy, and grow up to 3 inches long.

Bay Leaves are grown in the Mediterranean region.

Bay Leaves, a staple in American kitchens, are used in soups, stews, meat and vegetable dishes. The leaves also flavor classic French dishes such as bouillabaisse and bouillon.

Taste and Aroma: Bay Leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter taste.

Ancient Greeks and Romans crowned victors with wreaths of laurel. The term "baccalaureate," means laurel berry, and refers to the ancient practice of honoring scholars and poets with garlands from the bay laurel tree. Romans felt the leaves protected them against thunder and the plague. Later, Italians and the English thought Bay Leaves brought good luck and warded off evil.

The Bay Leaf is useful in hearty, homestyle cooking. When you are making bean, split pea and vegetable soups, meat stews, spaghetti sauce, and chili, a Bay leaf can be added for a more pungent flavor. Alternate whole Bay Leaves with meat, seafood, or vegetables on skewers before cooking. Be sure to remove Bay Leaves before eating a dish that has finished cooking. The whole leaves are used to impart flavor only and are bitter and hard to chew.


Known botanically as Capparis spinosa of the Family: Capparidaceae.

Capers are the pickled, unopened flower buds of the caper plant. Caper plants are small shrubs, about 3 feet tall, native to the Mediterranean area. Buds are picked by hand every day - the smaller the bud, the higher the quality.

Caper Butter Sauce

4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup capers
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt the butter in a small pan, then add the other ingredients.

5 minutes preparation. Makes enough for 4-6 people.

This sauce is great over several types of vegetables, although it is very high in both fat and calories.


Distinctive-tasting seeds frequently used whole in central European savory and sweet dishes.

Aroma & Taste: Hint of anise; warm; sharp.

Culinary Uses: Cheeses, sausages, cabbage dishes, soups, Irish soda bread.


Expensive, but a little goes a long way.

Cardamom is the ground seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family known as Elettaria cardamomum. The seeds are found in oval-shaped fruit pods that are between 1/4 and 1 inch long.

Cardamom comes from India, Guatemala, and Ceylon.

Seeds (bleached white pads): Chew after a spicy or rich meal. Add to soups, stews and curries (the pod will disintegrate during cooking).

Ground: Add to spice cakes, sweet pastries and cookies. Mix with sugar and sprinkle on fruit compotes.

In India Cardamom is traditionally used in curry blends, and in Scandinavian countries it is commonly added to breads; however, most of the world's Cardamom crop is used in Arabic countries as a flavoring for coffee.

Taste and Aroma: Cardamom has an intense, pungent, sweet flavor.

As early as the 4th century BC Cardamom was used in India as a medicinal herb. Greeks and Romans imported it as a digestive aid. In Sweden it has become a more popular spice than cinnamon.

A small amount of Cardamom will add a tempting flavor to coffee cake, Danish pastry, specialty breads, and apple pie. Try Cardamom the Arabic way and add a little to your ground coffee before brewing, then sweeten and top with cream.


Botanically know as Ceratonia siliqua of the Family: Leguminosae.

Carob seeds and pods are edible. The ground seeds are used as a substitute for cocoa and as a food (also known as algarroba, St. John's bread, and locust bean gum). The pods are commonly used as cattle feed. Carob powder is also used as a food stabilizer and as a darkening agent.

The carob tree is a medium-sized warm climate tree in the legume family, sometimes growing to 50 feet in height. Although native to the Mediterranean, it is now grown in warm climates throughout the world, including Florida and southern California in the United States. The carob beans appear in foot-long reddish pods.

Carob pods and beans have been used for food for over 5000 years. Carob trees are drought tolerant, and usually handle cold weather better than citrus. They are warm-climate plants, however, so you shouldn't try to grow them in a climate that gets below freezing temperatures.

(ground red pepper)

Often added to savory dishes to give them a spicy boost.

Add to chili, barbecue sauce and salsa for some extra heat. Stir into bland egg dishes to add kick. Mix into cream-cheese spreads and guacamole. Add to cornbread batter. Stir into creamy chowders and sauces.


The flavor of celery and then some, but it doesn't wilt or need chopping.

Seeds: Add to soups, stews and pickling brine. Stir into salad dressings. Add to relishes.

Ground: Add to creamy coleslaw and potato salad. Stir into egg salad. Sprinkle on split-pea soup or fish chowder just before serving. Add to tomato juice.


This herb teams with parsley, chives and tarragon in the classic French seasoning fines herbes. Its delicate flavor of parsley and mild anise make it a staple in French dishes.

To Use: Pull leaves from stems. Wash well. Chop leaves or use whole. Add lavishly to salads. Stir into beaten eggs before scrambling or making omelets. Sprinkle on sliced tomatoes. Stir into tartar sauce or other sauces served with fish.


Chervil is a light green, lacey, fern-like leaf of Annthriscus cerefolium, a low-growing member of the parsley family.

Chervil is grown in California and New Mexico.

Chervil is one of the classic components of the popular French herb blend, fines herbes.

Taste and Aroma:

The leaves of this aromatic and sweet herb bear a slight resemblance to parsley; however, the flavor is more distinctive with a trace of anise.

Chervil is native to southern Russia. Pliney, in the first century, used Chervil as a seasoning. The Romans took it to France where it has been important for centuries. Only recently has it been cutivated and used in the United States.

Chervil brings out the flavor of other herbs. Stir it into scrambled eggs or cheese and ham omelets. Cervil is useful for adding color and flavor to creamy dressings for pasta and potato salads. Add it to butter-sauced mushrooms and serve over grilled steak or chicken breasts. Crush Chervil in your hand or with a mortar and pestle before use. CHIVES

Delicate onion flavor with a hint of garlic.

To Use: Rinse gently, if needed, just before using (they're delicate). Snip with kitchen scissors or slice. Sprinkle over hot or chilled potato soup. Stir into butter or cream cheese for a sandwich spread. Snip into tossed salads. Sprinkle on sauteed shredded zucchini. Top baked potatoes with butter or sour cream and a generous amount of chives. Stir into biscuit mix. Mix with mayonnaise and spread on fish before broiling. Add to beaten eggs for omelets.


Cilantro is the leaf of the young coriander plant, Coriandrum sativum, an herb in the parsley family, similar to anise.

Cilantro is grown in California.

Cilantro is traditionally used in Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Asian cooking.

Taste and Aroma: Cilantro's taste is a fragrant mix of parsley and citrus.

Coriander is probably one of the first herbs to be used by mankind, perhaps going back as far back as 5000 BC. It is mentioned in early Sanskrit writings dating from about 1500 BC. The Romans spread it throughout Europe, and it was one of the first spices to arrive in America.

Before it is used, Cilantro should be crushed, either by hand or with a mortar and pestle. Cilantro is a perfect addition to Mexican dishes; add Cilantro to salsas and bean dips. Mix crushed Cilantro into sour cream and use it as a topping for chili, tacos, or enchiladas. Sprinkle Cilantro over stir fried vegetables for color and Asian flavor. Add Cilantro to sesame-ginger dressing when making Chinese chicken salad.


One of the oldest known spices, it comes from the bark of a tree.

Stick: Add to fruited beef or lamb stew. Add a stick or two to pancake syrup when heating. Use as a stirrer and to season hot spiced drinks (ground cinnamon makes clear beverages cloudy).

Ground: Use in Greek and Turkish dishes. Sprinkle over hot chocolate. Mix with sugar to sprinkle on baked goods. Stir into softened chocolate or vanilla ice cream.


These dried unopened flower buds are among the strongest aromatic spices. Use with care.

Whole: Use to decorate scored ham rind. Add a few when making chili. Add to water when cooking corned beef. Add to pot when making mulled cider or wine.

Ground: Add a pinch to chocolate cake batter or frosting. Stir a little into mashed sweet potatoes. Mix with honey to top pancakes and waffles.


Available as whole seeds or ground; from India and Morocco. The fresh leaves are known as cilantro.

Aroma & Taste: Lemony, woody, slightly peppery.

Culinary Uses: Meat and vegetable dishes, pickles, salsa, and baked goods.


Cream of Tartar is a natural, pure ingredient left behind after grape juice has fermented to wine.

Cream of Tartar is obtained from wine producing regions.

Cream of Tartar is used to stabilize egg whites. It is also a major ingredient in baking powder.

Taste and Aroma: Cream of Tartar has no aroma and has an acidic flavor.

Cream of Tartar has been known since ancient times.

For craft dough, mix together 2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, and 2 tablespoons Cream of Tartar in a pan. Stir in 2 cups water, 1 tablespoon oil, and a few drops of food coloring. Cook and stir over medium heat until it forms a ball. Cool and store in a plastic bag until ready to use. Use 1/8 teaspoon per egg white to make souffles, meringues, angel food, chiffon cakes, and candy.


A major ingredient in curry and chili powders.

Seeds: Add to lime- or lemon-based meat and poultry marinades. Add some when cooking chili. Mix with cream cheese for a bread spread. Add a few to cooking water for rice and couscous.

Ground: Add to lentil soup. Stir into guacamole. Add a pinch to oil-and-vinegar salad dressing. Mix with yogurt to serve with spicy curries. Stir into bean-and-rice dishes.


Small leaves relied upon extensively in Indian cooking; release a strong fragrance when heated.

Aroma & Taste: Sweet, grassy aroma, with a citrusy note; fresh is more powerful.

Culinary Uses: Curries, vegetable dishes.


The balance of ingredients can vary, but this Indian basic commonly includes the following, dry roasted and then ground together: chiles, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, black peppercorns, fenugreek seeds, ground ginger and tumeric. Ideal for soups and stews.


Dill is a tall, feathery annual, Anethum graveolens, in the parsley family. Both Dill Seed and Weed (dried leaves) come from the same plant.

Today dill is grown in the United States and India.

Dill Seed and Weed are widely used in pickling as well as in German, Russian, and Scandinavian dishes.

Taste and Aroma: The Dill Seed flavor is clean, pungent, and reminiscent of caraway. Dill Weed has a similar but mellower and fresher flavor.

Dill is indigenous to the Mediterranean area and southern Russia. It has been used since ancient times. Babylonian and Syrian herbalists used it, and Romans thought it was an effective stimulant for gladiators. Although native to the Mediterranean region, it became a staple in northern Europe where it is still popular. In fact, the name is derived from the old Norse word "dilla" meaning "to lull" because it was used to lull babies to sleep, and as an antidote to witchcraft and sorcery. Dill Weed is currently gaining popularity in North America.

To use: Rinse just before using. Remove fronds from coarse stems. Snip or chop.

A natural with fish. Widely used in Scandinavia and the Middle East. Sprinkle generously over red cabbage or pickled beets. Toss with buttered new potatoes. Stir into potato, egg or tuna salad. Toss cooked rice with green peas, bottled oil-vinegar dressing and lots of dill. Serve warm or cold. Stir into creamy horseradish sauce. Great with poached salmon or cold steak. Add a generous handful to the dressing for seafood salad. Stir into sauteed cabbage along with cooked noodles.

Dill Seed and Dill Weed are not good substitutions for each other. The seed has a camphorous, slightly bitter flavor, and the weed has a delicate flavor. Dill Seed is good sprinkled over casseroles before baking and used in salad dressings. Dill Weed, with its delicate flavor, enhances fish, shellfish, vegatables, and dips.


Subtle anise-like flavor and aroma. Used in Italian sausages, baked goods and sweet pickles.

Seeds: Stir into yeast dough and sprinkle on baked goods before baking. Nibble a few to freshen breath.

Ground: Add to meat mixture for Italian-style meatballs. Rub on pork before roasting. Sprinkle lightly on pizza.


Native to western Asia, popular in India and the Middle East; seeds must first be dry-roasted to mellow their flavor.

Aroma & Taste: Strong, aromatic, bitter.

Culinary Uses: Curry powder, pickles, vegetables.


Garlic is the dried root of Allium sativum, a member of the lily family. Garlic grows in a bulb that consists of a number of cloves. Each clove is protected by a layer of skin, but all are held together in one larger unit by additional layers of skin.

California is the main producer of garlic.

Garlic is used in cuisines throughout the world. It is indispensible in Chinese, Italian, and Mexican foods.

Taste and Aroma: Garlic has a distinctive odor and flavor.

Garlic is native to central Asia, but its use spread across the world more than 5000 years ago, before recorded history. It was worshipped by the Egyptians and fed to workers building the Gread Pyramid at Giza, about 2600 BC. Greek athletes ate it to build their strength. Garlic came to the Western Hemisphere with some of the first European explorers, and its use spread rapidly. In the United States it was first cultivated in New Orleans by French settlers. Missionaries brought it to California, where it is grown today.

Use Minced Garlic or Garlic Chips in pasta sauces, stews, and soups. Mix with oil and vinegar and Italian spices to make salad dressing. Garlic Powder can be used in marinades, or mixed with herbs and rubbed into poultry, pork, or beef before cooking.


Versatile with a spicy-hot, piquant flavor.

Ground: Add to meat mixture for Swedish meatballs. Mix with sugar and sprinkle on cookie dough before baking. Stir into sweetened whipped cream for a cake frosting or topping. Stir into lemonade or iced tea. Stir into applesauce. Mix with sugar and sprinkle on grapefruit halves before broiling. Add to broth when making rice pilaf.


Horseradish is a hot, pungent condiment made from a plant in the mustard family. The powdered form of Horseradish is made by grinding the root and drying in a gentle heat. Horseradish vinegar is the root combined with shallots, onions, garlic, and red pepper in vinegar.

Grown in Oregon

Its most common use is as a condiment for roast beef, fish, and oysters.

Taste and Aroma: Hot and pungent

The earliest account of Horseradish comes from 13th century western Europe, where Germans and Danes used it as a condiment, stimulant, and digestive medicine. It was introduced in England in the 16th century, where it is still used to treat hoarseness and coughs. It was brought to the United States in the 19th century, and now grows wild along the East Coast.

Mix Horseradish into whipped cream or sour cream for a classic roast beef topping. Add Horseradish to dressings, mayonnaise, and other condiments for zippier salads, sandwiches, and dips. Blend Horseradish into tomato-based cocktail sauce for a seafood or barbecue sauce for grilled meats.


Juniper Berries come from the juniper shrub, an evergreen in the genus juniperus, which grows in the Northern Hemisphere.

Junipoer berries are grown in Europe and North America.

Juniper Berries are used in Northern Europe and the United States in marinades, roast pork, and sauerkraut. They enhance meat, stuffings, sausages, stews, and soups.

Taste and Aroma: Juniper Berries have a bittersweet aroma.

Juniper Berries grow wild throughout the Northern Hemisphere and are used widely in Scandinavian and French kitchens.

Crush Juniper Berries before using. Use them in marinades for game, beef, or pork.


Fibrous, fresh plant stalk now frequently available outside its native range of Southeast Asia; fresh has more flavor than dried strips or ground.

Aroma & Taste: Similar to lemon zest, pleasantly citrusy, clean, refreshing

Culinary Uses: Soups, stews, fish and meat dishes.


The nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans, is special in that it produces two separate spices, Nutmeg and Mace. Mace is the ground outer covering (aril) of the Nutmeg seed. A piece of unground Mace is called a blade.

Grown in Indonesia and Grenada.

Mace is most popular in European foods where it is used in both savory and sweet dishes. It is the dominant flavor in doughnuts.

Taste and Aroma: Mace has a flavor and aroma similar to Nutmeg, with slightly more pungency.

Mace is indigenous to the Malacca Islands. There are both male and female trees and they are planted in a ratio of about 1 male tree for every 10 female trees. The Portuguese controlled the Mace trade until they were driven out by the Dutch in 1602. At one point the price of Mace was so high and Nutmeg so low that one Dutch official, unaware that Mace and Nutmeg came from the same tree, ordered growers to burn Nutmeg trees and grow more Mace.

One teaspoon of ground Mace can be substituted for 1 tablespoon Mace blades. Mace lends a warm, fragrant, oldworld spiciness to many baked goods and sweets. You can also use it in an array of savory favorites, such as pates, creamed spinach, and mashed potatoes. It enlivens vegetables or macaroni and cheese. Sprinkle on fruits, whipped cream, or anything chocolate. Mace can also be substituted for Nutmeg.


Marjoram is the gray green leaf of Majorana hortensis, a low growing member of the mint family. It is often mistaken for Oregano, although they are not the same plant.

Similar in taste and aroma, imparting a woodsy, Mediterranean flavor to many foods. Marjoram is the sweeter and milder of the two. Traditional in Italian, Greek and Mexican dishes. Marjoram is used as a flavoring for meat dishes.

Remove stems from leaves and chop.

To use: Season chopped ripe olives with garlic, olive oil, and either herb for an olive spread. Add to vinaigrette dressing and brush on lamb chops before grilling. Marinate pork roast in a mixture of oregano, cumin, salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil. Add either herb to the olive oil and red-wine vinegar dressing for a Greek salad (iceberg lettuce, tomato, bell pepper, feta cheese, calamata olives, anchovies). Toss olive oil, either herb and minced garlic, with small potatoes before roasting. Cook lentils with a sprig of either herb. Add with Oregano and Thyme to pot roast. Sprinkle on before broiling.

Grown in the United States and France

Taste and Aroma: Marjoram has a delicate, sweet, pleasant flavor with a slightly bitter undertone.

Marjoram is indigenous to the Mediterranean area and was known to the Greeks and Romans, who looked on it as a symbol of happiness. It was said that if Marjoram grew on the grave of a dead person, he would enjoy eternal bliss.

Crush in your hand or with a mortar and pestle before using. Marjoram's mellow taste and enticing fragrance make it compatible with a wide variety of foods. It won't overpower: start with 1/2 teaspoon per 4 servings. Complements lamb dishes, as well as beef and veal. Marjoram blends well with parsley, dill, basil, or thyme. Try it in soups or stews.


Cool and refreshing. A staple in Middle Eastern cuisine.

To Use: Pull fresh leaves from stem. Chop leaves. Toss with melon chunks and sliced oranges. To make mint tea, pour boiling water over crushed stems. Let steep 1 hour. Sweeten and chill. Add to Tabbouleh Salad (see parsley). Stir into pineapple, orange or lemon sorbet. Use sprigs to garnish meat and fish platters and desserts. Crush with garlic and salt, then mix with olive oil. Use to baste grilled eggplant and squash. Toss with cubed tomatoes, feta cheese, and oil-lemon juice dressing.

Mint is also the dried leaf of a perennial herb. There are two important species, Mentha spicata L. (spearmint) and Mentha piperita L. (peppermint).

Grown in the United States

Mint is used to make a jelly served with lamb, is sprinkled in peas, or in chocolate desserts.

Taste and Aroma: Mint is strong and sweet with a tangy flavor and a cool after taste.

Spearmint and peppermint are both native to Asia. Peppermint was used by Eyptians, and spearmint is mentioned in the Bible. Spearmint grew wild in the United States after the 1600s, and peppermint was cultivated commercially before the Civil War.

Use mint in salad dressings, flavored tea, and zesty marinades. Stir into warmed apple or currant jelly for a quick meat sauce or dessert topping.


Yellow seeds are most common, but seeds grow brown and black, too.

Seeds: Dry-roast seeds in a skillet until they pop. Stir into cooked leafy greens. Add to pickling brine. Add to simmering New England Dinner (corned beef, cabbage and potatoes). Add to water when poaching fish.

Powder: To prevent clumping, mix to a paste with cold liquid before adding to other foods. Add to white or cheese sauces. Stir into mayonnaise or butter; use on sandwiches, fish and vegetables.


The Nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans, is special in that it produces two separate spices, Nutmeg and Mace. Mace is the ground outer covering (aril) of the Nutmeg seed. The two can be used interchangeably. Lighter-colored mace is often chosen for light-colored baked goods and foods. Freshly grated Nutmeg (using a Nutmeg grater or the fine holes of a metal grater) gives a more intense flavor than purchased ground nutmeg.

Stir a pinch into cream soups. Substitute for cinnamon in apple pie. Add to mashed sweet potatoes and glazed carrots or parsnips. Sprinkle into creamed spinach. Stir into softened ice cream; serve on warm gingerbread or apple pie.


The familiar and popular onion is a bulb of Allium cepa, a low growing plant. Botanists classify it in either the lily family or the amaryllis family.

Onions are grown worldwide, including the United States.

Onions are popular everywhere and are used as both a condiment and a vegetable in almost any savory food.

Taste and Aroma: Fresh onions are pungent and have a sharp bite. Cooked onions lose this heat and develop a rich sweetness.

Onions have been grown since before recorded history. They were fed to workers building pyramids and were found in the tomb of King Tut. Onions are noted in the Bible as one of the foods most longed for by the Israelites after leaving Egypt for the Promised Land. They have been enjoyed by most cultures throughout history. Christopher Columbus brought Onions with him to the Americas. Their popularity quickly spread among native American cultures.

Use Onions in almost anything except sweets! Dried Onion can be added straight to liquids, but should be rehydrated before being added to drier dishes such as casseroles and stirfries. Rehydrating them also increases potency. Onions make the perfect foundation for meats, poultry, soups, salads, and stews. Dried Onions release flavor more rapidly than freshly chopped Onions when added to a recipe.


Mediterranean Oregano is the dried leaf of Origanum vulgare, a perennial herb in the mint family. Mexican Oregano is the dried leaf of one of several plants of the Lippia genus.

Oregano is grown in California and New Mexico, as well as the Mediterranean region.

Oregano is the spice that gives pizza its characteristic flavor. It is also usually used in chili powder.

Taste and Aroma: Oregano has a pungent odor and flavor. Mexican Oregano is a bit stronger than Mediterranean Oregano.

Mediterranean Oregano was originaly grown extensively in Greece and Italy. Since Greek and Roman times it has been used with meats, fish, vegetables, and as a flavoring for wine. Before World War II, Oregano was almost unknown in the United States. However, its popularity skyrocketed with the popularity of pizza.

Oregano tastes great with tomato, egg, or cheese based foods, and is also a great addition to many lamb, pork, and beef main dishes. Try sauteeing aromatic vegetables in olive oil with garlic and Oregano. You can make a savory sauce with melted butter, lemon juice and a bit of Oregano; drizzle it over grilled fish and poultry. An easy way to accent pasta sauces, salad dressings, and ground meat dishes is with a dusting of crushed Oregano leaves. To release its flavor, crush Oregano by hand or with a mortar and pestle before using it in your recipes.


Made from dried sweet red peppers, this spice adds color and flavor. It comes hot, mild or sweet. Used as a seasoning and garnish for a plethora of savory dishes, paprika is a powder made by grinding aromatic sweet red pepper pods. The flavor of paprika can range from mild to pungent and hot, the color from bright orange-red to deep blood-red.

Ground: Sprinkle as a garnish on otherwise colorless food. Add to flour for dredging meat, chicken, or fish before frying. Add to fat before frying potatoes. Stir with grated onion into cream cheese for a sandwich spread. Rub on poultry before roasting or baking.

Most commercial paprika comes from Spain, South America, California and Hungary, with the Hungarian variety considered by many to be superior. All supermarkets carry mild paprikas, while ethnic markets must be searched out for the more pungent varieties.

As with all herbs and spices, paprika should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months.


Flat-leaf (also called Italian parsley) has a more distinctive flavor and is better for cooking. Curly is best for cold dishes.

To use: Pull leaves from coarse stems and wash well. Chop leaves.

Tie 5 or 6 stems in a bundle. Simmer in soups and stews.

Tabbouleh Salad
Toss prepared bulgur with lots of chopped parsley, along with fresh mint and diced tomatoes. Dress with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Sprinkle a mixture of minced garlic, parsley and lemon peel on beef stew before serving.


Black is most common, but add a few dried pink or green peppercorns to your mill to spice up your grind. Use milder white pepper with light foods to keep black specks from showing.

Cracked or Coarsely Ground: Press into burgers or steaks before grilling or panfrying.

Freshly Ground: Sprinkle strawberries lightly with pepper and balsamic vinegar. Add to spice-cookie dough or gingerbread. Sprinkle on melon chunks. Grind over sliced tomatoes.


Poppy Seeds are tiny nutty-tasting, blue gray seeds inside capsules on Papaver somniferum, a yellowish-brown opium plant indigenous to the Mediterranean. Poppies are native to Mediterranean regions, India, China, Turkey, and Iran. Today, Holland and Canada are the main producers of poppy seeds.

Uses: Poppy Seeds are used to flavor breads, cakes, rolls, and cookies in European and Middle Eastern cooking. In Turkey, they are often ground and used in desserts. In India, the seeds are ground and used to thicken sauces. The seeds are also used in noodle, fish, and vegetable dishes in Jewish, German, and Slavic cooking.

Taste and Aroma: Poppy Seeds have a slightly nutty aroma and taste.

Since antiquity, poppies have symbolized honor. Women in second century Crete cultivated poppy plants for opium and Hippocrates suggested opium in medicine. Islamic and Arabian countries used opium as a medicine and narcotic in the sixth century. By the 17th century, Asians used the poppy plant as an opiate. Europeans began trafficking the drug in the 19th century, culminating in the Opium Wars, in which China lost control of the industry. The Greeks used the seeds as flavoring for breads in the second century, and medieval Europeans used them as a condiment with breads.

Poppy Seeds are a classic addition to buttered egg noodles, fruit salad dressings, and fragrant yeast breads. Poppy Seeds add nutty flavor and texture to cookies, cakes, breads, strudels, pastry crusts, and pancake and waffle batters.


Assertive, with the flavor of pine.

To use: Run fingers down stems against growth to remove leaves. Crush or chop leaves.

Snip into marinades. If you have an ample supply of woody sprigs, pull off leaves and use stems as skewers for tiny potatoes (first make a hole with a real skewer) or lamb or pork chunks before grilling. Mince leaves with garlic. Insert in slits made in leg of lamb before roasting. Add to stuffing for poultry or fish. Toss new potatoes with olive oil, coarse salt and minced rosemary before roasting. Stir into cornbread or biscuit batter.


Saffron is the stigma of Crocus sativus, a flowering plant in the crocus family. Saffron, the world's most expensive spice, is costly because more than 225,000 stigmas must be hand picked to produce one pound. In its pure form, saffron is a mass of compressed, threadlike, dark orange strands.

Saffron is native to the Mediterranean. Today it is cultivated primarily in Spain.

Saffron is used in French bouillabaisse, Spanish paella, Milanese risotto, and many Middle Eastern dishes.

Taste and Aroma: Saffron has a spicy, pungent, and bitter flavor with a sharp and penetrating odor.

Ancient Greeks and Romans scattered Saffron to perfume public baths. The 13th century Crusaders brought Saffron from Asia to Europe, where it was used as a dye and condiment. In Asia, Saffron was a symbol of hospitality. In India, people used Saffron to mark themselves as members of a wealthy caste.

A little pinch goes a long way with Saffron. Use it in Italian risottos, Spanish chicken and rice, French seafood stews and Scandinavian sweet breads.


Strong, fragrant and earthy.

To use: Chop leaves, cut in shreds, or use whole.

Saute thinly sliced onions and sage until limp. Stir in strips of lightly floured beef or calves' liver and cook just until done. Stir into hot polenta along with shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese. Tuck leaves under the strings around a boned and rolled pork loin before roasting. Mix strips with drained cans of tuna, canned white or black beans, and vinaigrette dressing.


Sesame Seed is the seed of an annual herb, Sesamum indicum, which grows well in hot climates. Sesame Seed is the most commonly produced seed. The yellowish, red, or black seeds are used in bread products, stir-fries, Jewish and Chinese confectionaries, and Middle Eastern dishes.

Grown in Africa and Indonesia

Sesame Seed has been enjoyed by humans since the dawn of civilization. It is used in breads, candies, main dishes, as a garnish on pasta and vegetables, and for its oil content.

Taste and Aroma: Sesame Seeds have a nut-like, mild flavor.

Sesame Seed is probably the oldest crop grown for its taste, dating back 2000 years to China. The Egyptians used Sesame Seed as medicine around the same time. The Turks used its oil in 900 BC. The term “open sesame” first appeared in the Arabian book "The Thousand and One Nights." The phrase refers to the seeds' ability to pop, at the slightest touch, when ripe. Sesame was imported from India to Europe during the first century. Persians used sesame oil because they had no olive oil. Africans, who called it “benne,” brought it with them to the United States in the 17th century during the slave trade.

Sesame Seeds are easy to toast. Place them in a pan and stir over meduim heat for a minute or two until they brown lightly. Add Sesame Seeds to cookie doughs, pie pastry, and yeast breads. Sprinkle over creamed spinach, buttered noodles, eggplant dishes, and mixed vegetable stir-fries. Blend with butter or mayonnaise to make a nutty spread for chicken, turkey, or tuna sandwiches.


Summer Savory is an annual herb, Satureja hotenis, belonging to the mint family. Its dark-green, narrow leaves are dried and crushed.

Grown in the United States and Yugoslavia.

Summer Savory enhances almost any savory dish. It goes well with soups, stews, bean dishes of any sort, succotash, cabbage, and sauerkraut.

Taste and Aroma: Summer Savory has a clean, piney fragrance and peppery flavor.

Romans used Savory as an herb and seasoning even before they used pepper. They used it as a medicine, a bee sting treatment, and an aphrodisiac. When the Romans brought it to England, it was used as an ingredient in stuffing rather than as an herbal remedy.

Garnish heavy stews, soups, and chowders with Summer Savory. Top chilled, poached fish or chicken with a blend of Summer Savory, chives, lemon juice, and mayonnaise. Crush Summer Savory in your hand or with a mortar and pestle before use to release the flavor.


Aromatic with licorice (anise) overtones. Go easy, as it tends to overpower. Used widely in French cooking.

Pluck the long tender leaves off the stems before chopping.

To use: Stir into brown mustard for a delicious new flavor. Add to cream sauces for poultry and fish. Stuff sprigs under chicken or turkey skin before roasting. Add to eggs before scrambling or making omelets. Put a few sprigs in a bottle of white-wine vinegar. (Wait a few days for flavors to blend.) Use in vinaigrette dressing for salads. Add to mayonnaise and serve with fish. Stir into softened butter. Toss with hot green beans, peas or carrots. Use in potato, salmon or green salad, or sprinkle over cooked fish or into cold soup. Add to a simple salad of chopped tomato, onion, oil and vinegar.


Slightly pungent, with a spicy clove-like taste. Creole and Cajun cooks use Thyme by the handful.

To Use: Remove tiny leaves from woody stems by running two fingers over stems from top to bottom. Chop leaves. Add to beef, lamb or veal stews. Throw whole sprigs on hot coals when grilling meat, poultry or fish. Add to homefried potatoes while cooking. Heat in apple jelly and use as a sauce with pork. Add with peeled garlic to water when boiling potatoes. Mash with some of the cooking liquid and a bit of butter.


Vanilla Beans are the long, greenish-yellow seed pods of the tropical orchid plant, Vanilla planifolia. Before the plant flowers, the pods are picked, unripe, and cured until they're dark brown. The process takes up to six months. To obtain Pure Vanilla Extract, cured Vanilla Beans are steeped in alcohol. According to law, Pure Vanilla Extract must be 35 percent alcohol by volume.

Vanilla beans are grown in Madagascar, Mexico, Indonesia, and Tahiti.

Vanilla is one of the most popular flavorings in the world. It is used in flavoring most desserts, including ice cream, custard, cake, candy, and pudding. Vanilla is also used to enhance the flavor of beverages and sauces.

Taste and Aroma: Vanilla Beans have a sweet, perfumed aroma with a woody or smoky flavor. Pure Vanilla Extract has a similar aroma.

Vanilla originated in Mexico, where the Aztecs used it to accent the flavor of chocolate drinks. The Mexican emperor, Montezuma, introduced Vanilla to the Spanish explorer Cortez, who brought it to Europe in the 16th century. The drink, made with Vanilla pods and cacao beans, became popular among the aristocracy in Europe. In 1602, a chemist for Queen Elizabeth I suggested that Vanilla could be used alone as a flavoring.

One inch of Vanilla Bean is equal to one teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract. Vanilla Beans should never be refrigerated because they may develop mold when chilled. They should be kept in an air-tight container at room temperature. Add to desserts or beverages to boost sweet, fruity, or rich flavors. Provides smooth rich background taste - use to balance sauces for shellfish, chicken, and veal. Softens dairy flavors and reduces egginess in French toast and meringues. Add to a mug of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea for added richness.


Known botanically as Wasabia japonica of the Family: Cruciferae

Often referred to as Japanese Horseradish, Wasabi as a spice is very similar to common horseradish in many respects. Both are made from grated root bark, with hot peppery taste. Wasabi is much hotter, with an almost fiery taste and strong aroma.

Wasabi is used mainly with Japanese cuisine such as Sahimi, sushi, soba and tofu. It is often mixed with soy sauce.

To preserve fresh herbs put the chopped herbs into an ice cube tray (1 tablespoon per cube) and fill with water, then freeze. Store in a heavy plastic bag in the freezer.


Whole Spices and Herbs

Tie herbs and spices in a cheesecloth, nylon net or muslin bag, or place them in a tea ring. The bag or ring is easy to remove to stop the seasoning process. Particles that may cause difficulty in chewing or swallowing also can be removed. Add whole herbs and spices at the start of cooking in recipes that will cook for an hour or longer. Examples are soups and stews. Many herbal and spiced teas can be made using whole herbs and spices. Flavoring seeds can be toasted briefly in the oven or on top of the stove to enhance flavor. Whole herbs are usually crumbled and added near the end of cooking.

Crushed and Ground Herbs and Spices

Add about 15 minutes before the end of cooking. The flavors in crushed or ground spices are released quickly. Crushing or grinding whole spices and herbs provides more flavor than the whole form. Ground black pepper in a pepper shaker does not have the zest of freshly ground pepper. Grinding pepper from the pepper corn provides more flavor. For cold salad dressings, mix herbs and/or spices with vinegar for several hours before adding oil in order to develop the flavor.


Herb Bread

Many cultural specialties feature yeast breads and quick breads using a variety of spices and herbs.

Add the following ingredients per pound (3 to 4 cups flour) of yeast dough.
1/2 to 1 tsp. Watkins Sage
2 tsp. caraway seed
1 1/2 tsp. Watkins Nutmeg
1 1/2 Tbsp. Watkins Dill
1/8 cup instant minced onion or Watkins Minced Green Onion
1/2 tsp. Watkins Thyme
1/2 tsp. Watkins Marjoram

Herb Vinegar Dressings

Use with vegetable salads or cooked vegetables.

1/8 tsp. Watkins Granulated Black Pepper
1 tsp. Watkins Dry Mustard
1/2 tsp. Watkins Paprika
3/4 tsp. Watkins Garlic Flakes or Granules
1 Tbsp. finely chopped chives
3 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. pickle relish
2 Tbsp. lemon juic
Yield: 3/4 to 1 cup

3/4 cup tomato juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Watkins Minced Green Onion
1 Tbsp. Watkins Basil
1/4 tsp. Watkins Garlic Flakes or Granules
1/8 tsp. Watkins Cumin
1/8 tsp. Watkins Red Pepper Flakes
Yield: 3/4 to 1 cup

All the spices and herbs listed above are not available from Watkins. Only the best quality spices and herbs go into our products. If superior quality ingredients cannot be found, Watkins does not include them in our product line.

Use Watkins Quality Spices and Herbs Watkins Spices and Herbs

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The statements made and opinions expressed on this page are those of the Independent Watkins Associate who is the publisher of this document and are not the statement, opinion or view of Watkins Incorporated, and therefore are not to be construed as the statements, opinions, or views of Watkins Incorporated. Such statements and opinions have not been reviewed or approved by Watkins Incorporated.