We often here the phrase herbs and spices. They seem to go together perfectly, like salt and pepper, or ketchup and mustard. But what is the difference between an herb and a spice? Are they just two words that basically mean the same thing, like lewd and lascivious, or is there a real difference that sets them apart?
Is it an Herb or a Spice? It All Boils Down to Plants and Processing…
All herbs and spices come from plants. Sometimes an herb and a spice may even come from the same plant, but herbs and spices are not the same thing. When determining whether something is an herb or a spice, it mainly depends on what part of the plant is being used. For example, one plant may have edible flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds, and some of those parts may be used as herbs, while others are turned into spices. For the most part, herbs apply to one group of plant parts, and spices apply to another. Another important difference is that spices are usually heavily processed whereas herbs are not.
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Herbs typically come from green, leafy plants, many of which are flowering plants, such as chives. Herbs can used be fresh or dried, and they can be harvested straight from the garden or purchased at the grocery store – we often grow herbs on our windowsill. The parts of a plant herbs come from include:
Spices are far more processed than herbs. Spices are typically made by drying, grinding, mashing and/or cooking the vegetable matter to achieve the desired texture and flavor. Unlike herbs, you won’t pluck a spice off your windowsill. Below is an interesting video that shows spices being made in a factory.
The parts of a plant used for spices include:
Similarities Between Herbs and Spices
Even though herbs and spices are two different things, they have many similarities, which is why they are such a great combination. They both add and enhance flavors and aromas without adding bulk to the meal; they both are good sources of additional nutrients; and they both can be used to liven up a dull dish by give it some color.
Herbs and spices have other uses beyond culinary. For example, herbs are commonly used as medicines, and spices can be used to create dyes and paints. Depending on the usage, the definition of an herb or a spice might vary.