Eventually every cook winds up with dozens and dozens of herbs and spices—some that are used just one time, then left to gather dust for a few years until it finally feels okay to toss them. It takes a while to discover which ones are going to play a big, and ongoing, role in one’s cooking repertoire.
Herbs come from the leaves of non-woody plants. Spices come from roots, flowers, fruits, seeds or bark. In some cases the same plant yields both an herb and a spice. For example, the dill plant produces both dill weed (herb) and dill seeds (spice). But since they are all lumped together in a “spice rack” rather than an “herb and spice rack,” many of us just lump them together in our minds. That’s okay—even the American Spice Trade Association does!
Here is a list—in alphabetical* order—of 14 that might be considered the foundation of the spice rack:
Add to your spice collection as you add to your recipe collection. Besides individual spices, there are spice blends that are very convenient to use. Since the only thing I make with coriander and cardamom is chicken tikka masala, rather than buy a whole bottle of each, I buy a garam masala blend that includes both. Thyme and sage are two that I need only as part of a poultry seasoning blend. As your collection grows, you’ll see the wisdom of keeping your herbs and spices in *alphabetical order.