For centuries, herbs and spices have been used to make food more exciting and tasty. Everyone interested in becoming a gourmet cook is very familiar with what these long-treasured ingredients can do to the flavor and scent of each dish.

This photo shows a typical spice market in Morocco, one like David and I visited several years ago. I still have some of the exotic spices I purchased on that trip. According to the Wikipedia article about spices, the spices I bought are way too old to hold much flavor or color. However, I use them often and enjoy the Mediterranean flavors they still impart.

This is a typical bunch of herbs, shown fresh and green. I’m sure you already know the difference between herbs and spices, it’s very evident here. Herbs are the green, leafy part of the plant and spices come from any other part, the seeds, bark, flowers, roots, stigmas or buds.

However, there are at least two plants that are both an herb and a spice. Can you name them?

While roaming the shelves at The Bookmark Bookshop in Dolega recently, I couldn’t resist picking up Jacqueline Bellefontaine’s book, “Microwave Herbs & Spices”, written over 20 years ago in Surrey, England. The book suggests that herbs can easily be dried in your microwave, on HIGH for 2-4 minutes.

Lay the herbs in small quantities, about 1/2 ounce at a time, on paper towels. Turn them every minute and they are dry when they become crisp. They can be stored whole or crumbled. I was served whole dried basil leaves in Costa Rica recently. It was a big surprise to see the chef using this technique.

Jacqueline bunches her list of herbs and spices together, rather than separating the leafy herbs from the spices that come from other parts of the plants, like the seeds, berries, roots or bark. She points out that both herbs and spices should be kept in airtight containers, not in the cans in which they are packaged.

It’s your turn to use your spices and herbs any way you would like. No recipe is needed. Look at this sweet potato dish and use your imagination. Just clean and slice your potatoes, brush them with a little olive oil, sprinkle them with spices, herbs or both. I used ginger, nutmeg and 5-spice, but use whatever you have on your shelf that may taste good.

Grill slowly on your barbecue grill turning every couple minutes until they are soft. Then, enjoy the finest, most memorable dish you’ve have so far this year!

OK, which two plants are both herbs and spices? Coriander and dill are each an herb and a spice; coriander leaves and seeds, dill weed and seeds.

Have fun with your spices and herbs this year.
Use them liberally to “spice up your life”!