Spices on the island of Banda Besar, Indonesia
A variety of herbs are visible in this garden. Pictured is mint, along with some other herbs
In general use, herbs are plants with savory or aromatic properties that are used for flavoring and garnishing food, medicinal purposes, or for fragrances; excluding vegetables and other plants consumed for macronutrients. Culinary use typically distinguishes herbs from spices. Herbs generally refers to the leafy green or flowering parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), while spices are usually dried and produced from other parts of the plant, including seeds, bark, roots and fruits.
Herbs have a variety of uses including culinary, medicinal, and in some cases, spiritual. General usage of the term “herb” differs between culinary herbs and medicinal herbs; in medicinal or spiritual use, any parts of the plant might be considered as “herbs”, including leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, root bark, inner bark (and cambium), resin and pericarp.
The word “herb” is pronounced in Commonwealth English, but is common among North American English speakers and those from other regions where h-dropping occurs. In botany, the word “herb” is used as a synonym for “herbaceous plant“.
“What is a herb?” “The friend of physicians and the praise of cooks.”
—Alcuin and his student Charlemagne
A spice is a seed, fruit, root, bark, or other plant substance primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food. Spices are distinguished from herbs, which are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants used for flavoring or as a garnish. Many spices have antimicrobial properties. This may explain why spices are more commonly used in warmer climates, which have more infectious diseases, and why the use of spices is prominent in meat, which is particularly susceptible to spoiling. Spices are sometimes used in medicine, religious rituals, cosmetics or perfume production. Read more…