HERBS AND SPICES
Allspice or Pimento - Allspice is the dried, unripe berry of Pimenta dioica, an evergreen tree in the
myrtle family. It is not a blend of “all spices”. After drying, the berries are small, dark brown balls just a
little larger than peppercorns. It is not frequently used in Indian Cuisine. Allspice is pungent and its taste
and aroma does remind many people of a mix of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Do not grind allspice in a
grinder with plastic parts, because the oil in the spice can cloud the plastic which cannot be restored. It
has been known to have digestive properties.
Almonds - A Royal nut! Almonds are oval nuts with a mellow, sweet flavor, sold whole or cut into
slivers or slices, and are available blanched (skinless). Almonds are used a lot in the Mogul style of
cooking in North India. Almonds combine successfully with Indian savory dishes as well as in Indian
sweets, like ice creams, halwas, confectioneries. Almonds are also used to thicken gravies and as a
Basil - It is a sacred plant for the Hindus. They plant it in their homes to bring happiness to the
family. Basil has lots of medicinal properties. The leaves have a sweet aromatic smell. Its tender fresh
leaves are used as garnishing. Dried and crushed the leaves are used mainly in Italian tomato sauces
giving a sweet scented, minty aroma. It is also used to make very tasty cold drinks.
Bay Leaf - Bay Leaves come from the sweet bay or laurel tree. The dry light green colored long
aromatic leaves and have a sharp, bitter taste. Mostly used in flavoring pulaos and some curries.
The whole leaves are used to impart a wonderful flavor only and are bitter and hard to chew.
Black Cardamom - Black Cardamom pods are the larger brown pods. Essential to Indian
cooking and native to southwestern India. This spice is coarser in flavor and larger in size than the
green cardamom. It is used in flavoring meat, poultry and rice dishes. When using the whole
cardamom for flavoring dishes, remove the cardamom before serving as it does not taste good when
Black Pepper - Black pepper adds a different kind of hotness to any recipe. Fresh green
peppercorns in bunches are used in pickles and for milder flavoring. Black peppercorns are the sun
dried, hard, black, brittle seeds that are commonly used in many western and Indian recipes. This
is perhaps the most popular & universally used spice, used whole or ground. Freshly ground
pepper imparts a lot of flavor and taste.
Black Raisins - Dried black grapes are called black currants or Sultanas. The black raisins are
generally used for many Indian deserts and Rice dishes and Kormas. Many Indian cooks prefer to
use the golden raisins for some Indian sweets. They make a great low calorie snack and 2
tablespoons of black raisins can be used as one fruit serving.
Cardamom - Cardamom is spice used in countries throughout the world but most prominently in
India and Europe. In India, whole pods, green or brown are fried to extract the flavor and added
to curries. In Europe the seed is used to flavor breads and pastries.
Cashew Nuts - It is a half round white nut with a brown thin shell which comes out readily on
roasting. Available salted, unsalted, whole and in pieces. One can buy shelled cashew nuts also.
Roasted, salted cashews are excellent with cocktails. A favorite nut not only in India but here in the
US. it is a native of Brazil. Its flavor being mild goes very well with many sweet as well as savory
dishes. Use the powdered form to thicken Indian gravies and Indian desserts.
Chives - Chives give a mild onion-like flavor to many foods and often are blended with other
herbs for salads, soups and omelets. They have beneficial effects on the circulatory, digestive and
respiratory systems. Chives are usually served in small amounts
Cilantro / Coriander Leaf - This member of the carrot family is also referred to as Chinese
parsley and Coriander. It is actually the leaves (and stems) of the Coriander plant. Cilantro has a
very pungent odor and is widely used in Mexican, Caribbean and Asian cooking. The Cilantro
leaves look a bit like flat Italian parsley and in fact are related.
Cinnamon - Native to Sri lanka, Cinnamon sticks which are the aromatic brown bark of the
cinnamon tree and are made from long pieces of the bark that are rolled, pressed, and dried.
Ground cinnamon is perhaps the most common baking spice. The Cinnamon sticks are used for
flavoring Pulaos, Biryanis and Meat dishes but are removed at the time of eating. Cinnamon has a
sweet, woody fragrance.
Cumin Seeds - Cumin has a distinctive, slightly bitter yet flavors any dish with a sweet aroma.
These brown aromatic small seeds give out more aroma when roasted or added to hot oil. Cumin
seeds whole or in powdered form are very commonly used in Indian cooking. They are used more
in the North of India
Dill - Dill Weed is a tall, feathery annual in the parsley family. The weed is used to make Indian
vegetables. In Western cuisines it is used to flavor herb vinegars, and shellfish, rice, bread, soups
and stews. The Dill weed has aromatic leaves which are used fresh to flavor many South Indian
dishes. Like bay leaves sometimes, they are added for their flavor and kept aside while eating.
Fenugreek Leaves - Fenugreek Leaves are thin oval leaves which are bitter in taste and are eaten
as tasty vegetable. You have to get used to the pleasant bitter taste. The leaves are rich in Vitamin A
and C. Gujarati’s make wonderful.
Fenugreek Seeds - Fenugreek seeds are brownish- yellow rhombic shape seeds and are used as a
spice in curries and Indian-style pickles.
Garlic - Sometimes whole garlic cloves are used and sometimes a recipe will call for chopped or
minced or for garlic paste. Most stores or warehouses do have chopped garlic or garlic paste
Ginger - It is a very popular spice used in Indian cooking. It has a tan skin and a flesh that ranges
in color from pale greenish yellow to ivory. The flavor is peppery and slightly sweet, while the
aroma is pungent and spicy. If you feel a cold coming on a fresh piece of ginger in a hot cup of
Indian tea usually does the trick. Fresh unpeeled ginger root, tightly wrapped, can be refrigerated
for up to 3 weeks and frozen for up to 6 months. Please do not use dried ground ginger for dishes
specifying fresh ginger as the flavors differ greatly.
Saffron - Saffron threads as they are also called are orange-red dried stigmas of a small purple
flower called the Crocus Sativus. Saffron’s aroma is unique and there is no substitute for it. It is
used in cooking to flavor and color the dish a wonderful golden yellow color. In Indian cooking it is
highly prized and added to many Indian sweets and “special occasion” savory dishes like Biryani,
Pulaos and even some curries.
Mint Leaf - The leaf, fresh or dried, is the culinary source of mint. Fresh mint is usually preferred
over dried mint when storage of the mint is not a problem. The leaves have a pleasant warm, fresh,
aromatic, sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Mint leaves are used in teas, beverages, jellies, syrups,
candies, and ice creams.
Mustard Seeds - These are tiny round reddish brown to black colored seeds. They are commonly
used in Indian cooking. They are used whole or broken to pieces or made into a paste or even in
powdered form. Its paste has a very pungent taste. In India, a mustard seed is commonly used to
flavor vegetables, pulses and pickles while tempering In north India, mustard plant leaves are used
as a vegetable.
Nutmeg - Nutmeg is usually associated with sweet, spicy dishes — pies, puddings, custards,
cookies and spice cakes. It combines well with many cheeses, and is included in soufflés and cheese
sauces. In soups it works with tomatoes, slit pea, chicken or black beans. It complements egg dishes
and vegetables like cabbage, spinach, broccoli, beans onions and eggplant. It flavours Middle
Eastern lamb dishes.
Oregano - This popular herb whose name means “mountain joy” is available throughout the year.
The warm, balsamic and aromatic flavor of oregano makes it the perfect addition to Mediterranean
and Mexican cuisines. Oregano also has a large amount of antioxidants in its oil and leaves. It has
42 times the antioxidants as a medium sized apple, 30 times more than a white potato and 12 times
more than an orange. Oregano is most commonly used as a seasoning in stews, pizzas and tomato
based sauces. Fresh oregano leaves can enhance the flavor of salads and soups as well as
Rosemary - Rosemary is widely used as a spice when cooking, especially in Mediterranean dishes.
Its memorable flavor and unique health benefits makes it an indispensable herb for every
kitchen. Rosemary contains substances that are useful for stimulating the immune system,
increasing circulation, and improving digestion. Rosemary is often used in aromatherapy to
increase concentration and memory, and to relieve stress.
Star Anise - Star anise has the wonderful scent of licorice. It is the fruit produced by a small
evergreen tree grown in Asia. As one might suspect, is star-shaped. Each of its eight points contains
a star anise seed. Whole star anise has a long shelf life, but once ground, it should be kept in an
airtight container in a cool, dark place for no more than 3 months. It is great to flavor biryani’s and
other non-vegetarian Indian dishes.
Tamarind - It is the fruit of tamarind tree. The ripe brown pods are cleaned and the brittle brown
skin and hard seeds are removed. The deseeded tamarind is stored with salt.
Thyme - Thyme is one of the best known and most widely-used culinary herbs. Thyme fights
several disease causing bacteria and viruses. It is a good digestive aid, helps menstrual cramps and
is a great cold remedy. It is used to treat chest and respiratory problems including coughs,
bronchitis, and chest congestion. Thyme is an excellent source of iron, manganese, and vitamin K.
It is also a very good source of calcium and a good source of dietary fiber.
Turmeric - Turmeric has a very intense, bright yellow-orange color and bitter taste. It is used in
almost all vegetarian and non-vegetarian preparations in Indian cooking. It has been known to
have antiseptic properties.