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Seasonings, Herbs, and Spices

What's the distinction between these three terms? We all know, more or less, what we mean by them, but each does have a meaning that allows us to categorize them. For example, we think of salt as a seasoning, and parsley as an herb. Why is curry powder a spice, even though it also comes from a plant? And sugar is a seasoning and it comes from a plant.

Here's the answer. Seasonings are detected by the basic sensors on the tongue. Some time ago, it was taught that the tongue only detected four sensations: salt, sweet, bitter, and sour. However, today a fifth sense, glutamate (or umami), is being added to the original four by most scientists.

More complex flavors use the nose, in addition to the tongue. That's why things don't taste right when we have a cold.

Both herbs and spices are made from various parts of plants: seeds, leaves, bark, flowers, and buds. The difference is where they come from. Herbs are grown in temperate climates and spices come from the tropics. The distinction dates back to the days when the spice trade was a very important international business, because spices had to be imported to Europe from the tropics. Naturally, even wars have been fought over this trade.

This section has three pages: Seasonings, Herbs, and Spices. Each page going to tell where they come from and how they are used, sometimes with pictures.

If you are starting from scratch, you may want to purchase a spice rack that already includes the most frequently used items. You can pick one that is the size and price you want, and one that fits in with your kitchen decor and space. Many have little bottles arranged in a rotating rack that hold 20 or more herbs and spices. It's a good, economical, and space-saving way to start. In addition, of course, you will need salt and pepper and a few other seasonings.

Let's use the following three pages to break this down into sections:

Seasoning

Herbs

Spices

 


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