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Differences between spices and aromatic herbs

How to define this two categories often confused

Various spices and herbs

Spices and aromatic herbs are two different categories, which are often confused, mainly because they have many similar characteristics and uses. Both are known and used since ancient times, to enrich dishes of all kinds. So let's do a little bit of clarity and see what exactly distinguishes both categories.

Aromatic herbs, as the name says, have the main characteristic of giving aroma, or a particular smell to dishes. And then they are herbs, or seedlings, which are used in most cases fresh. Usually we take the leaves or even the stems of the plant, to be chopped with a knife to add them to the end of cooking on the plates. Among the aromatic herbs that we find most frequently in Mediterranean cuisine we have parsley, rosemary, basil, sage, oregano, mint. These plants can naturally be grown in pots, or we can also meet them in the wild.

Spices, on the other hand, have the main attribute of giving taste to recipes. Spices also have a vegetable origin, but are taken from various parts of the plant, they can be seeds, roots, bark, stigmas and so on. Usually these parts are treated before use, ie in most cases they are dried and reduced to powder. Also spices are mainly added at the end of cooking in order not to degrade the characteristics in contact with the fire. Among the most famous spices we remember pepper, chili pepper, nutmeg, cloves, vanilla and ginger. Most of these originate from distant countries, and in fact we often tend to associate them with exotic dishes.

We have seen the main characteristics of one and the other, but these definitions lead us to face at least two quite relevant problems. First of all we have used as a discriminant the fact of giving aroma or flavor to the food with which they are combined. However, it is not an exact definition, as many aromatic herbs also have an intense taste, and some spices can give more or less fragrance. The second critical point is that of the form, even the aromatic herbs can be dried and reduced to powder, and vice versa some spices can be used fresh. For example, we think of oregano, which we hardly find fresh, or ginger, which can also be used fresh and cut into slices. So it is normal that there is a bit of confusion between the two categories, and these definitions are to be understood in a fairly elastic manner.

Moreover, both also have common points, which therefore lead them to be thought of as one thing. First of all the characteristic of having also various beneficial properties. Spices and aromatic herbs, besides being good, also make us good. In this regard, you may also be interested in reading the following article: https://www.spicey.recipes/blog/in-depth-articles/spices-and-herbs-with-health-benefits.html.

In conclusion, to create even more confusion if you don't have enough, we also want to mention the fact that some things that we believe simple food are actually spices. We refer in particular to garlic, onion, shallot, leek, and other vegetables that are often used fresh and perhaps as the main ingredients of a dish, but often have the function of flavoring our culinary preparations. In fact, they are often sold as dried and powdered spices. So you can understand how it is not easy to give a definition of spice, and more distinguish this from an aromatic herb.