Herbs and Spices: The Difference

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a herb and a spice?

I know I have!

It turns out that there is a really simple way of separating Herbs and Spices.

Herbs and Spices: The Difference

Basil is a Herb

Generally speaking a Herb is the green parts of the plant, and its mainly the leaves that are used.

A Spice is generally the berries, fruits, pods, bark and stems of the plant.

So Herbs are plants whose leaves we use such as basil, sage, thyme and even stevia. Meanwhile cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg are all spices.

Both herbs and spices can be dried, but most spices are used only when they are dried.

Herbs and Spices: The Difference

Herbs and Spices

Most herbs are better when used when they are as fresh as possible. Some of the essential oils that make them so valued in cooking can be lost during the drying process. They are often best added toward the end of the cooking process so that you don’t lose the essential oils and thus the flavour. There are exceptions to this rule, like with fresh rosemary which is added early on in the cooking process as it is fairly woody.

As a generalisation, spices are added at the start of the cooking process so the flavour can infuse through during cooking.

So, what is the difference between a herb and a vegetable?

A herb is used in small quantities to add flavour to a food, whereas a vegetable is used in larger quantities as part of the substance of the dish.

By this definition a vegetable can sometimes be a herb, or vice versa. For example, wild rocket used in a pesto is a herb, but used in a Rocket, Pear and Parmesan salad is a salad vegetable. Confused? I hope not!

Herbs and Spices: The Difference


Below I have included one of my favourite recipes using the herb Rocket as a vegetable. I hope that you enjoy it!

Rocket, Pear and Parmesan salad

2 firm pears, cored and thinly sliced
Juice of 1 Lemon
125g baby rocket leaves, washed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup shaved parmesan

Method: Sprinkle the pears with a little lemon juice to prevent them browning. To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and cracked black pepper in a jar and shake well to combine. In a large bowl mix the rocket, sliced pear, pine nuts and dressing and gently toss to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with shaved parmesan. Serve

Happy gardening 🙂

Rohanne, your Personal Gardening Expert

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