Getting to Know Spices

When you want to add extra flavor to a dish, turn to spices. Spices can come from a plant’s roots, seeds, bark, buds, or berries. (Herbs are produced from the stems and leaves of a plant).

You can find all kinds of spices out there, so you might feel overwhelmed by the spice selection at your store — but don’t fear — this table lists the more common spices and their flavors.

A Few Spices You Should Know
Spice Description
Allspice Spice berries of the evergreen pimiento tree with tastes of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves — hence the name. Sold as whole, dried berries or ground.
Caraway Has a nutty, faint anise flavor. Sold as dried seeds.
Cardamom Pungent, spicy-sweet flavor. Sold as whole dried seeds and ground.
Cayenne or red pepper A hot, powdered mixture of several chile peppers. Sold ground.
Chili powder A hot and spicy mixture of dried chiles, cumin, oregano, garlic, coriander, and cloves. Sold ground.
Cinnamon Sweet and aromatic spice from the bark of a tropical tree. Sold whole, in dry sticks or ground.
Clove Sharp and deeply fragrant. Sold as whole dried buds or ground.
Coriander Similar in flavor to caraway. Sold as whole dried seeds and ground.
Cumin Slightly acidic aroma; nutty-flavored seed. Sold as whole dried seeds and ground.
Curry powder A spice blend that can include more than a dozen different herbs and spices.
Ginger Sharp and faintly sweet flavor; intensely aromatic. Sold dried ground, crystallized, preserved, and fresh.
Nutmeg Pleasing aroma; slightly sweet and nutty taste. Sold as whole seeds and ground.
Paprika Beautiful red powder; varieties range from sweet to hot. Sold ground.
Peppercorns Black peppercorns are intense, hot, and aromatic. Sold cracked, finely ground, or as whole peppercorns in black and white.
Saffron The world’s most expensive spice. Made from dried stigmas from a special variety of flowers. Available as powder or whole red threads (which are of better quality).
Turmeric Yellow-orange powder that’s intensely aromatic and has a bitter, pungent flavor. Sold as a powder.
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