Herbs and spices - what's the difference?

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The terms herbs and spices always cause confusion. It seems rather coincidental when in recipes for food and drinks at a point of herbs and elsewhere spice is mentioned. In fact, it is neither an arbitrary, nor a synonymous wording. There is rather a clear deviation. Do not ask yourself any longer: where is the difference? Follow the explanations to make precise use of both terms.

Definition and examples


Legislators have an interest in consumers finding clear product names in the store. Thus, in a rather lengthy 'Guiding principle for spices and other seasoning ingredients' is defined that those herbs are among the spices that take a taste and smell affecting food. The following distinction between plant parts of spices and herbs clarifies the definition:

Spices are:

  • root
  • seed
  • blossoms
  • bud
  • barks
  • fruit
  • blossoms
  • onions

Herbs are:

  • leaves
  • rung
  • blossoms
The individual items mentioned can be processed in whole or in part, regardless of whether in fresh or dried form.
It follows that herbs can be one of the spices - spices are not necessarily herbs.
The following examples serve to clarify:
  • From real chamomile can prepare a soothing tea. A dish is not spiced with it. It is therefore an herb plant, but not a spice.
  • Capers are closed flower capsules of caper plants and give dishes a special taste. But they are not herbs. The same applies to garlic cloves, which are part of the subterranean onion and are thus to be assigned to the spice plants.
How is it ordered in this context to substances that are used for seasoning, but not from any plant? For this purpose, a generic term was introduced: seasonings. This includes, for example, table salt, which is of crystalline origin. Sugar is also included here, honey or cooking oil, as well as all spices and culinary herbs.

The most important spice plants

If the plants of the vegetable garden are only suitable for seasoning meals in the kitchen, then the plant plan should contain the following types:
The fruits of the annual plant are used. They are used to season bread, pastries, soups or sauerkraut. With a stature height of 60 centimeters Anis is also suitable for pot culture on the balcony.

Bush basil

It is mainly the leaves that are fresh or dried fed to the food. The Mediterranean herbal plant has conquered a regular place in the garden, on the balcony and the windowsill. With a stature height of 20 to 60 centimeters, the one-year-old basil is therefore also available to cooks who do not have their own garden.
wild garlic
The leaves of wild garlic season pesto, herbal quark or salads. The relative of chives and garlic is still common in the wild. In the own herb garden a confusion with the poisonous lily of the valley or the spotted arum is not to be feared. With a stature height of 20 to 50 centimeters and a dainty white flower, this spice plant is a welcome guest in the hobby garden.
Without savory, stews or green beans are only worth half. The ripened leaves are among the classics among the spices in the good bourgeois cuisine. Since the biennial plant is easy to maintain, it is considered an ideal candidate for beginners.
Tip: No herbal plant, but a popular crop in the allotment, is chili. The dried pods of the variety Cayenne deliver the razor-sharp cayenne pepper, a spice that has it all.
It is preferably the shoot tips, the sauces, spreads, salad oil and spice cucumbers give the final aromatic finish. The one-year, herbaceous culinary herb thrives equally well in the greenhouse, in the field and in the tub. With a stature height of 30 to 75 centimeters and undemanding care, it belongs to the standard equipment in the private herb garden.


Another immigrant from the Mediterranean has made it as a kitchen herb to the very top of the list. The shredded leaves of oregano are essentially responsible for giving a pizza the authentic spice. Thanks to a manageable stature height of 20 to 80 centimeters, the spice plant is available to many housewives on the windowsill at hand.
The traditional culinary herb comes with ruffled or smooth leaves, which give a variety of dishes a special flavor.In the near-natural garden, the umbelliferous plant also scores with a beneficial effect on beneficial insects, such as lacewings, hoverflies, wasps and soft-bugs. With a stature height of 50 centimeters, parsley, thanks to its decorative effect, also likes to take place in the herb garden on the balcony.
Tip: The saffron crocus supplies with its stamp threads one of the most expensive spices in the world. With its enchanting autumn blossoms, the onion flower also sets colorful accents, not only in the herb garden.
It is not indispensable from the herb garden, is the perennial chives. Only with this ingredient succeed food in perfection, such as potato salad, omelette, fish or meat. Since the herbaceous spice plant grows a maximum of 50 centimeters high, it is ideal for the bed and the pot on the windowsill.
ConclusionAll ingredients that have a flavor or smell effect on food fall under the term spices. Within this classification is a variety of plants whose leaves, flowers or sprouts provide the spice and thus count as herbs to the spices. The generic term spice is used by other plants whose fruits, seeds, bark, roots or onions flavor a dish. The difference between herbs and spices is thus essentially based on the criterion of which plant parts are used in food.

Video Board: The difference between herbs and spices.

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