Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

What's This? QandA

Please can you tell me the difference between whole caraway seeds and black caraway? AJ

Black caraway is not really caraway. Nigella, the seeds of the Nigella sativa plant, are variously called black caraway or black cumin along with many other names. Nigella has a sort of warm, peppery bite. Read more about caraway seeds at "All About Caraway."


I have an apple pie recipe that calls for 1/4 tsp of ground "grains of paradise". What in the world is it and where do I get it? Thanks for your help. KF

Grains of paradise is the name of an African seed that I always thought of as a spice that doesn't really exist anymore. I've noticed that it is back and seems to be going mainstream just lately. You can find it at San Francisco Herbs, but you will probably have to grind it yourself.


I'm never sure what is meant when a recipe calls for one shallot.  Most I buy have two or more cloves....when a recipe calls for one shallot does that mean 1 clove or the entire bulb? GP

In my mind, one shallot is a single clove that when minced would equal about a Tablespoon. They do vary so much in size it is helpful when a recipe writer specifies an amount rather than a number.


If a US recipe says gum, what is it? KB

I suppose it could refer to some sort of gum additive that is used as a thickener or stabilizer, but I should think they would specify which one. I am aware of gum arabic, guar gum and xanthan gum; some cooks are using them in vegan and gluten-free cooking.


Our fennel plant does not have a bulb. It looks more like a root. Is this a different type? If so, what are its uses? B3

Apparently you have what is known as Leaf Fennel rather than the bulbing type. Your plant is used for its anise-like foliage and seed production. My Johnny's Seeds catalog says the leaves and stems should be harvested before plants begin to flower and that the roots are edible in the first year before flowering. Read more about both types in the article "All About Fennel."


My boyfriend's aunt used to make her own Zatar blend and no one has been able to recreate the mix since she passed away. We still have some of her recipe. Are there any companies that break down the ratios and ingredients in spice mixtures? It's a much loved family recipe, so I'm trying to figure out how to recreate it. Thanks! Your site is great. AA

This is fun detective work. I came up with ABC Research Corporation's website. They bill themselves as "problem solvers." If they can't help you, maybe they could point you in the right direction.


Hi, There is an herb that is used widely in Mexico called "epasote" which is used in cooking beans and in quesadillas. What is that name of this herb in English please. Thank you. EGdA

 Most people say epazote although there are many other terms for the plant as well. See the article "All About Epazote" for more information.


Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

I have a recipe that calls for 3/4 cup of fresh sage. I usually buy fresh sage is 1.5 oz packages. How many packages do I buy? Thanks, SA

I went out and picked a quarter cup of sage leaves and they weighed in at less than one-eighth of an ounce so you should be safe buying just one package.


I recently had a wonderful dish the Greek Restaurant called “Flaming Spegetti”. It was not spicy hot, but was excellent. I was trying to figure out what spices they would have used (they wouldn’t tell). One looked like a “grass” of some kind and there seemed to be a slightly sweet taste. What are the most popular Greek spices that might have been used? LP

Your grassy herb may have been dill weed, or if you tasted licorice, maybe fennel. Oregano, marjoram, mint and bay leaves are other common herbs. Spices include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cumin. They also use parsley, rosemary, sage, paprika and lots of lemon. Kind of leaves it wide open, doesn't it?


My parents recently got home from a trip to Istanbul. They bought me a lovely box holding several spices. There are a few that I haven’t heard of and am not sure what to do with them. Thankfully, I found information on your site about cooking with Sumac, but the other mysteries are “Yasmer Spices,” Red Peppercorns, Berry Cumin (which I sort of think is just whole Cumin and something just labeled “Mix Spices” (helpful, I know.) Any help would be appreciated. Thank you, P

I found one reference to Yasmer Spices on an Italian webpage that simply explained that they are a Turkish spice blend. I'm thinking the red peppercorns are often called pink peppercorns here, not an actual pepper but the spicy fruit of a small bush.


What is the spice Camino? Can I substitute it with something else? PB

I wonder if you are referring to cumin? It is sometimes called cumino. Learn more about it at the article "All About Cumin."


What spices make up “Pumpkin Pie Spice”? What can you substitute?

Blends will differ, but most will have some combination of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg or cloves. You could make a pretty decent blend of your own by using the spices in our recipe for My Best Pumpkin Pie on the "All About Cloves" page.

What is a sprig of ruda? It is used in Mexican cooking. LL

Assuming you mean the length, a sprig is generally a four- to six-inch portion of a stem. Ruda is known in English as Rue (botanically Ruta graveolens) and many people don't consider it safe anymore. I have actually gotten a rash on my arms from working with it in full sun.


I am looking for celeriac....either fresh, dried or powdered...where on earth can this be found? Thanks CD

This is really a fairly common root vegetable in the produce department at supermarkets although it is often sold as celery root. I've never seen it dried or powdered.


Is there a difference between ground and dry oregano? FP

Ground oregano is dry oregano that has been processed to a powder. They are interchangeable although you would want to use a little less of the ground product just because it takes up less room in a measuring spoon than the dried leaves.


I have a recipe that calls for 2 sprigs of dill. What is a sprig of dill and if all else fails can dried dill weed be substituted and if so how much? G

A sprig of dill is a length of the plant with the leaves still on the stem commonly about six inches long. Two sprigs isn't really very much so you might use a half a teaspoon of dried.


Hi, I am trying to make a healthy smoothie and the recipe calls for "a node of cilantro". How much cilantro is that, please? SS

That's a new unit of measure for me. I looked up the dictionary definition of node and, in botany, it refers to a joint in a stem or the part of stem that bears a leaf. Your recipe writer probably means a sprig.


When we were in Hawaii, we saw a spice called "furry caca". Supposedly, is was a spice for rice. Longs drug store had it but they were out. What is it and where can I get some? Thank You. LM

Your spelling is quite creative, but you might have more luck finding this Japanese seasoning by looking for furikake. It is a savory combination of dried fish, seaweed, sesame seeds and a wide variety of other ingredients depending on the manufacturer. You can order it from Amazon or look for it at your local Asian market.


This is my first visit to your website It won't be my last. I also am interested in finding pastry spice as my Mother's (she is now deceased) recipe for raisin cake called for it. I am about to make it again and made some queries at the local Bulk Barn. The clerk did some searching and could find nothing. Last time I made it I used something called 5 spices. Can you tell me what is in that or for that matter allspice? thanks for any help you can give me. RG

Chinese five-spice powder is usually some combination of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and Szechuan peppercorns. Recipes vary and your "5 spices" may be a blend of something else for baking. Allspice is not a combination of spices but a single spice. Please see the article "All About Allspice."


I was wondering, what other uses are there for fennel leaves and stalks? JM

Have you seen the article "All About Fennel?" You will find links to other ideas on this page as well.

What is the nutritional value of sumac? We bought a kilo bag of this at a local store, the plastic bag it was in was quite sticky to the touch, can you tell us why? DR

You'll find all I know about the food value of sumac on the "Nutritional Q&A Page." Some spices cause plastic to deteriorate a bit so this may be why your bag is sticky. I haven't had this problem with sumac before but it is common with ginger and turmeric.


Hello, I have a "Winter Creme Fraiche Baked Potato Soup" recipe.  What and where is creme fraiche? The recipe calls for 8 oz. Thanks DL

Oh, that sounds yummy! Creme fraiche is a delicious thickened cream. You can often find it at more upscale supermarkets in the cheese department.


I saw a food special about Indian food in NY and they mentioned a shop/nursery in NJ that specializes in rare Indian herbs and spices. What is the name of this place? MS

It's hard to say. The Garden State seems to have many, many nurseries. Did anyone else see this program and catch the name?

One faithful reader did: The Indian nursery in New Jersey Mentioned on Ruth's Gourmet TV show in New York is Bhatia Nursery.


I recently purchased a jar of organic Tahini paste from a health food store. I have stirred it up and it is the terrible bitter taste, is this the way it is supposed to taste, how can you stand to use it? BS

Unlike the other delicious nut butters that are available, tahini is more of an ingredient than something to enjoy on its own. It is often called for in hummus and salad dressing recipes. Read more on the subject in the article "Tahini in Your Kitchen."


Is rye seed and caraway the same? Can I use caraway rather than rye? WZ

We don't usually eat rye seed, which is more of a lawn grass or grain crop. I'm thinking you might be confusing the seeds that are in rye bread as rye seed when they are actually caraway seeds.


I've found black specks in my sea salt. It has only happened to the small amounts I transfer from the big jar to a smaller closed jar that I keep near my stove. They don't move-- or appear to be bugs, but I'm worried. Are these mites or something to be concerned about? thanks, DD

It's unlikely that bugs would want to live in salt. Could the black specks be pepper from a nearby peppermill? Or maybe something is flaking off the jar when you remove the lid?


Does 1/4 tsp. equal a pinch of? SE

A pinch is more like 1/16 of a teaspoon.

Hi there….My recipe for Italian Tuna Casserole calls for: 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg: This is so expensive, so I don't want to buy a whole bottle for this one recipe. I do have nutmeg spice already on hand. What is the equivalent measurement for this? Pecorino Romano: I have grated Romano on hand already. Is there something special about 'pecorino' romano - or will just plain 'romano' suffice. Thank you so much for your help. MKJ

The measurement for the nutmeg would be the same although you might want to use a bit more of the pre-ground spice since it won't have as much flavor. Authentic pecorino Romano is made from sheep's milk. If you live in the States, your pre-grated Romano is probably from cow's milk.


Good Day! I have a recipe that calls for l/2 bunch of fresh dill. What is the measurement in teaspoons/tablespoons/cup that is equivalent to l/2 bunch of fresh dill? I am unable to find a "bunch" of fresh dill in the produce department of the stores, but do find the small plastic containers (about 4"x6" size) of organic fresh dill. They do not indicate the measurement size with regard to a "bunch" of fresh dill in those plastic containers. SH

I would consider the container that you describe to be a bunch. Generally, a bunch is a little more than an inch in diameter when you gather the stems into your hand like a bouquet.


What is the difference between SPICES and CONDIMENTS? BP

Spices are the fruits and/or seeds of some woody plants while condiments are prepared concoctions like ketchup and mustard.


I'm from western-prairie Canada...what on God's green earth is "crab boil seasoning" and is there a substitute for it if I can't find it in Edmonton? (I can't seem to find gumbo file powder, either, but I'll try the TnT supermarket that someone mentioned...) Thanks. L

Crab boil seasoning, also called shrimp boil sometimes, is usually a little mesh bag of whole seasonings that flavor the water for cooking seafood. You might consider making your own. I found a recipe from Emeril Lagasse for seafood boil seasoning mix.


What is the English name for yerbanise or hierbanise? I don't actually know how to spell it right. I'm told the tea is very helpful but I don't know how to ask for it. Would appreciate very much your help thanks. Please answer asap. LL

Anise seed seems to be the right answer here. Read more about this spice at "All About Anise."


I like your site but two of the spices I could not find the translation from Spanish to English: What is hierba buena in English? What is Malagueta in English? Thanks, SS

Yerba buena is the same as hierba buena but I realize that's not much help. This coastal plant's botanical name is Clinopodium douglasii. Yerba buena seems to refer to different plants in different parts of the world. Most often that plant is a mint. As for Malagueta, it doesn't seem to have an English nickname but the botanical name is Capsicum frutescens var. malagueta. It is similar to Tabasco peppers. Wikipedia points out that malagueta is sometimes confused with melegueta which we also know as "grains of paradise."

What can the herb feverfew be used for? What are the side affects if used wrong? W

Feverfew leaves have a laundry list of uses as a medicinal herb in history. Newer research indicates it may be helpful in the treatment of migraines. It may cause stomach upset and mouth ulcerations as well as being potentially addictive. You can learn about the current research at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website's informative section about herbs.


What is exactly Food Grade Lavender? DC

It is lavender that is grown as food so it is safe to ingest versus that grown for crafts or other purposes that may be treated with chemicals or other unsavory substances. Also, some varieties are better suited to culinary use than others. See "All About Lavender."


What is in a pickling spice bag? MH

Ingredients vary by manufacturer but they usually contain mustard seeds, cloves, peppercorns, allspice and bay leaves. Others may include different spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, coriander or chiles. The seasonings are often whole or in coarse pieces.


Hi there, I have a Swedish recipe for ginger bread cookies and am unable to find a translation anywhere for; CEDROOLJA or for POMERANSSKAL and I also wonder what the measurement KRYDDMÅTT means. I would really appreciate if you can help me out with an English translation. Thank you, MHB

I think that cedroolja might be lemon peel. Pomeransskal seems to be bitter orange. Kryddmått is an old usage of a term for a volume of about one milliliter which is .2 of a teaspoon (a scant quarter teaspoon). Thanks for helping me learn more about Swedish recipes!


Is saffron the same as zaffron flower marketed by orale? If not how would I use my zaffron in recipes? KS

Although I am not familiar with this exact product, it is probably saffron. However, it could be safflower, a common (but inferior) substitute for saffron. True saffron should have a thread-like appearance.


Good Afternoon. I recently bought an epazote plant to use in "bean" recipes. My problem is what is the equivalent measure for epazote. Some recipes call for "a sprig or two of fresh", "small branch of fresh", "1/2tsp dried", "seven leaves of fresh". What is a sprig, a small branch, etc? Also, can epazote be used in "Lima and Ham Hock" recipes ( to eliminate the gassy stuff)? Thanks for your help. PS

Unless a length is specified, a sprig is generally considered to be about four inches long. A small branch is probably just another way, although a bit odd, to say a sprig. If you like the flavor, I see no reason for you not to use it with lima beans but I make no promises about the bodily effects.


What is pastry spice? G

This must have been a common spice blend at some point in time, or still is in some countries, but it is an ambiguous term to me. It could be cinnamon and other baking spices or maybe a butter-based flavoring.


I was in a Persian market last week and saw dried lemon in the spice section. I have no idea how to use it but I thought it would probably be interesting to try. Please tell me how they use it in their cooking and how can I incorporate it into my every day meals. I am an adventurous cook and love to try new things. This should be fun! Thanks, RM

These are new to me as well. After first reading your question I went on an exploration of the preserved lemons common to Moroccan cooking. Then I read the question again and had to start all over. They sound like an interesting ingredient. Sometimes called black lemons, you can use them whole (aka leemo amAnee) or grind them into a powder (aka gard-e leemo amAnee). I found the same recipe for a meat, bean and vegetable stew called Gormeh Sabzi on five different websites. It calls for whole lemons that you poke a hole in before adding to the stew. Seems like they would be welcome in most places where a tangy accent is needed in a dish.

If a recipe calls for “Hawaiian Salt”- is that considered the same as “Sea Salt”? Thanks! NS

Hawaiian salt is sea salt although sometimes it has "alaea," or red clay, added giving it an orangey-pink color.


Hi, I spent last summer in Colombia. Their local soup is called ajiaco and uses a herb called guasca. In the USA it is called gallant soldier and is considered a weed in much of the world, but no other herb can be used in this soup, its very distinctive. Would you know what the herb is called in the UK, or, at a stretch, where I could find it?? thank you very much. TO

This plant is known botanically as Galinsoga parviflora Cav. Other common names are Joey Hooker and smallflower galinsoga. One website says that in the UK the seedlings emerge from March to October. It's a rampant weed--local farmers may be familiar with it.


I have just returned from Jordan with a small sampling of myrrh. Can you please tell me how to use it? I also have frankincense, I assume that it is only used in the small brassier as a burned incense? Thank you, GT

Neither of these spices (actually gum resins) serve any culinary purpose. Long ago they were often included in the embalming process and thought to have some medicinal properties although very little research has been done. You will probably do well to resign them both to the brazier.


Dear Sir or Madam, It is my understanding that as there are professional wine-tasters and chocolate tasters, is there a title for those who are expert tasters of edible herbs and flowers? And are there actual titles for these three categories of tasters? Most appreciated, ERM

I love this question! I've long been fascinated by the subject of "supertasters." I Googled 'super tasters jobs' and came across this article about professional tasters. There doesn't seem to be actual titles within the categories and it sounds like there is as much training involved as there is natural ability.


Is there a difference between black (royal) and white cumin? If so, what is it? JW

Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages have an excellent discussion on this subject. Black cumin is a wild plant botanically known as Bunium persicum [Boiss.] B. Fedtsch. It is found only in Kashmir and is favored in North African cooking. While both plants are members of the parsley family, Cuminum cyminum, more commonly known as cumin, is readily available and a good substitute for black cumin.


What is shrimp paste and chicken paste and what grocery stores sell it in Calgary Alberta Canada? Thanks for your help. CA

Shrimp and chicken pastes are frequently used in Thai cooking. You could look for it near other the oriental foods at the grocery store or check specialty markets. T&T Supermarket at Pacific Place (403-569-6888) might be a good place to start.


My son has a tree in his yard and I'm sure that the berries on it are pink peppercorns. However, I read your article and see that peppercorns grow on vines. The peppercorns have a nice, pungent peppery scent, but I don't want to take any risks. Can you help? Thanks! ME

It's true that peppercorns grow on vines but the pink peppercorn is not a true pepper. Gernot Katzer does a good job of sorting out the different pink pepper plants on his Spice Pages.

A recipe in Guidepost Magazine called for 6 quart-size slices of fresh ginger. How do you measure quart-size slices? I have never seen very large ginger roots? SK

Must be a misprint. A common measure of ginger is "quarter-size," meaning the size of an American twenty-five cent piece. Quart-size would indeed be a very large root!


Hi: Thank you for this web side, is has been very helpful. I would like to know if by any chance you have "manzanilla" in Spanish traduced in English! Manzanilla is a flower (it looks like daisies) known to the Peruvians and they use for herbal tea for stomachache or headache. Thank You J

I think the word you are looking for is chamomile.


What spices are in Chai seasoning blend? MB

Any number of spices can be used in chai seasonings--it's sort of like curry in that respect. In my book, a good blend should have cardamom and cinnamon. Ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice are often included as well.


Is there a difference between ‘dried leaf thyme’ and ‘ground thyme,’ which of course is also dried? MP

Ground thyme is pulverized leaves. In theory, the biggest difference is that 1 teaspoon of each will give different flavor results because you would end up with more thyme in the ground form than the leaf. In reality, ground spices lose their flavor more quickly than whole spices because essential oils are released with grinding.


What's the difference between Creole & Cajun seasoning? Can I use interchangeably for a spinach recipe? PH

They are typically the same sort of spice blends that vary in name and ingredients as dictated by manufacturers.


To whom it may concern: I am Portuguese following a lot of cooking recipes from Portuguese websites. I am having a hard time trying to figure out what "coentros" is in English, in the American supermarkets. I have checked various herbs and spices translation charts, but no luck. A lot of meat dishes ask for coentros. It looks like dried green herbs, like parsley, but it has a different, unique flavor. What is the closest seasoning herb spice in America, which means "coentros". Even in Spanish charts I can't find. Looking forward to hear from you. Thank you. IF

You are looking for coriander. This is a seed. In leaf form, the plant/herb is known as cilantro, sometimes called Chinese parsley. You will find a whole list of Portuguese-English translations on the page "Another Multi-lingual Herb and Spice Index."


Many thanks for your web page. I am finding it very useful as I have just moved to Spain and my Spanish is very basic. Could you tell me what the Spanish for mace is. I cannot find anyone here who knows. They don't seem to use it but I like it in chicken dishes. Many thanks, SH

 An online Spanish dictionary tells me mace translates to macia, macís.


I've gotten a recipe to make a fruit cake, and it calls for candied pineapples, and candied cherries. But I'm not sure what this term means? Does it means preservatives, or something else? Thank You. CS

Dried fruits are "candied" by dipping in a sugar/water mixture called simple syrup. You should be able to find candied fruits along with other baking supplies at the supermarket. We have fun with sugared flowers and herbs in the article "Take Time to Stop and Eat the Flowers."


Hello all: In my efforts to try and create new dishes by trying something new I purchased a pack of zaffron flower from ORALE (company) Actually I liked the way the leaves looked...ha ha...the only problem is I don't know how to use it in food. can you tell me what it is for and how can I find recipes using it? Thank you very much in advance. Let me try somma this! TH

I'm guessing that your zaffron is my saffron. Learn more on the topic at "All About Saffron" or go to the search page and put in "saffron" to find other recipes that use it.


What is the difference between curry powder and curry paste? I found a recipe for curry paste, but it doesn’t call for curry powder! Thanks, SK

Curry powders are blends of dried spices common to India while curry paste is a wet blend of herbs and spice more common to Southeast Asian cooking.


How do I make dry sazon mix? CP

This is a proprietary blend from the Goya Company. Only they know the secret!


Could you tell me if there is any way to figure out the amounts of individual herbs in an herb mixture? My mom is looking for an herb mix that Schilling used to carry called "Salad Herbs". I have checked on the internet and I don't think it is on the market anymore. She has one bottle left (she stocked up when it became difficult to find) and it lists the ingredients as Tarragon, Basil, Thyme, Parsley, Marjoram and Spearmint - all of which could be purchased individually and mixed. I just don't know how to figure out how much to use. Thanks for any help you can provide! JW

There is no real formula for copying a blend. You probably know that ingredients must be listed in the order by weight on the label so you get one hint that way. Mixing and tasting and comparing is the only way to come up with a duplicate but it is usually pretty tough to do.


Hello, In searching for a translation of the Spanish name of a herb from Mexico, I found your website. The herb is medicinal and known as “ruda”. Do you know what it is in English, please? Thanks for your help. Kind regards, AH

My Spanish dictionary translates "ruda" to rue. Ruta gaveolens is the botanical name. I must caution you, however, this herb is classified as unsafe.


I was in Greece some time ago and one of our tour guides showed us a field of anise. I tasted some and it tasted very much like our caraway seeds. Are the plants related? Thanks so much, you have a great site. JM

Oh, lucky you, touring Greek spice fields! Caraway and anise are indeed related. Both are members of the Umbelliferae family. Also known as Apiaceae, the carrot family is very large and an important part of our cultivated food crops. It includes carrots, of course, parsnips, celery and parsley. Other related herbs and spices are dill, chervil, fennel and lovage.


What is the equivalent of one dill head to dill seed? I do not have fresh dill, the grocers did not know what a dill head was either. How much dill seed can I use in place of 1 dill head? Thanks! S

Roughly 3/4 teaspoon dill seed would equal an average head of dill.

I am just learning to can, my recipe calls for a head of fresh dill. What is the head? Thank you, WM

A head of dill refers to a flower.


The spice in Dutch is " Foelie". Is this the same as Mace? Regards, RvdH

That is correct.


Hi I have just bought a purple sage plant. can I use this for cooking like the ordinary sage. and if so, if I plant this in my garden is there any special area it would like. ie; sun or shade. thanks s

You can use your purple sage just like the regular stuff. They like full sun and well drained soil. Find out more at "All About Sage."


What is comino? D

This is another form of spelling for cumin. Read more about the spice at "All About Cumin."


Hi, in my health magazine there is lots of recipes with quark in them. Could you please tell me what quark is? Many thanks, K.

Quark is soft unripened cheese that is similar to sour cream. It is popular in Europe. It is available in my supermarket's dairy case. If you can't find it, you might have success substituting sour cream or yogurt, especially the much richer Greek yogurt.


Two years ago I bought an live herb plant that had flat round leaves and tasted like cucumber. I loved it in salads, but now cannot find it. Any ideas? J

Salad burnet and borage both taste like cucumbers but neither of them has round leaves as you describe. Nasturtium leaves are round but they taste more like a radish. All three of these herbs do make a great addition to salads.

An alert reader may have the answer: "I think (not positive) what the person might be looking for is Purslane, it is found in some of the fancy salad mixes. The leaf is rounded and a little succulent-like in texture. It has a mild cucumbery flavor. It also grows in the wild." AJ


What is the botanical name and the English name of TEJOCOTES? NB

Tejocotes are the fruit of Mexican Hawthorne tree, Crataegus pubescens.


What is "papalos"? thanks B

The only references I could come up with for papalos were proper nouns but if you really mean papalo then I thank you for pointing out an herb of which I was unaware! Also known as papaloquelite, this leafy herb grows wild in the southwest United States and in Mexico. Sounds rather like cilantro with other flavors added. It is the Herb of the Month at if you want to read more.


I recently tried a dip/spread at our local food co op. It was called garlic walnut mezze w/sheep feta. Would you have a recipe for this or something similar?

Sounds tasty but that's a fairly vague name. It probably has some sort of bean or eggplant base. You might ask them at the market. One recipe that might be similar is my "Seeded Hummus."


I have purchased cardamon seed and now I need to know--What's it good for? I occasionally use it to flavor coffee, but it must have so other purpose. Any help would be appreciated. CB

Everything I know about cardamon can be found in the article "All About Cardamom."


You mentioned the "curry plant"; do you have more info please? Jim from Texas; living in Thailand. Thank You

This is one of those fairly confusing plants. First, it not ground to make curry powder although it may be an ingredient in mixtures of curry. The curry plant, which grows wild in India, Thailand and Sri Lanka, produces a musky leaf that is sometimes used as a condiment or garnish. These leaves are available fresh at Indian and Asian markets. For helpful photographs and a wealth of information about this up-and-coming seasoning visit Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages.


A few years ago I purchased a seasoning blend called "wild game seasoning", I haven't seen it for years and was wondering if you knew what this blend may contain. Thanks DS

I have a blend here on my desk from Nordic Spice called Game Seasoning. It is a combination of black and pink pepper, parsley, thyme, rosemary, basil and several dried vegetables like carrots, onion and red bell pepper. Seasoning blends vary a great deal from place to place. Juniper berries, long associated with cooking wild game, would be a likely ingredient as would garlic.

Hi there! Saw your website and thought it was great. Was talking with my wife and parent’s in-law (who are Peruvian) and wondered about the spice curry. One of the guys at work smelled it pretty strongly from what my mother-in-law cooked but she swears she doesn’t use curry. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and the website looks wonderful! P

Interesting question. One thing I have noticed while making my own curry and chili powders is that they share many of the same spices: coriander, cumin, pepper, paprika. Chiles are important to Peruvian cooking so perhaps your mother-in-law was using some sort of chili powder.


I have a recipe that calls for hunter's spice - what is it?? LK

I'm not familiar with a general type of hunter's spice but I would guess that it is a blend of spices that contains juniper berries and other savory spices. Without seeing the recipe it is hard to be specific but you might also use a sausage seasoning blend.


Can you please tell me how the green peppercorns in vinegar are used? I recently bought them by mistake thinking that they were much for shopping on the run! Thank you, B

The bottled green peppercorns are more mild than dried peppercorns and can be used rather like capers. They are a common ingredient in sauces for meats and fish or crushed and added to salad dressings or cheese spreads.


Can you tell me what herb the Americans call Savory is called elsewhere if you know please. SP

Please see the "Multi-lingual Herb and Spice Index" and "Another Multi-lingual Herb and Spice Index" for the names of all sorts of herbs and spices, including savory, in other languages.


I have been using beau monde for over 30 years. It used to have alternative name on the label as well. It's driving me crazy that I can't seem to remember or find it anywhere. Can you help? Thanks in advance! JS

The folks at Chumley and Stella's say that beau monde translates to "beautiful world." Does that help?


What is the difference between raw and roasted tahini?

The sesame seeds are toasted before grinding in the roasted tahini.


Hello. in 2004 I visited Tunisia extensively and was surprised to find in most souk (open air market) saffran offered two ways. 1st the regular way like dried bits of flowers. 2nd like a powder. I was told by the merchants that it is in fact the same spice that has been crushed into powder to facilitate shaking it over dishes from a shaker. I bought both kinds and I find no noticeable difference in taste But our friends say that it is probably not saffran. Can you please enlighten me. SML

Turning saffron into the ground form has long been a way to adulterate it, often with less expensive safflowers. That doesn't mean that your merchant did this, however, and the best way to tell is to compare it to the real thing as you did. Ground saffron will lose its flavor more quickly than the threads.


There is a distinct difference in flavours between Indian or eastern curry powders and the yellow one sold in northern Europe (especially Holland and Scandinavia) Have you any idea what spice it is that gives this different flavour - it's not a pungent one, rather almost flowery ? It is especially good with mayonnaise on eggs or potato. PK

There are so many different curry powders with so many different ingredients that it is hard to pinpoint any one ingredient. Turmeric is the spice that gives curry the yellow color. Fenugreek is a common ingredient as well and also one that might meet your description as almost flowery and sweet.


I see recipes that call for "rubbed sage." how, exactly, does one rub sage? thank you for your time. best, jg

Rubbed sage is an unusual process of crushing the dried leaves that results in a sort of fluffy texture. I never really liked this texture and don't understand why sage is the only herb they choose to preserve in this way. I prefer to use ground sage if I can find it because it it easier to handle, measure and mix with other herbs.

Hello, I have seen numerous recipes calling for "bruised cardamom." Does this refer to a product or a process? Thank you, -L

Bruising cardamom might be better described as cracking it. The seeds within the pods are hard and if you break them up a bit before using they will yield more flavor.


What is the difference between a) mixed spices and spice blends, and b) seasonings and condiments? S

Spice blends are simply a mixture of different herbs and spices that fall into the category of seasonings. No hard rule exists but generally condiments are often tasty side seasonings that are in paste or sauce form such as mustard or chutney.


I saw this spice used on a cooking show and didn't catch the name of this spice. What is the name of this spice without chives it's cheveril, parsley, tarragon, thyme. Thank you. L2C

My guess is herbes de Provence.


What kind of taste does tumeric add? LS

Turmeric has a sort of gingered pepper flavor. Read more on the subject at "All About Turmeric."


I have received a recipe that calls for "1 pn of sugar" What does "pn" mean? Thanks. O.D.

I'm thinking this "pn" is an abbreviation for "pinch" which is measured at 1/16 of a teaspoon.


How much is a sprig? I'm not sure how to measure this in a recipe. Thanks SP

A sprig is usually considered to be a four-inch length of a fresh herb.


I was thumbing through a cook book which I purchased from a yard sale. A recipe for olive and cheese custard sounded interesting but called for 1/3 cup olive liquor. Is that just the 1938 way of saying olive oil or is it something else? Thank you, DF

I've never heard the term "olive liquor" either. My oldest cookbook, from 1951, calls for olive oil sometimes but as I thumbed through it I noticed that they often called for the liquid from prepared ingredients like the oil from anchovies or the juice from cherries.  Maybe your olive liquor is the brine that the olives come packed in?


I have been given a fleshy herb which was described as five-spice. It is a prostrate plant and roots very easily. Its leaves are not unlike cactus, are heart shaped and furry. Please could you give me some details about it...its botanical name and uses. Thank you. DH

I've had this question before from a reader in Brisbane but still cannot find any information about it. This term "five spice" is probably a regional nickname that makes it difficult to identify. Sorry I can't help but maybe you could take it to a local garden center that specializes in herbs.


Can you tell me what mother in law spice/herb is and what it is to be used for !! CL

A brief Google search reveals that The Mother-in-law Spice is probably a proprietary blend from Adamson Spices. I couldn't find any other information about it aside from the fact that it has recently been recalled because of the big Sudan Red scare.


What is laurier in English? LK

 "Laurier" is Bay Leaf in English. Did you find the first Multi-Lingual Herb and Spice Index? It has listings for Spanish, French, German, Swedish, Italian and Arabic.


What spices are in Goya Sazon? I can't find this packet anywhere. Thank you, P

Sazon seems to be a combination of garlic, onion, coriander and other spices. I see Goya products at some supermarkets that have large ethnic sections or you can order it from The


Are chives and scallions the same?? Taste, etc. This will settle a long going family discussion. Thank you RM

Chives and scallions are from the same family but the flavor of each is distinct. Chives resemble a clump of grass while scallions are either immature onions or a plant called "bunching onions" that won't grow a full bulb.


In your Pork Pie Dough, you state "Using fork stir mixture until flour is moistened but still a bit shaggy". What is "shaggy"?

I lifted this term from another pastry recipe because it is so descriptive-once you see it. Rather than the "coarse crumbs" consistency so often called for in dough recipes, the pork pie dough takes on a ragged look after adding the minimal amount of liquid.


How can I tell the difference between Mint and Spearmint??? CZ

Mint is a more generic name for the many different types. Spearmint is probably the most widely available as a fresh herb while peppermint is common to flavorings such as mint extract. See "All About Mint" for more information.


Have you ever heard of a spice called Lomis or Loomis? And if so, can you give me any information on it? Thanks, K.P.

Sorry, doesn't ring a bell with me at all.

My dad went to Thailand a while ago and returned with some spices for me. I am trying to figure out some of their uses and have found some great recipes on the net. (dried galanga, kaffirlime leaves, etc.) However, I am trying to figure out one of the packages. It is labeled Saffran and it is a powder that is much the same colour and consistency as tumeric. There is another package labelled Saffron and it looks like the kind of saffron that I am used to (little orange bits the size of dill). Please let me know if you have any answers to this. Also, there is galanga in two forms, dried slices (which I have found some great recipes for) and dried ground up (similar to the consistency of the saffron, and for which I have not tracked down any recipes). If you have any ideas of its uses, I would love to know. ~a

Don't you have a nice Dad! I am guessing from your description that the "saffran" is safflower. Those unfamiliar with saffron can sometimes be fooled into thinking the safflower is the more expensive spice. I think that some Spanish and Mexican recipes do use safflower as an ingredient but the only reference I can put my finger on today is using it as a dye. As for the galangal, in her book Spices Manisha Gambhir Harkins (see the review here) gives us this definition: "Native to Southeast Asia. A rhizome of the ginger family, generally known as "greater galangal," it has a ginger-like flavor and aroma, but tangier, with hints of lemongrass. Used fresh throughout Southeast Asia to flavor curries and soups. Available in Southeast Asian stores--as dried, pieces, as a powder, and if you're lucky, fresh." She uses it in several of the recipes in the book, two of them for soups, but often suggests using ginger if you don't have galangal. Might be fun for you to try it in recipes that call for ginger.


My mother in law always talked of eating "marrow jam" in her native Ireland. All she knew was that it was a jam made from a squash type plant. Has anyone heard of this? Thank you D

This is a new one to me but my trusty Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst tells me that  "vegetable marrow" is a summer squash closely related to zucchini. It is cultivated in England and can grow to the size of a watermelon. I did a Google search on "marrow jam" and found several recipes mostly on websites from the UK.


What is the difference between a spice and an herb? SZ

In general, spices are the fruits, berries or roots of plants while herbs are the leaves.


Hi. Can you please tell me: what is Cajun spice and where is it from? Thanx SJ

Cajun seasoning is a spicy blend of herbs and spices commonly used in Louisiana cooking. The blend was made popular by Chef Paul Prudhomme and his recipe for blackened redfish but now people use it in all sorts of cooking. The blend ingredients will vary from cook to cook or by manufacturer although Cajun seasonings often include paprika, black, red and white peppers with thyme and other herbs.


What is forengreek used for? Received a spice rack with a bottle and don't ever recall seeing it in any recipe. Help?

I wonder if you mean fenugreek? If it is a pale brown powder or pebbly-looking seeds, that is probably what you have. Fenugreek is a common curry ingredient. Take a look at "All About Fenugreek" for more information.


A Japanese recipe calls for "mustard and cress". What exactly is it? KB

As a combination, I'm not sure. Individually, cress is usually a general reference to watercress, a leafy green with a peppery taste. The mustard could be anything from mustard greens to the seed or the paste made from the ground seeds. If you are looking at a recipe in a cookbook, be sure to check the front or back matter for an explanation of ingredients.


Please could you tell me the difference between brown lentils and French green lentils? Also would it make a difference in the favor of the dish? Thank you G

The difference is subtle in flavor but big in the presentation. Brown lentils do not hold their shape during cooking like the French lentils do. The green lentils don't need to cook as long and make attractive salads and side dishes. The brown lentils are great for stews or soups since they break down and serve as a thickener.


I need to know what cardamon spice tastes like, is it kinda like nutmeg? BB

Cardamom has a taste all its own.  Although it is similar to nutmeg, it is more pronounced. Cardamom has a deep, rich spicy flavor that almost burns. For more information on this unique spice see "All About Cardamom."


Can you tell me the difference between Italian parsley and flat leaf parsley? KT

There is no difference, these are just two different names for the same plant. To read more about it, see "All About Parsley."


What does it mean to “zest” something? I have a recipe (a stir fry) that calls for me to “zest” a navel orange, and to “blanch” the orange zest for 1 1/2 minutes “with water to cover.” It later says I should add the orange peel to another part of the dish. Is the zest the same as the orange peel. Help! (I found your site when I typed “what does it mean to zest?” in Google.) -J

The zest refers to just the colored portion of citrus peel. This outermost part of the peel has a great deal of flavor but if you get into the white part underneath it will be bitter. You can zest an orange by carefully removing that thin colored layer with a carrot/potato peeler. Tools are available for zesting as well but would not result in strips suitable for blanching as your recipe states. I have a nifty little zester tool that has five holes across the top to pull off the zest in long thin strips. Many cooks swear by a microplane grater for zesting. You can read more about these at "Nifty Herb and Spice Gadgets."


I have several recipes that call for a "garlic button". What-the-heck IS a garlic button? I would appreciate your input. Thanks. C

Cloves of the garlic head seem to go by many names. I've never heard them referred to as buttons but I have heard them called "toes" or "buds." These must all be regional references.

Hi, what is the mixture for all-spice? thks. O

Allspice is a single spice rather than a combination.  To find out more, be sure to read "All About Allspice."


Is Perilla (sp?) edible? I've heard it also called "purple basil" but it has no basil scent. D

Perilla, common to Japanese cookery, is indeed edible. It is sometimes called by its Japanese name Shiso. It may resemble purple basil but cinnamon-scented perilla is actually a member of the mint family. This attractive plant is often grown for ornamental purposes so before eating it, I would make sure the perilla has not been treated with any sort of chemical. See the article "All About Shiso."


Hi, Could you please do an article about asafoetida? Cheers John

Interesting request. I was not even aware of this stinky resin until your note sent me exploring. I found some good information about it at "the epicentre" website.


Hi. I'm experimenting with a new recipe and it calls for tomato powder. I've never heard of this or seen it (not that I've ever looked for it before!), so could you tell me what this is and where I might find it. Thank you so much!! CV

Tomato powder is dried tomatoes, as you probably suspected, that can be used for flavoring pastas, breads or anywhere you would like a nice deep red color or the flavor of tomatoes without introducing extra liquid. I've used it in the past for making spice blends for camping. It can be difficult to find but it is available from Pendery's and the Baker's Catalog.


Hi, just found your it's on my favorites list!  What is the dill relish you listed in your deviled egg recipe?? thanks

Hey, glad you have joined us! The dill relish in the Dilled and Deviled Eggs recipe that you found at All About Dill is a commercial pickle product found on shelves at most supermarkets in the US. It is generally made up of minced pickles, onion, mustard, red bell pepper and spices. Sweet relish is the same combination but made with sweet pickles rather than dill pickles. If you cannot find it, minced dill pickles would work for the deviled egg recipe.


I'm a culinary student and just last week in school, we talked about peppercorns. My teacher told us that there are 4 types of peppercorns. White (ripe & red), Green (unripe), Black (half ripe, dried), and Pink/red (berries from rose plants). My question is, if I wanted to use red peppercorns, why can't I just use the ripe/red skin on peppercorns? Why use the berries? Is there anything wrong with unpeeled ripe/red peppercorns? Thanks

To the best of my knowledge, you would not be able to find the ripened peppercorns, which may be yellow or red, with the skin still on them. This outer shell is soaked off or washed away in the process of producing white pepper. I can't tell you exactly why this is done or how the process evolved, only that most experts will tell you that there is no true red peppercorn. Be sure to read All About Peppercorns for more information about the world's most important spice.


Hello. My 8 year old for some reason wants to know what the sesame seed plant looks like and how it is grown and harvested. Can anyone help me out? Thanks

Thanks for your question, I had never seen a sesame seed plant either! I found two nice photos by doing a Google image search. In addition to the information found in the All About Sesame Seed article, I can tell you that the plants are an annual, grown 2-4 apart for about four months before they produce a seed pod, or capsule. The pods ripen from the bottom of the plant up and are cut then shocked, like corn. They are threshed, dried and cleaned. Some are hulled to produce the common white seed.


About celery as a spice, where does it come from? What kind of plant is it? Is it's leaves or stems, or the flower, or maybe the seed or root of the plant? How is it used? With what kind of foods would you use this spice? What kind of smell would you describe it as? What other words can you think to describe how it smells? Would you please send me a picture of it in it's natural form?

You will find the answers to most of your questions in the article All About Celery Seed. You could also describe the scent as grassy and floral with earthy citrus undertones. I'm afraid I don't have a photograph to send you.


A recipe I came across recently called for herbs de province, can you help me? Thank you .. Carolyn C.

Herbes de Provence is a classic combination from the south of France. I'm sure the recipe proportions vary from chef to chef but Penzey's spice catalog lists theirs as: savory, rosemary, cracked fennel, thyme, basil, tarragon, lavender and marjoram. You can usually find this herb blend alongside the other spices at your market.


Regarding the earlier question "What is the German name used for the mixture of cottage cheese with herbs and spices and do you have a recipe? KJH" Cottage Cheese = Hüttenkäse (Huettenkaese) curds = quark I think KJH is looking for Kräuterquark. This dish is made from quark (curds) (if not available use sour cream instead) and fresh, coarsely chopped herbs like basil, thyme, oregano, parsley, chives...(what ever you like). Add garlic and seson to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Kräuterquark is great for the barbecue-season in Germany. We mostly enjoy it with baked potato or simply with baguette. Sabine from

Thanks for helping us solve this mystery!  Krauterquark sounds delicious.


 What is Red Curry Powder? What is the difference between curry powder and curry paste?  Can they be interchanged? I am looking at a recipe in this month's Cooking Light that calls for Red Curry Powder.

Red curry is a Thai specialty that varies from chef to chef but usually includes hot red chiles, garlic, lemongrass, kafir lime and salt.  A paste is made by adding a liquid, usually a fish sauce.

What can you tell me about salt? HC

Check into the article "All About Flavored Salts" for everything I know about salt.


What is the German name used for the mixture of cottage cheese with herbs and spices and do you have a recipe? KJH

Your question is making me nuts because I am sure I came across this very same recipe recently but now I cannot find it!  I wonder if the name you are looking for is "quark?" That's a type of German cheese similar to cottage cheese.  I will continue to search for that recipe.  You might do some experimenting on your own with seasonings like dill weed or seed, cumin, mustard, chives, black pepper, paprika or caraway.


My son brought me back a range of spices from Nepal. One of these is 'Ajoin'. Can you tell me anything about it please? Thanks, jonmac

We would love to hear more about all of these spices! The closest thing I could come up with in just being able to compare names was a listing for "ajwain" at World Merchants.  Here is their description: "A hard seed that looks like cumin or fennel in shape but with a decidedly musty and base flavor. Very common to Indian and African cuisine, especially with lentils. The ground seed can even help reduce the gaseous effects of beans when cooked for a short time together. Try it anywhere you use cumin for a surprisingly different flavor." Please be sure to let us know if this is the right one.


I was wondering where cream of tarter comes from?  Could you send me information on this spice?? I couldn't find it in McCormick or Schilling Web Sites. KH

Cream of Tartar is a natural derivative of grape juice.  It is used to stabilize egg whites for meringue or other times you want stiff whites. Penzeys Spices also suggests adding about a teaspoon to the water when boiling vegetables to reduce discoloration.


I recently ate at a Mediterranean restaurant that served a plate of crushed herbs and olive oil for dipping bread. The combination was great. Do you know what herbs I might use for this? Thanks.

This really is better than butter! You might want to try thyme, Greek oregano, marjoram, rosemary or fennel for starters. Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper are excellent additions to any combination of herbs.


Recently I ate in a restaurant that served a steak and potato soup. It was very spicey. I asked what the spices were that were in it. The waitress asked the chef who said it was herbs province. But the waitress did not know what that was and she did not find out for me.

"Herbs de Provence" is a classic French herb blend. A recipe will usually include rosemary, savory, thyme, tarragon and lavender but, as with most blends, there are many variations as well.


Trying to find out where the sesame seed comes from? All I can find is that it's a herb. What is the plant name that produces the seed? Thank you.

Sesame seeds come from the "Sesamum indicum" plant native to Indonesia and tropical Africa.


When I was in West Africa I had a drink made from a plant called BISSUP. I'm trying to find out more about the plant and if I can buy it in Australia. Can you help? thanks

The only thing I can find out about this tropical drink from Senegal is that it's crimson in color and has a pineapple taste. Perhaps another reader can help us out. Anyone??


Hi! Could you please tell me the difference between black and white poppy seeds apart from the color. In Indian cooking we normally use the white/cream colored poppy seeds. Your feedback will be of great help to me. Thanks.

I was not aware of poppy seeds that were any other color except black, or actually deep blue. However, my best reference book states that the seeds range in color from white to blue to black. I find no mention of any differences other than color. Most of the poppy seed in the US is from Holland. Perhaps your white ones are coming from one of the other major producing countries such as Poland, Iran, Romania, Russia, Turkey or Argentina. Thanks for opening my eyes to this colorful tidbit of information!


I have heard that the herb "Savory" sold under the Schilling label is the same as the native plant "Yerba Buena." Is this true?

Schilling is most likely selling true savory, an herb commonly used with beans. I did find "yerba buena" listed in my Richter's catalog. It's sold as a plant with the following description: "Trailing mint-scented plant; excellent for baskets. yerba buena is Spanish for 'good herb,' and so it is. Delicious in tea, by itself or blended with other tea herbs."


I have a recipe that calls for coinrau and I have never heard of it could you tell me what it is?

Perhaps you refer to the orange liqueur Cointreau (pronounced kwan-tro). It's rather expensive but has a wonderful, powerful flavor. For cooking, you might substitute another liqueur called Triple-Sec. If you prefer not to cook with alcohol at all, you might try orange juice.


What does the spice mixture "Beau Monde" contain? I have a recipe that calls for it, but I do not find it at the grocery.

Beau Monde is a popular, yet oddly elusive, seasoning blend. I've seen it recently in a Schilling/McCormick bottle at the supermarket but I also found this knock-off recipe at this site. If other readers have a better source for the real thing or a better recipe, please let us know.



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