Basic Spice Glossary
Allspice - The dried berry of the allspice tree smells like a mix of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg—but it’s a spice all its own. Use in baking, pickling and sausage.
Anise Seed - This close cousin to fennel seed has a subtle licorice-like flavor. Use in liqueurs, cakes and cookies.
Cardamom - This relative of gingerroot is available ground or in pods of about 20 seeds. The sweetish, hottish flavor is popular in Scandinavian dishes as well as East Indian cooking.
Cayenne Pepper - Though technically an herb, fiery hot cayenne pepper is usually grouped with spices in the kitchen. Made from ground dried hot chilis, cayenne is popular in Mexican and Southwestern dishes.
Celery Seed - The fruit of the wild celery plant is sold whole, ground or mixed with salt. Its strong flavor is good in fish dishes and salads.
Cinnamon - An important baking spice, the dried bark of a member of the laurel family is sold whole and ground. It is especially delicious with apples.
Cloves - The dried flower buds of the clove tree are sold whole or ground and used in pickling spice, baked ham, mulled wine and baked goods.
Coriander - Seed From the coriander plant (a member of the parsley family), coriander seed has a slightly tart, citrusy flavor. It’s sold whole and ground. Try it in East Indian and Mexican dishes.
Cumin Seed - An essential spice with an assertive flavor, cumin is used extensively in Mexican cooking and is a main ingredient in prepared chili powder. Available whole or ground.
Dill Seed - It wouldn’t be a pickle without this fruit of the dill plant. Sold whole, the seed flavors breads, salads and seafood.
Fennel Seed - The licorice-flavored seed of the fennel plant perks up pork, pasta, bread and seafood.
Ginger - Oriental cooking just wouldn’t be the same without this flavorful root. Ginger is grated and sliced and added to meats and vegetables. Ground, it’s used in baking.
Mustard - The seed of the mustard plant is sold whole, ground or as a prepared condiment. Whole, the pungent flavor is used in East Indian dishes. The ground form seasons meats and salads.
Nutmeg - Nutmeg is the pit of the nutmeg fruit (part of the shell is another spice, called mace). A delicate spice, sold whole or ground, nutmeg is used in sweet and savory dishes.
Paprika - A spice made from ground, dried peppers, paprika’s flavor ranges from sweet to incendiary. Sweet paprika is used mostly for coloring; the fiery hot sort is used in Hungarian dishes.
Pepper - Pepper berries are grown on a vine. The same plant produces both white and black pepper—white peppercorns are just riper than black ones. Buy whole and grind for best flavor.
Poppy Seed - The mature seed of the poppy flower is sold whole and in paste form. Use in both sweet and savory baking.
Sesame Seed - One of the oldest spices, sesame seed is sold whole, or ground into a paste called tahini. Use in candy baking and Middle Eastern and Oriental cooking.
Old Forum - Herbs, Seasonings & Spices