Add flavor with herbs and spices

Monday, June 10, 2024
Abbigail Smith

Herbs and spices add fabulous flavor and color to food without adding salt, fat or sugar. Cooking with herbs and spices is also a great way to introduce a variety of flavors to children while helping foods look more appetizing.

The terms “herbs” and “spices” are often used interchangeably and are sometimes referred to as “seasonings.” However, they are different.

Herbs are the leaves of low-growing shrubs and include parsley, chives, thyme, basil, oregano, rosemary and more. Herbs can be purchased dried, fresh or as a paste. When substituting in recipes, use the ratio of three fresh to one dried. For example, potato salad would use three tablespoons of fresh parsley or one tablespoon of dried parsley.

Spices come from the bark, roots, buds, seeds, berry, or fruit of plants and trees. Spices include cinnamon, ginger, onion, garlic, cloves, black pepper, paprika and more.

Additional ways to add flavor:

• Seasoning blends include a mixture of spices and herbs such as seasoning salt, Italian seasoning, taco seasoning and poultry seasoning. Check labels to see if salt is listed among the ingredients and opt for salt-free or lower-sodium versions.

• Rubs are a mixture of spices and can be wet or dry. Web rubs usually have a bit of oil or other moist ingredients such as mustard or yogurt added. Dry rubs are mixtures of several dry spices and herbs that are worked into the surfaces of meat, poultry or fish. They are both added to enhance flavor.

• Marinades are used to add flavor and tenderize meats and poultry. They generally contain herbs and spices, oil and an acid such as yogurt, citrus juice or vinegar.

Experiment with herbs and spices:

• Add fresh mint and lemon to a glass of ice water.

• Omit the salt when cooking pasta and flavor with basil, oregano, parsley and pepper, or use an Italian seasoning blend.

• For more flavor, add spices to uncooked dishes, such as salads, several hours before serving.

• Introduce children to herbs and spices with some easy flavor combinations such as apples with cinnamon, bananas with nutmeg and chicken with rosemary.

• Start a small herb garden or grow a few herbs in containers. Children will love watching them grow. This time of the year is a great time to plant some herbs. Just be cautious of the drops in temperature or potential frost.

Approximate equivalent amounts of different forms of herbs are:

• One tablespoon finely cut fresh herbs

• One teaspoon crumbled dried herbs

• A fourth-to-a-half teaspoon ground dried herbs

(Source: Nebraska Extension)

Visit or contact the local Purdue Extension office at 653-8411 for more information regarding this week’s column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. It is always best to call first to ensure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs.

Upcoming Events

June 13 – “Field and Followers: Best Story-telling Practices” webinar, 12 p.m., register at

June 14 – Electricity 4-H workshop, Extension office, 10 a.m.–1 p.m.

June 19 – Extension office closed for Juneteenth county holiday

June 19 – Electric 4-H workshop, Extension office, 3-6 p.m.

June 20 – “Field and Followers: How to Track Impact on Social Media” webinar, 12 p.m., register at

June 25 – “Harvesting Her Voice” workshop, 6 p.m., Cloverdale, $5, register at

July 19-26 – Putnam County Fair

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