Wednesday Wonders: Herbs and Spices

September 23, 2009

Q: Hi Nutritioulicious! Last week I bought a new spice rack for my kitchen, but there are a few herbs and spices, like marjoram, savory, and celery seed, that I don’t know how to use in my cooking. Can you help me out? — Spicing Things Up

A: Hi Spicing Things Up!

Congrats on getting a spice rack! It’s such a great tool to have in the kitchen and a wonderful way to play up the flavors of your dishes. But of course you need to know what the herbs and spices are and what foods they go with before you can use them!

Before I tell you about these different flavor enhancers, let’s review the basic difference between herbs and spices. Herbs (e.g. rosemary, oregano, dill) come from the leaves of the plant, whereas spices come from the seed (e.g. sesame), root (e.g. ginger), fruit (e.g. paprika), berry (e.g. black pepper), bud (e.g. saffron) or bark (e.g. cinnamon) of the plant. Now here’s what you need to know about the spices you mentioned:

Marjoram: A close cousin to oregano and included in the Herbes de Provences and Za’atar mixtures, this herb has a pine and citrus flavor. It is considered the meat herb because it goes so well with chicken, turkey, beef, and veal. But don’t shy away from using it on vegetables or with fish and eggs. It is a potent herb, so use it sparingly and add it to hot dishes towards the end of cooking.


Savory: There are over 30 species of this herb, the most important of which are summer savory and winter savory. Both types have a peppery flavor to them and are often used in place of salt and pepper in Bulgarian cooking. Savory is most often used to season green vegetables and beans, but it is also part of Herbes de Provences and goes well with chicken, turkey, sausages, and stews.


Celery Seed: This spice tastes just like celery! And it’s no surprise since it’s the fruit of the plant. It can be ground and mixed with salt to make celery salt, which is used in Old Bay seasoning and sometimes in bloody marys. Celery seed can be used in soups, salad dressings, cole slaw, and for pickling, or anywhere you want the flavor of celery without the crunch.

Celery Seed
Celery Seed

Have fun experimenting with your new herbs and spices, and keep in mind that if a recipe calls for fresh herbs and all you have are the dried ones, scale back. 1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon crumbled dry herbs = 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground dried herbs.

Don’t forget to email me with questions for future Wednesday Wonders!

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  1. Hi Jessica-
    Marjoram is one of my absolute favorites. In fact, a lot of times I like to use it in place of oregano which I find kind of harsh at times. Marjoram is sweeter and more floral, I like to think of it as Oregano’s more elegant, refined cousin. Every herb garden I’ve ever had includes it.