Twice per year or so I order most of my herbs and spices in bulk, this saves me money and I feel I’m able to get a better quality product ordering it straight from the supplier instead of buying old spices from the grocery store or more expensive spices from the health food store. Good quality spices and herbs can have a profound effect on your food, making it more delicious than you’ve ever thought possible! I find I use less because the flavor is more pronounced.
The following are “Must-Haves” in my kitchen!
Native to India, it also grows in Asia and Malaysia, and is one of the most important herbs to Indian homes.
Holy Basil is used in ayurvedic medicine for common colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria. Holy Basil is considered an adaptogen, which means that it assists the body adapt to stress (environmental, physical, or chemical), restore balance in the body, and normalize body functions. It is currently being studied for its beneficial properties and has been found to be effective for cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, stress, wound healing, the immune system, inflammations, liver support and protection, hypoglycemic conditions, ulcers, digestion, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, radiation poisoning, cataracts, the memory, respiratory system, urinary problems, eczema, psoriasis and other skin conditions, and it is an antioxidant. – Mountain Rose Herbs
Probably the most used herb in my kitchen, I use it almost daily for things like; Italian Cream Cheese Chicken, Garlic Herb Butter, Pizza Sauce, Spaghetti Sauce, and Scrambled Eggs. Basically gets added to anything where I want to impart an “Italian” flavor.
If one is trying to conceive or currently pregnant, please take care in using basil medicinally as it’s been shown to increase the risk of miscarriage and promote menstruation. (medicinally means that you would use it in large doses each day – much more than a bit at a time with meals)
A herb I usually pair with all the basil I use, oregano is another mainstay in my spice cabinet! In fact, normally when I use basil, oregano follows it into the pot/pan. I don’t know how to use one without the other! Coming from the same family as mint, the Greeks used it for sore muscles, the Romans for spider bites.
The leaves and flowering stems are strongly antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, cholagogue, diaphoretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, stimulant, stomachic and mildly tonic. Oregano is taken by mouth for the treatment of colds, influenza, mild fevers, indigestion, stomach upsets and painful menstruation. It is strongly sedative and should not be taken in large doses, though mild teas have a soothing effect and aid restful sleep. Used topically, oregano is one of the best herbal antiseptics because of its high thymol content. – Mountain Rose Herbs
Just like basil, oregano is an emmenagogue, meaning that it can stimulate menstruation and should not be used medicinally while trying to conceive or during pregnancy. Culinary use is fine.
3. Minced Garlic
My love affair with garlic began just a few short years ago. Something about eating a whole foods diet that caused me to love this flavor! Before I liked garlic…..now I put it in everything. And while using fresh minced garlic is my preferred method, I make sure to have dried minced garlic in my cupboard at all times. Some recipes just work better with dried garlic as I can more easily measure, and I find it also has a lighter flavor than fresh – something my young son prefers. I also do not use garlic powder unless absolutely necessary for a recipe.
Garlic is also naturally anti-fungal and anti-bacterial, helping boost the body’s immune system.
Garlic has a very long folk history of use in a wide range of ailments, particularly ailments such as ringworm, Candida, vaginitis colds, flus, and bronchitis, where its fungicidal, antiseptic, tonic and parasiticidal properties have proved of benefit. – Mountain Rose Herbs
4. Minced Onion
Tossed into many of my dishes, minced onion is great for adding flavor to dishes. Fresh onion most often times adds better flavor to a dish, but the quickness of adding a bit of dried onion out-ways benefits to flavor more often than not. And again, my young son can pick out a fresh onion like a vulture finds roadkill, and will refuse to eat dinner. But dried minced onion? He has no idea……
5. Chili Powder
Need a bit of spice? Chili powder to the rescue! It’s truly a sad day when I run out of chili powder – I don’t know how to cook without it! We add it to our homemade taco seasoning, burritos, hamburger beef patties, and jerky. And quality and freshness truly make a difference when it some to chili powder. Some brands just don’t cut it! I’ve been very happy with buying it from Mountain Rose Herbs and have perfected my recipes based on this powder. (when I run out and have to buy a different brand, the taste of our recipes change)
Most often overpriced in a normal grocery store, cumin can be purchased at a steep discount when buying in bulk! It adds wonderful flavor to Mexican dishes and finds it’s way into the same dishes as chili powder. Tacos just aren’t tacos without cumin.
In herbal medicine, it is often times used as a diuretic and to treat stomach upset. According to MRH, it may also promote menstruation, so don’t use medicinally when TTC, and can also increase lactation in nursing mothers.
Most often used in baking in our home, cinnamon gets its fair share of use! I often add it to muffins, pancakes, and sweet potatoes or squash for added flavor. The powder loses flavor over time, so it’s best to buy amounts you will use within a few months.
Medicinally it’s often times used as a remedy for insulin resistance and PCOS, though it is also not recommended during pregnancy.
8. Black Pepper
What dish doesn’t include black pepper? If I sprinkle salt on food, it’s usually followed by pepper! you can buy it in whole peppercorns and grind yourself (stronger flavor) or already ground. And again, freshness and quality counts – old pepper that’s been sitting for months on the shelves won’t impart as much flavor into a meal. One interesting fact that I didn’t know until just today is how it’s actually harvested and made:
To make black pepper, the clusters are plucked when they are not quite ripe. They are then left in piles to ferment. After a few days, the berries are spread out on a mat and left to dry in the sun for two or three more days until they are shriveled and nearly black.- Mountain Rose Herbs
One of the milder chilis, paprika is often times used for garnish and color, all while imparting a lighter flavor to dishes than the stronger peppers. The type of paprika you buy also has a lot to do with flavor as there are different varieties. The stuff in the store? Eh…kind of boring, lacking in flavor. I tend to buy Hungarian paprika which is a tiny bit spicier, though not necessarily “heat-wise”, just in overall flavor.
So those are my 9 must-have spices and/or herbs. What are yours? Did I miss any?