- Nutmeg – Nutmeg is the seed of a yellow brownish edible fruit that grows on an evergreen tree. When picked, the nutmeg seed is covered in mace which is scraped off and sold as a separate spice. Nutmeg is typically solid all the way through and is most commonly used in its ground form. Nutmeg works well with hearty dishes such as lamb and mutton recipes, tomato sauces and vegetable stews. Nutmeg is always a popular flavor in baking and cold weather beverages.
- Mace – Mace is the little known, lacy covering of nutmeg. Mace is removed from the outside of nutmeg in strips known as mace blades and can be ground after drying for easy culinary use. The flavor is warm with hints of lemony sweetness. It is often described as similar to but more delicate than nutmeg. Mace is considered a savory spice and works well as a replacement for nutmeg in lighter colored dishes where the dark specks of nutmeg are unwanted.
- Star Anise – Not to be confused with anise seed, star anise is a spice that has a shape similar to a star and typically has 8 points, but can have more or less. In the United States star anise is used similarly to cloves in application. The whole pods are used as mulling spices and the ground pod is used in baking and cold weather beverages.
- Cinnamon – Cinnamon is the oldest known spice, being referenced in written text in the 5th century. There are 4 distinct types. It actually comes from pieces of tree bark that have been sun dried. After drying, the bark is cut into strips or ground into a powder. There are a variety of cinnamon types, and each has a slightly different flavor as well as a different volatile oil content that determines its intensity. Cinnamon is used in baking and can also be found in an assortment of savory dishes.
- Cardamom – Cardamom aka the Queen of spices in India (with pepper as her King) is used to intensify both sweet and savory flavors. Cardamom itself has a light lemony flavor, with an aroma that is rugged, but gentle, biting and fruity. Cardamom can be used in its whole pod form or the seeds can be extracted and ground into a powder depending on the type of dish being prepared.
- Cloves – Cloves are probably the only spice that can be used by stabbing it into the food you’re cooking and just letting it sit. This popular way to flavor a holiday pork roast or ham is truly unique and also provides an aesthetic appeal. They can also be used whole when cooking liquids, such as cider, but they should be removed before serving. Ground cloves are used in spice blends such as Pumpkin Pie Spice, Chinese Five Spice and Garam Masala.
- Asafoetida – Another popular spice for those following gluten free diets, Asafoetida is the dried latex that comes from the taproot of several species of Ferula (a perennial herb). Primarily used in Indian cooking, it has an aroma that might have you second guessing its culinary use at first smell. Once cooked in oil the aroma mellows and the onion-like flavor can shine through a bit more.