What is a spice? In the culinary world we talk about herbs and spices, both of which are used for their own flavour as well as to enhance the flavour of ingredients, but they are distinctly classified. Herbs are plants we use the leaf of (and occasionally the stalks), while a spice is defined by the use of any other dried part of the plant, such as the seed, the root, bark and the stem. This differs slightly from the botanical definition of herb, or ‘herbaceous’, which defines any plant that has no woody stem and which in cold areas dies down over winter and reshoots in the warmer months. In fact, some plants we call herbs in the kitchen are in fact shrubs and not herbs at all (such as rosemary), but we use the culinary definition rather than the botanical definition when we use them in cooking.
Some plants can be both a herb and a spice – coriander is a herb when we use the leaves, but a spice when we use the dried seeds. Kaffir (makrut) lime is actually a tree or shrub, but we often refer to it as a herb or spice when using the leaves. Lemongrass is often thought of as a spice, but is it in fact a herb? It isn’t always easy to define them!
For this design activity, you’ll first need a list of spice plants that will grow in your climate. Feel free to include some herbs if you wish. Draw circles to scale on your garden bed plan to estimate the space you’ll need to grow your plant.
Download our handy PDF for a table of spices and their growth height and diameter.