Homemade Spice Blends

Discover the many inventive seasonings you can create with herbs and spices that are easy to grow, dry, and blend at home.

| March / April 2018

  • Creating homemade mixes of dried herbs and spices is easier than it seems.
    Photo by Getty Images/Ninell_Art
  • This do-it-yourself approach to spice blends reduces unhealthy preservatives in kitchen creations.
    Photo by Getty Images/ValentynVolkov
  • Lavender was added to the herbes de Provence blend for the benefit of tourists who saw the purple flower as symbolic of the region.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Barbara Pheby
  • The very name, "savory," announces the flavor that both the summer and winter variations of the herb impart to dishes.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/Scisetti Alfio
  • Scholars and cooks alike agree that "Origanum syriacum" is the za'atar herb that best fits all ancient descriptions.
    Photo by Getty Images/Quanthem
  • While poisonous sumac is identified by its hanging white berries, tart, edible sumac berries grow in upright red clusters.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/spline_x
  • "Paprika" is the name of both the brilliant red spice and the sweet peppers from which it comes.
    Photo by Getty Images/inewsistock
  • Cumin is grown for its seeds, which are used whole or ground in food and medicine.
    Photo by Getty Images/Mantonature
  • Dried cumin seed pods will crumble in your hands, releasing their seeds for use or storage.
    Photo by Getty Images/Magone
  • Homemade ranch dressing is as simple as combining Greek yogurt with herbs and spices.
    Photo by Adobe Stock/fahrwasser
  • Electric food dehydrators pay for themselves over time and greatly simplify the process of drying homegrown produce and herbs.
    Photo by Stocksy/Harald Walker

If there’s one thing we know about food, it’s that homegrown, homemade dishes are healthier than store-bought varieties — and the satisfaction behind their creation makes them taste better, too. Why not extend that healthfulness as far as you can? Though buying spice blends for your kitchen might appear to be the simplest option, creating homemade mixes of dried herbs and spices is easier than it seems. Most of the ingredients in the following blends can be grown in a backyard garden, and dehydrating simple spices can be a breeze. This do-it-yourself approach reduces unhealthy preservatives in kitchen creations, too! Try out the following ideas to preserve your harvest and experience delicious flavors year-round.

Herbes de Provence

On the southeast tip of France is an herbal heaven. There, in Provence, an array of summertime herbs grow so fragrant that they even permeate the aroma of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a regional, full-bodied red wine. These herbs can be gathered by the handful and used to impart their distinctive aromas to meats, vegetables, cheeses, soups, and sauces. Because of the region’s proximity to Italy and the Mediterranean, this mix of herbs has a similar aroma to what we think of as Italian seasoning, but don’t be fooled — herbes de Provence contains its own depth of flavor.

The composition of this heady herb blend varies from household to household based on personal preference; it may contain as few as five or as many as 11 different herbs. Thyme is always present, and often so are rosemary and savory. The most surprising ingredient is lavender, which was added to the blend for the benefit of foreigners and tourists who saw Provence’s purple-flowered fields as symbolic of the region. Traditional or not, its sweetness brings something special to the other flavors. Indeed, each herb in the blend contributes just the right degree of sweetness or spicy pungency.

Luckily, many of these adaptable herbs are common kitchen staples. By growing your favorites, you can continuously mix all manner of herbes de Provence blends.



To make your own herbes de Provence, see: Classic Herbes de Provence Recipe.

To use your homemade herbes de Provence, see: Spinach and Watercress Salad with Baked Chèvre Recipe.

Katan
3/11/2018 6:54:22 PM

great article, easy to understand - learned quite a bit - thanks!




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