How to use and identify popular kitchen spices
A basic guide to commonly used spices. Image: iStock
Most spices are plant derivatives and can be used whole or finely ground to season or preserve food.
Spices are best kept in airtight, glass containers in a cool, dry spot away from direct heat and sunlight.
Store any members of the pepper family, including paprika and chilli powder, in the fridge, to retain their colour and flavour.
Also called pimento, this Jamaican pepper incorporates flavours of cloves, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and pepper
Part of the ginger family, it grows in southern India. It’s used in chai and is popular in rice and meat dishes
The outer bark of the cinnamon tree, which grows in Sri Lanka, is dried and used to flavour sweet and savoury foods, and chai
The dried, unopened flower buds of an evergreen tree, believed to be native to Indonesia, complement both sweet and savoury dishes
This popular spice has a distinctive aroma and flavour, and is one of the main ingredients in curry powder
This seed of the nutmeg tree is encased in a hard shell with a red covering of mace. Both spices are used in ground or grated form
Made from ground dried capsicum, this popular Mexican and Spanish flavouring comes smoked, sweet or hot, and has a vibrant deep-red colour
Black, green and white peppercorns are all berries from the pepper plant in various stages of development. The black variety is the strongest
The dried and ground stigmas of the saffron crocus flower make this an expensive spice. It is often used in Asian and Mediterranean dishes
This star-shaped fruit is harvested prior to ripening, then dried to make the aromatic spice traditionally used in Chinese five-spice seasoning.
Pods are harvested from the vanilla orchid. Popular in desserts, the flavouring comes as a liquid extract, powder or in whole-pod form