So What is Up With Ginger – Is it a Spice Or an Herb?


Although most kitchen spice cabinets include a jar of ground ginger, it is usually considered a spice and one does not think of adding ginger herb to a recipe, one would add ginger spice. Ginger spice is added to Ginger Snaps, Ginger Bread, Ginger Ale, Gingered Chicken, and Gingered Pumpkin Cheesecake, face it, the spice “ginger” is called for in many recipes. So, is ginger a spice or an herb? Well, ginger is a spice. . . and. . . an herb.

By definition, herbs are the leafy parts of plants and shrubs used for flavoring foods, medicinal applications or the oil essence harvested for body care products. An example of an herb would be the leafy parts of ginger, parsley, rosemary, lavender and cilantro. Spices are harvested from the flowers, seeds, bark or roots of plants or trees. Examples would include; cinnamon (bark), coriander (seed of the cilantro plant), cloves, saffron and root of the ginger. Your eyes are not deceiving you – I do have ginger listed under examples of both spice and herb. Cilantro is a cross-over also, the leaves of the plant are by definition an herb and the seed of the plant is a spice, named coriander. Coriander really confused me when I first started cultivating herbs. I looked high and low for cilantro seeds at the nursery. When I finally asked the clerk for assistance, I was handed a seed packet with “coriander seeds” boldly written across the top of the package and a lovely picture of a healthy cilantro herb plant on the bottom. That incident prompted my first purchase of a book on herb gardening.

The line of terminology between classification of herb or spice has largely become interchangeable depending upon culinary usage according to the American Spice Trade Association). Plants, seeds and roots used for medicinal properties are commonly termed “herbal” Ground herbs used in cooking applications call for “spice”. Confused yet? Maybe this example will help. Ground ginger (spice) is used in baking cookies. Ginger root (herb) is steeped in boiled water for tea used in a medicinal manner.

However it is classified, ginger is an extremely versatile herb for medicinal purposes. Ginger root may be used to chew on to alleviate nausea (motion sickness), it may be used steeped in teas to alleviate chest congestion, to alleviate gas pains and flatulence (mince the root and add to baked beans), treating asthma, bronchitis and the list goes on. However it is classified, ginger is an extremely versatile spice for culinary applications; dessert recipes, beers, soda flavorings and this list goes on too.

Herb or spice, ginger is one of my favorites!


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