Herbs and Spices

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About this Blog

Melissa Spencer has long had a fascination with plants and doesn’t discriminate between wild, weed or cultivated. She owns Attar Herbs & Spices located in the beautiful Monadnock Region of NH and is celebrating 50 years of service. She actively writes, speaks, and shares ways to infuse herbs and spices into everyday life.

Herbs and Spices really are little bundles of aromatic seeds, barks, berries and leaves. They can enliven the family meal turning the ordinary into the extraordinary and into a fragrant delight of the senses. They can open up a world of exotic cuisines connecting us with faraway cultures and they provide us with amazing health benefits. Follow her blog for endless ways to spice up life for the taste of it, the joy of it, and the health of it.

February 8, 2017

Where does cocoa come from? What’s the difference between cocoa and chocolate? Is chocolate healthy? Enjoy this delightful post about cocoa—plus, a delicious recipe. It’s that time of the year when cupid takes flight and the love of one’s sweetheart is met with sweets for one’s love. Chocolate is purchased and consumed in huge amounts.  Well, I certainly don’t need a special time of the year to appreciate the flavor and nuances of the divine cocao bean but it did get me to thinking. Since a... more

November 21, 2016

Guess what friends, cookie season is on! Here’s a seasonal take on the pinwheel cookie recipe, adding color and flavor with cranberry and cardamom.  I’ve already received two invites to a holiday cookie swap and asked to bake for the school bake sale this week. The time of year when the kitchen counter and floor takes on a constant film of flour for weeks to come. It’s all good though. It comes and goes so quickly and brings joy, and perhaps an extra pound or two… but who’s counting. An... more

October 25, 2016

What is pumpkin spice made up of? Who came up with pumpkin spice? Where did this spice blend come from and how has it seemingly tapped into a national craving? Indeed, pumpkin-spiced everything has been pleasing our autumnal palettes for quite some time now. This fall flavor has infiltrated food stuffs up and down each and every aisle of the supermarket, our coffee shops, bakeries and even the local brewery. WHAT IS PUMPKIN SPICE MADE UP OF? The traditional ingredients of pumpkin spice can... more

September 27, 2016

Most of us have a pepper shaker on our kitchen table, but do you know how pepper grows? Find out all about piper nigrum, the history of pepper, and pepper’s health benefits! I got a package in the mail the other day. As I opened it I saw a bundle that was wrapped up very carefully with lots of shredded paper spilling out from around it. When I unearthed it from all the wrappings I thought at first it was an ivy plant. Then I read the tag attached to it: Piper Nigrum. Whoa, I was thrilled! A... more

September 21, 2016

Every season has a star spice, and there’s no doubt that autumn ushers in the call for cinnamon to shine. Discover more about using this delicious and healthful spice. Whether it’s  apples, squash, sweet potatoes, mulled cider or wine, cinnamon is essential. It’s sweet and warming ways lend beautifully to the harvest of the season. But did you know that not all cinnamon is created equal? THERE ARE FOUR MAIN CINNAMON VARIETIES While there are hundreds of types of cinnamon growing in the... more

August 29, 2016

Ever tried adding fresh mint to your ice cream? It’s so easy and beyond compare!  At this point in the summer we’ve got mint coming out of our, well everywhere, what do we do with it all? My ten year old daughter, Autumn, had her best friend over and it was a hot and humid, lazy afternoon. They had a hankering for ice cream but the freezer turned up empty. They decided that they wanted to make their own but couldn’t decide on a flavor. Earlier in the spring I opted to pot-bound our mint and... more

August 5, 2016

If you love pickles, you will be as intrigued as to learn about the history of pickling and pickling spices. The word “pickle” comes from a Dutch word ‘pekel’ or northern German ‘pókel’ meaning “salt” or “brine,” two components that are essential in the pickling process. Pickling in America is largely synonymous with the act of submerging cucumbers (or other fruits or vegetables) into a salty brine or acidic solution along with various spices to create an environment where no unhealthy... more

August 2, 2016

Saffron is considered one of the top 16 most expensive substances in the world by weight and easily the most expensive cultivated spice in the world. It has a long history of being both highly coveted and highly adulterated. Given it’s labor intensive cultivation and harvest, it’s no surprise. What exactly is Saffron? Saffron threads come from the autumn flowering bulb, Crocus sativus. The flower of the crocus is a beautiful violet color that blooms in the autumn and offers a very short (2-3... more

July 1, 2016

Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, also known as coriander or Chinese parsley, can incite a repulsed reaction in certain people. As a frequent eater and huge fan of cilantro, I found it odd when I would come across someone who felt utter disgust for cilantro, claiming it tastes awful, like soap. To be honest, I figured they might just be picky or maybe had eaten some bad salsa once and blamed it on the cilantro. It turns out that their reaction is not just an overreaction. It is real and grounded in... more

June 21, 2016

Notice how we keep all our seasonings in a “spice cupboard” and don’t call it an “herbs and spice” cupboard? Our language has evolved in such a way that we lump together these two biologically different plant parts. While they share many similarities such as their ability to offer flavor, vitality and diversity to our meals, there are many factors that differentiate them.   Herbs and Spices come from Different parts of the plant An herb is the green, leafy part of the plant. A spice can... more

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