A sprinkling of herbs and spices adds flavour and variety to meals as well as providing some extra trace elements, minerals and vitamins. Try experimenting with different combinations.
Don't overdo it though. Some herbs are harmful in larger amounts.
Allspice should be ground as and when required from the whole sun-dried berries.
Use in marinades, pickles, mulled wine, chocolate drinks and to flavour both sweet and savoury dishes.
Aniseed are grey-green when fresh, going grey when stale. Grind immediately before use to flavour bread and cakes.
Anise, Star is used ground into a spice to flavour savoury dishes.
Basil is an excellent herb for salads and savoury dishes.
Bay leaves can be used whole to flavour stews, soups, casseroles for both fish and meat dishes.
Borage flowers and leaves are another useful addition to salads.
Capers are small pickled flower buds that can be used in cold sauces or with pizza.
Caraway seed can be added to bread, cakes, fruit, salads and vegetable dishes.
Cardamom pods are best used whole to flavour rice and pulse dishes, or the seed can be freshly ground to flavour cakes and bread.
Chervil leaves can be added to soups, salads and omelettes.
Cinnamon bark is difficult to grind and is best purchased as a powder. It can be used to flavour bread, cakes, fruit, rice and curries.
Cloves have a strong flavour. The dried whole bud can be crumbled to flavour cake or fruit. They can also be used in marinades, casseroles, gravies and mulled wine.
Coriander leaves can be added to salad, and the seeds should be lightly roasted before adding to stews, casseroles and curries or vegetable dishes.
Cumin seed should also be roasted before use in curry.
Dill leaves can be eaten in salads and the seed in bread and cakes.
Fennel can be cooked as a vegetable and the aniseed flavour goes well with fish.
Fenugreek leaves are used to flavour curry and dhal, and the seeds can be roasted before grinding into an addition to curry powder.
Ginger is easiest to use fresh. The dried root has to be crushed with a mallet before use. It can be added to bread and cakes as well as savoury dishes and curries.
Lovage leaves can be used to flavour soups and salads.
Mace should be purchased in small amounts as it does not keep well. Use it to flavour sweet and savoury dishes that include milk.
Nutmeg seeds should be grated as required. Only a pinch should be used as it is poisonous in quantity. It is used to flavour cakes, custards and fruit.
Paprika varies from a mild sweetness to a hot and fiery ingredient of curries. Purchase in small amounts and use with care to flavour savoury dishes.
Pepper should be freshly ground for the best flavour, and added to savoury dishes towards the end of the cooking period.
Peppermint leaves can be added to fruit salads.
Poppy seeds should be roasted, before crushing and adding to bread, cakes, vegetables or sauces.
Sage leaves can be added to stuffings, soups and stews.
Savory, the leaves of both summer and winter varieties can be used to flavour stews and savoury dishes.
Tarragon leaves can be used in salads and savoury dishes.
Thyme leaves can also be used in salad and savoury dishes.
Vanilla pods can be used several times by steeping the pod in the liquid of the dish for an hour, and then removing the pod and drying for re-use.