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Growing Spices

Melissa is the assignment editor and contributing writer for SheKnows Home and Living. While other little girls were playing dress up with Barbie, Melissa was busy remodeling Barbie's house. She now lives out her dream covering design an...

Some spices can be grown at home, just like herbs.

Many people use the words "spice" and "herb" interchangeably without realizing that they are two different things. Herbs, like oregano or basil, generally come from the leafy part of a plant. Spices, like black pepper or cinnamon, are usually harvested from the dried fruit or bark of a plant. For the home gardener, herbs are easy to grow. Most spices are more challenging.


Many people use the words "spice" and "herb" interchangeably without realizing that they are two different things. Herbs, like oregano or basil, generally come from the leafy part of a plant. Spices, like black pepper or cinnamon, are usually harvested from the dried fruit or bark of a plant. For the home gardener, herbs are easy to grow. Most spices are more challenging.

If you remember any of your high school history lessons, you'll recall the spice trade route---a long and treacherous trail from Europe to India and the Orient, where spices were grown. The search for a quicker way for Europeans to get the spices they needed led to stumbling on the Americas. That being said, today we get many of our commercial spices from the Far East and South America. Spices grow best in tropical climates, but that's not to say you can't give some a try at home.

Paprika is a spice that can be grown at home, indoors or outdoors. This spice comes from the paprika pepper, which you can cultivate just like any other variety of pepper. Once the peppers are mature, pick and dry the pods. Grind the dried peppers into a powder and you have homegrown paprika.

Despite it's name, black pepper doesn't come from a pepper plant. This spice-producing plant, native to the tropics, is called piper nigera and is a vine that produces berries known as peppercorns. In most of the U.S. this plant must be grown indoors. It will require plenty of water, high humidity and temperatures in the 70 to 80 F range. The plant may not produce berries for a couple years, but when it does, the green berries can be dried to produce black peppercorns and the red, ripe  berries can be opened to reveal white peppercorns.

Other spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg, come from tropical trees, which can be particularly difficult to grow in U.S. climates. Other pantry staples that we generally recognize as spices, including cumin and coriander, are actually seeds from herbs.

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