At last count I had 57 different herbs and spices.  Okay, I admit, I might have a teeny weeny problem.

Top of my travel bucket list were visits to the spice markets in Istanbul and Marrakesh.

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Vibrant colours, tantalizing aromas. It is an absolute assault on the senses. Perhaps a small part of me is just trying to bring those amazing memories back home.

Add some international “punch” with spices

Herbs, spices and seasonings are also a great way to add a punch of flavor to your dishes in a healthy and natural way. With some practice and a little bit of know-how, you can create an endless variety of delicious recipes.   Mediterranean-inspired favorites bursting with the fresh flavors of lemon, garlic and rosemary. Spicy Mexican dishes featuring cilantro, cumin and chili powder.  The combinations are endless.

All over the world, a wide range of herbs, spices and seasonings are used to make food taste better, and in some cases, last longer. Over time, certain flavours have come to represent the culinary identity of the areas where they originated.

With a little creativity, it’s easy to put a fresh spin on some of your favourite recipes. Simply swap out the herbs, spices and seasonings you use. For example, if you add fresh or dried basil or oregano to diced tomatoes, chopped onion and finely minced garlic, you have the makings of a wonderful red Italian pasta sauce.

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But try replacing the basil and oregano with cilantro and lime juice, and all of a sudden those same ingredients become the foundation for a fabulous homemade salsa recipe.

The following chart shows some of the most popular culinary ingredients based on geographic region.

 Most Popular  Seasonings From Around the World

Cuisine Popular Herbs, Spices & Seasonings
Italian basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, parsley
French thyme, French tarragon, rosemary, basil, sage, mint, marjoram
Greek dill, lemon, oregano, fennel
Spanish saffron, smoked and regular paprika, rosemary, thyme
German mustard, rye, caraway seeds, borage
Mexican cilantro, chili powder, cumin, Mexican oregano
Indian curry powder, coriander, cumin, turmeric
Chinese five-spice powder, star anise, fennel seed, cloves, cinnamon, ginger
Thai Thai basil, cumin, turmeric, lemon grass, cinnamon

 Of course, this chart is far from comprehensive, but it can serve as a good reference point for assembling your own collection of must-have herbs, spices and seasonings.

 Keep in mind, some herbs, spices and seasonings, such as salt, black pepper and garlic, have an almost universal appeal that isn’t limited by geographic borders. Chances are you will notice those items popping up in recipes from all over the world. As a result, you may want to keep an adequate supply of these basic ingredients in your own pantry or spice rack.

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 You will also see a lot of crossover among dishes from countries that border one another. For example, French, Italian, Greek and Spanish dishes often feature many of the same herbs, such as basil, rosemary, oregano and thyme. Of course, this isn’t surprising when you consider how these populations interacted. Over the course of history their tastes and techniques melded together. Depending on your personal tastes and cooking habits, these ingredients may be good to keep on hand, as well.

Starting your own spice collection

While assembling your own collection of herbs, spices and seasonings from around the world, don’t forget, you can save money by growing your own, as well as being able to use fresh organic ingredients. They are super easy to grow from seed or from cuttings in your and a lot of them can be brought indoors for year-round enjoyment.

 But if gardening isn’t your thing, many popular fresh, dried and even semi-dried varieties are readily available. They can be a great alternative to fresh Just make sure you take notice of expiry dates and suggested storage methods. Certain herbs, spices and seasonings can be quite expensive, so buy smaller amounts at one time if you won’t be using them often.