Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

10 Must-have Herbs and Spices in American Kitchens


1
Black Pepper
Black peppercorns may be the most popular spice in the world.
Black peppercorns may be the most popular spice in the world.

Few spices have as much of a claim to fame as black pepper. The spice comes from the berries of a climbing vine native to India. To make pepper, cultivators pick berries off the vines just as they begin to turn red. They're boiled for several minutes and dried for several days. Pepper's spicy kick has turned many a bland dish into an exciting meal. In fact, it may be the most widely used spice in the world.

Most people prefer to apply pepper directly to food after it's been cooked. Dishes with a cream sauce sometimes call for white pepper, a slightly milder version that doesn't leave those quintessential black specks in the liquid (if appearance is an issue for the cook). Both white and black pepper varieties come from the same plant, although each requires a different approach during production.

For more on cooking and related topics, take a look at the links on the next page.