Celebrate National Herbs and Spices Day with EndlessPens

The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.

⁓ Daniel Gilbert 

I find happiness in feeding the people I care for. The food that I make for them is my way of expressing love. It also gives me joy when they taste it in each bite.


I’m an emotional cook too. I have this belief that what I feel, what my state of mind is during that time, affects the taste of the dish. When I’m calm and grounded, I find that I’m more adventurous with the ingredients. And it turns out great! When I’m flustered or distracted, I lean towards following the recipe because I tend to make mistakes when my heart isn’t in it.


For me, cooking is an artform that affects the whole being. It nourishes the body as it provides sustenance and satisfaction. It engages the senses of sight, taste, smell, touch, and sometimes hearing. Most importantly perhaps, eating a particular meal connects us to memory and creates new experiences. For the cook, the act of creating enables another sense — proprioception or body awareness. This tells us how much force to apply when cracking an egg without crushing it, or when kneading the dough just so to yield softer bread.


What I’ve always found helpful in enriching a dish is the use of herbs and spices. They imbue the food with such flavor! Each one evokes a sensation — spicy, astringent, minty, etc. When used in symphony with other ingredients, we can experience a taste of a certain culture or relive a nostalgic moment. Cooking without herbs and spices for me is like writing with just one fountain pen with the same ink over and over again.

Celebrating Diversity

Every 10th of June since 2015, National Herbs and Spices Day has been marked to honor these natural ingredients that make our food taste more than palatable, and our gustatory experiences more delightful.


It is likewise the time to appreciate how different cultures express themselves through their local cuisine. Have you ever tasted a combination of flavors and felt transported for a moment to an Italian trattoria or a Greek taverna, for example? Herbs and spices combined in a particular way speaks of cooking traditions and culinary history. 


Our attraction to novelty when applied to food places herbs and spices in pivotal roles in history. Picking spices and herbs nowadays is as easy as taking a trip to the grocery store or tapping a few keys to check out. But there was a time when they were considered as precious as gold and gems. Black pepper was known as black gold


They were the impetus for the age of exploration, motivation for waging wars, and one objective for conquering other nations. Since the establishment of trade through the Silk Road in 130 BCE lasting for 1500 years, the transportation of such valuable commodities has evolved to accommodate the growing desire for exotic herbs and spices. Only the affluent could afford these for their dinner table ages ago, but now they can be had through minimal effort at a less exorbitant price.

Beyond Cooking

Herbs and spices are plants or parts of plants that are used not just for cooking, but for medicine and pleasure as well. Herbs are the green, leafy parts that are most potent when used fresh. Some examples are parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, dill, mint, and oregano. Spices refer to any other part of the plant, and are best used when dried as this process enhances their flavors. To illustrate — peppercorns are berries, saffron is stigmas, cinnamon is bark, cumin is a fruit, ginger is a root, and cloves are flower buds.


Plants such as these yield essential oils and other constituents that have long been used in the food and perfume industries. Different regions of the world are well-known for the specific plants which thrive in their particular biome. Where they are indigenous, they are at their best — Sri Lanka is known for its cinnamon, the Moluccas is famous for its cloves, and India is home to the world’s most sought-after black peppers.


The intrinsic properties of herbs and spices have long been harnessed in traditional and folk healing and continue to be applied to alternative medicine. Our most commonly known pantry staples provide healthful benefits beyond the flavors they impart to meats, fish, poultry, and vegetables — through their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotic properties. But as it is with herbs, the fresher the better. Therefore, one way of celebrating National Herbs and Spices Day is to grow your own potted herb! You can also make this a date with your friends — visit your local farmers’ market, get some fresh herbs or unusual spices, and cook a heartwarming, healing meal together.

Another way is to make a tisane or herbal infusion with fresh or dried leaves, flowers, seeds, stems, or roots. Pour boiling water over the ingredients, let steep for some time (depending on the recipe), strain, then sweeten if desired. Herbal tea bags have been manufactured to hasten this process. Personally though, I find it more meaningful to give or receive a soothing drink made from scratch. 


On A Personal Note

Until I manage to grow my own potted herb, or cultivate an herb garden, here are the ways I celebrate the value of herbs and spices —


Cook creatively by experimenting with or trying out new recipes. Sharing these triumphs with family and friends makes the meal taste more delicious.


Learn more beyond the usual culinary methods, as alternative medicine or as part of my self-care practice.


Record my experiences either through writing, sketching, or both. Fountain pens, green and earthy inks, and a traveler’s journal are the perfect companions to take along on a gastronomic adventure! Make more meaningful memories by enjoying the experience, take pictures if you like, and then journal about them.


It can be easy to forget how dear these herbs and spices were before our time, as they are easily obtainable now. When we learn more about them — how they shaped trade and politics, why some of them are overharvested through wild-crafting (foraging from their natural environment), what it takes to get them to our tables and the other benefits they offer aside from flavor — it feels only right that they have a day of their own.

Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I'm taking with me when I go.

Erma Bombeck

  (hahaha, mine would be cinnamon)


Happy National Herbs and Spices Day!


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Written by @lekzumali
Check out her musings on Instagram!

Author: Lekz

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