Spices are a cook's best friend, adding flavor to dishes and variety to the menu. Chicken rubbed with jerk spices such as cinnamon, allspice and cayenne pepper offers a completely different taste temptation than chicken with flavored with cumin, coriander and lemons. Herbs are not synonymous with spices. Herbs are the edible leafs and stems of a plant. "Spice" typically refers to the seeds, roots, pods or bark of plants.
Plant from Your Pantry
Raid your pantry for spices to use as seeds, and plant them in the garden. Most will still germinate. They will need to soak in water for 24 hours before you plant them in fresh, well-moistened potting. Kitchen plastic wrap over the pot will trap heat and moisture until the seeds sprout. Dill, mustard, coriander, caraway and fennel are five seeds to try. Coriander seeds are known as the herb cumin when ground. Carraway seeds are a perennial and won't bloom and set seed until the second year after planting.
Black pepper is basic to cooking and readily available in grocery as well as gourmet stores. It's a tropical vine that flowers and produces peppercorns, which are ground and used as a spice. Keep the vine between 75 to 85 degrees, high humidity and partial shade. Try it outside on your patio. Ginger root will sprout if planted. It's a tropical plant so keep it warm and humid like peppers. Cardamom seeds will sprout, although they may take from four to six weeks. Cardamom is another tropical plant that likes warm and humid conditions. Saffron is a very expensive spice from the pollen of fall crocus. Plant the crocus bulbs and gather the pollen in the late fall.
Hot and Spicy
Hot peppers are used fresh in cooking and as a spice when dried. The hotter the pepper, the less you need to use. Pepper seeds are available at nurseries and in catalogs, but if you're unfamiliar with peppers, try growing the seeds of peppers available at the grocery store. You will most likely find Anaheim, 6-inch-long narrow dark green, mild peppers; jalapenos, shaped like an Anaheim but a bit blockier and only 2 to 3 inches long and moderately hot; banana, yellow, long and narrow, hot peppers; and habaneros, bright orange, 1- to 2-inch, lantern-shaped, extremely hot peppers. Let the fresh chilies dry. Remove the seeds, plant them and harvest the peppers when ripe. Dry and grind them to use as a spice.