Grow Your Own Spices

Enjoy Fresh Spices Year Round

Carob pods

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Cooking is especially satisfying when you use ingredients from your garden. If you live in a warmer location, you may be able to plant some of these spice trees, shrubs, and lianas. For those in cooler regions, you could try growing some of the juniper species for their berries, the Baies rose plant (for pink peppercorns), or treat some of the smaller species as houseplants.


High Angle View Of Allspices In Bowl On Table
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  • Latin Name: Pimenta dioica
  • Family: Myrtaceae
  • Other Common Names: Newspice, Jamaica pepper, pimenta, pepper, myrtle pepper, pimento
  • Native to: Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies
  • USDA Zones: 10-12, may grow in 9b if the shelter is provided
  • Height: 20-40' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun

The allspice tree is dioecious so plan on planting both a male and female variety for fruiting.

To prepare the allspice for cooking, you pick the fruit before it matures and then dry it. They can be used whole or ground into a powder. The flavor will usually be better if the fruits are kept whole and ground up right before use.

The name allspice refers to the fact that it smells like a combination of several different spices including cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and nutmeg.

Recipes Using Allspice:

  • Apple Raisin Allspice Bread
  • Holiday Poultry Brine
  • Jamaican Oxtail Stew
  • Old-Fashioned Apple Pie
  • Plum Sauce With Allspice


Achiote annato annatto
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  • Latin Name: Bixa orellana
  • Family: Bixaceae
  • Other Common Names: Achiote, urucu, lipstick plant, roucou, lipstick tree, aploppas, colorau
  • Native to: Tropics in the Americas
  • USDA Zones: 10-11
  • Height: 6-30' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun

The annatto plant is a shrub or small tree that produces seeds that can be used for cooking and dyeing. Like saffron, annato is often used to add vibrant yellow color to foods like cheeses and butter, as well as substances like lipstick. It is also used to add flavor and is the main ingredient in achiote paste.

Recipes Using Annatto:

  • Achiote Oil
  • Achiote Paste
  • Egg-Free Scrambled Breakfast Tofu
  • Escabeche
  • Puerto Rican Pasteles

Black Pepper

Black pepper (Piper nigrum)
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  • Latin Name: Piper nigrum
  • Family: Piperaceae
  • Other Common Names: Common pepper, green pepper, white pepper, orange pepper, red pepper
  • Native to: Southern India and Sri Lanka
  • USDA Zones: 10-12
  • Height: 10-15' long
  • Exposure: Full sun (if there is light shade) to part shade

If you are in a tropical location and growing this outside, provide a trellis or other means of support. Those in other climates can grow this in greenhouses or as a houseplant that is taken outdoors during the summer after a period of hardening off. Fruiting may be rare in those raised as houseplants.

Several different kinds of peppercorns are produced on the black pepper liana. The familiar black peppercorns are produced by cooking and drying the immature drupe fruit. You get green peppercorns if you dry the unripened fruit. Once they dry after ripening, they are considered to be white peppercorns. You can also place the red fruit in brine to produce orange or red pepper.

Recipes Using Black Pepper:

  • Black Pepper America's Cut with Molasses Butter
  • Black Pepper Cheese Shortbread
  • Black Pepper and Strawberry Scones
  • Garlic and Black Pepper Soft Shell Crab
  • Seared Black Pepper-Crusted Ahi Tuna Steaks
  • Vietnamese Black Pepper Tofu


Capparis spinosa
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  • Latin Name: Capparis spinosa
  • Family: Capparaceae
  • Other Common Names: Flinders rose
  • Native to: Mediterranean region
  • USDA Zones: Unknown
  • Height: 1-3' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun

The capers we use as spices are flower buds that have been pickled. In some countries, they also pickle the berries. If you live in a cooler region, you can grow nasturtiums, and the seeds can be used as a substitute for capers.

As the species name suggests, these shrubs feature spines. There are varieties available that are spineless for easier picking.

Recipes Using Capers:

  • Braised Lamb Shanks with Sour Cream and Capers
  • Chicken With Tomatoes and Capers
  • Goat Cheese with Paprika, Garlic, Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Capers
  • Rosemary and Capers Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich
  • Scallops with Capers
  • Tilapia with Lemon Caper Sauce


Carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) fruit
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  • Latin Name: Ceratonia siliqua
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • Other Common Names: St. John's bread
  • Native to: Mediterranean area
  • USDA Zones: 9-10, sometimes in 8 if a shelter is provided
  • Height: 30-50' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Carob can be used as a substitute for chocolate when it is ground up. The pods are harvested and dried. They are sweet and are sometimes chewed. If you plan to harvest the fruit you will need more than one tree since the species is dioecious and will have either male or female flowers only.

Recipes Using Carob:

  • Banana Carob Breakfast Smoothie
  • Carob Puppy Cookies
  • Gluten-Free Carob Brownie
  • Raw Carob Dipped Strawberries
  • Vegan Cranberry Carob Bark Candy


Finely ground cinnamon in white ceramic bowl isolated on white wood background from above. Cinnamon sticks.
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  • Latin Name: Cinnamomum verum is known as true cinnamon, though several species are used for cinnamon
  • Family: Lauraceae
  • Other Common Names: Sri Lanka cinnamon, true cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon, common cinnamon
  • Native to: Sri Lanka and India
  • USDA Zones: 10-11+
  • Height: 20-55' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Cinnamon comes from the inner bark of several species of the Cinnamomum genus. If it is not taken from Cinnamomum verum (true cinnamon), it is sometimes known as cassia to denote that fact.

Recipes Using Cinnamon:

  • Apple and Cinnamon Damper
  • Brazilian Cinnamon "Raindrop" Doughnuts
  • Cinnamon Bun Popcorn
  • Easy Bread and Butter Pudding
  • Grilled Cinnamon Apples
  • Pain au Cinnamon


Clove tree with spicy raw flowers and sticks
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  • Latin Name: Syzygium aromaticum
  • Family: Myrtaceae
  • Other Common Names: Clavos de olor, laung
  • Native to: Indonesia
  • USDA Zones: Unknown
  • Height: Can be over 40' tall
  • Exposure:

The flower buds on the clove tree are dried in the sun and used for cooking and medicinal purposes. Clove oil is a natural numbing agent and can curb a toothache. It is also sometimes used in cigarettes.

Recipes Using Cloves:

  • Clove and Honey Brine for Turkey
  • Clove-infused Shrimp
  • Green Walnut Spoon Sweet (Preserves) with Cinnamon & Cloves
  • Moroccan Cinnamon Clove Rub
  • Yogi Tea - Chai
  • Yule Pomander Magic

Juniper Berries

Juniper berries
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Though the fruits of the different juniper species are called berries, they are actually cones. They can be used whole or ground. Gin is made from the common juniper (Juniperus communis) cones.

Recipes Using Juniper Berries:

  • Brussels Sprouts, Apple, and Juniper Berry
  • Marinated Greek Burgers
  • Philosopher's Stew (Filosoof)
  • Roast Saddle of Venison with Wild Rice and Juniper Berries
  • Sauerkraut in a Mason Jar

Mace and Nutmeg

Nutmeg on tree.
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  • Latin Name: Myristica fragrans is the main species grown for commercial use, though other Myristica species are known as nutmeg.
  • Family: Myristicaceae
  • Other Common Names: Common nutmeg, fragrant nutmeg
  • Native to: Indonesia
  • USDA Zones: 10-11
  • Height: 10-70' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun

Parts of this tree are used in creating two different spices. Nutmeg is made from the seeds and is usually produced and used in powdered form. Mace comes from a reddish aril (covering) surrounding the seed. Both a male and a female tree will be needed for fruit as this is a dioecious species.

Recipes Using Mace:

  • Chilled Carrot Soup with Mace
  • Crockpot Veal Stew With Potatoes and Sour Cream
  • Classic American Pumpkin Pie
  • Ras El Hanout - Moroccan Spice Blend
  • Rolled Sugar Mace Cookies
  • The Best Scotch Egg

Recipes Using Nutmeg:

  • Colcannon (Irish Potatoes with Kale and Nutmeg)
  • Haggis, Tatties, and Neeps
  • Lobster with Nutmeg Vinaigrette and Chestnut Puree
  • Mesquite Nutmeg Beef Marinade
  • Nutmeg Ice Cream
  • Vegan French Toast with Nutmeg

Pink Peppercorns

Pink Peppercorn. Color Image
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While most types of peppercorns come from the black pepper vine, pink peppercorns come from three other plants. They are the Baies rose plant (shrub), the Brazilian pepper, and the Peruvian pepper (trees).

Peruvian Pepper:

  • Latin Name: Schinus molle
  • Family: Anacardiaceae
  • Other Common Names: False pepper, California pepper, American pepper, Peruvian mastic, escobilla, mastic tree, Peruvian peppertree, molle del Peru, peppercorn tree, pirul, and pepper tree
  • Native to: South America
  • USDA Zones: 9-11
  • Height: 25-40' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun

Brazilian Pepper:

  • Latin Name: Schinus terebinthifolius
  • Family: Anacardiaceae
  • Other Common Names: Christmasberry, rose pepper, wilelaiki, Florida holly, aroeira, Brazilian peppertree
  • Native to: South America
  • USDA Zones: 9-11
  • Height: 10-45' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun

Baies Rose Plant:

  • Latin Name: Euonymus phellomanus
  • Family: Celastraceae
  • Other Common Names: Spindle tree, cork tree, winged spindlebush
  • Native to: China
  • USDA Zones: 5-9
  • Height: 8-15' tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Recipes Using Pink Peppercorns:

  • Corvina con Pimienta Molle - Chilean Sea Bass with Pink Peppercorn Sauce
  • Goat Cheese Log with Pink Peppercorns
  • Hot Stone Cooking - Der Heisser Stein - Grilling Stone
  • Shetland Scottish Salmon
  • Susanna Foo's Wok-Shaking Shrimp with Pink Peppercorns
  • Tenderloin of Beef with Five Peppercorns

Star Anise

Close-Up Of Star Anises In Bowl On Table
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  • Latin Name: Illicium verum
  • Family: Schisandraceae
  • Other Common Names: Chinese star anise, star aniseed
  • Native to: China and Vietnam
  • USDA Zones: 8-11
  • Height: 12-60'tall
  • Exposure: Full sun to part shade

Star anise fruits are collected right before they mature. The spice part used is the pericarp. It is used in liquors and cooking, especially as an alternative to the anise (Pimpinella anisum) plant. Star anise is also used as a component of the flu medicine Tamiflu.

Recipes Using Star Anise:

  • Fish and Vegetable Soup with Lime, Ginger, and Cilantro
  • Fragrant Beef Short Ribs with Ginger, Star Anise & Leeks
  • Mango Coconut Ice Cream with Star Anise - Helado de Mango y Coco
  • Soy Sauce Chicken
  • Spiced Braised Pork
  • Star Anise Custard with Forest Fruits