Essential Herbs & Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 4: Chili Powder, Cilantro, Cumin

Essential Herbs and Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 4: Chili Powder, Cilantro, Cumin

Since moving to Texas a few years ago, we’ve learned to embrace the many flavors and dishes that make up Tex-Mex cuisine. Three seasonings that have become essential to cooking those recipes are chili powder, cilantro, and cumin. Who knew that some of these spices had so many health benefits? Now, on top of the delicious cheesy, meaty, bean-filled tortillas, I can feel even better about feeding this to my family.

Chili Powder

Essential Herbs & Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 4: Chili Powder, Cilantro, Cumin

Health Benefits

Chili powder is similar in production to cayenne pepper and is made from fresh peppers that are dried and pulverized. It can also add a kick to a meal, but in a different flavor than cayenne pepper. There are also different health benefits of chili powder.

  • Antioxidant
  • Blood Pressure Reduction
  • Cancer-Fighter
  • Cognitive Function Improvement
  • Digestion Health
  • Eye Health
  • Hair Health
  • Red Blood Cell Formation
  • Skin Health

Cooking with Chili Powder

Chili powder is often used in Tex-Mex cuisines (my favorite use!), Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Tahi foods. Again, a little goes a long way with chili powder.

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Growing Chili Powder

Chili powder isn’t something that you can grow in a garden, but you can grow a lot of the ingredients. Chili powder is a mixture of multiple seasonings, most commonly paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and onion powder.

Purchasing & Storing Tips

While it’s possible to grow a lot of the ingredients in chili powder, it’s much easier to buy a bottle of the seasoning from the store. If you are low or out, you can mix your own if you have all of the required spices. As with almost all other spices, chili powder can be found in the spice aisle and needs to be kept in an airtight container. Some will indicate if they are spicy or not, depending on which seasonings are in that particular variety, so pay attention to this when you are buying a new bottle.

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Essential Herbs & Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 4: Chili Powder, Cilantro, Cumin

Health Benefits

I know cilantro is one of those that people either love or hate it. There doesn’t seem to much in between. My family is all in the “love it” category, so we use it in our meals and have it growing in the herb garden. Some of the health benefits of cilantro include:

  • Antioxidant
  • Anxiety Reducer
  • Blood Sugar Reduction
  • Detox
  • Digestion Health
  • Heart Health
  • Skin Health
  • Sleep Improvement
  • UTI Prevention

Cooking with Cilantro

The seeds of cilantro are known as coriander, and those have their own set of health benefits but aren’t as widely used in cooking, so I focused on just the cilantro leaves. Cilantro is commonly used in cuisines from Mexico, Asia, India, and the Mediterranean.

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Growing Cilantro

Cilantro is one of the herbs I have growing on my windowsill and it is pretty easy to grow. I started it with seeds and covered them with potting soil in a glass jar. It sits in the window every day to get enough sun but stays inside because it doesn’t seem to do well in the intense summer heat in Texas and will bolt quickly.

The leaves of a cilantro plant will be ready to harvest within a few weeks to a month. For use in cooking, you’ll want the leaves on the top of the plant and leave the ones on the bottom to keep growing. Use cilantro fresh as it loses most of its flavor when it’s dried out.

Purchasing & Storing Tips

Even though cilantro can be purchased from the spice aisle, as mentioned, it loses most of its flavor when it’s dried out. For the most flavor buy fresh cilantro. Look for bunches with leaves that aren’t brown or wilted. Store it in the refrigerator for a few days with a towel to absorb moisture for 2-3 days. If you want it to last up to a week place it in a small jar with water like a bouquet of flowers.


Essential Herbs & Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 4: Chili Powder, Cilantro, Cumin

Health Benefits

Popular in Mediterranean and Southwest Asian dishes, cumin is made from chilis and tamales giving it a spicy and earthy flavor. When I smell it, I am reminded of packaged taco seasoning mix. Cumin has been used for medicinal purposes for many years, and new benefits have been recently discovered.

  • Anemia Fighter
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antioxidant
  • Blood Sugar Reduction
  • Digestion Health

Cooking with Cumin

There are a few other benefits to cumin but only when taken as a supplement. Using it as a seasoning will still give you some of these health improvements.

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Growing Cumin

Ground cumin, the spice used in most cooking, is the ground up seeds from the cumin plant. With the climate in south Texas, we could grow it here because the plant likes 3-4 months of weather that’s 85F or higher. I think we have only 3-4 months that aren’t 85F or higher, so we are good on that!

The seeds are harvested after the flowers have bloomed, which is usually about 120 days or so. Then the seeds have to have time to dry out before being ground into cumin powder.

Purchasing & Storing Tips

In other words, it’s more cost-effective to buy cumin at the store. While it would be neat to grow your own, it doesn’t seem practical. If you still want to do-it-yourself a bit, some stores sell cumin seeds so you can grind your own. Whichever you choose, the seasoning needs to be stored in airtight containers.



Image: Designed by valeria_aksakova / Freepik

Essential Herbs & Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 4: Chili Powder, Cilantro, Cumin

8 thoughts on “Essential Herbs and Spices for a Healthy Kitchen, Part 4: Chili Powder, Cilantro, Cumin”

  1. What a great post/series, Stephanie! I LOVE These spices and use them all the time (I’ve spent some time in Mexico so love to cook different types of Mexican as well as southwestern/Tex-Mex foods for my family) – so I thought I knew a fair bit about these spices, BUT I still learned new things from reading this! Well-researched and nicely done! 🙂

  2. I can’t believe people love or hate cilantro I never thought that it was white strong and suffer from a lot of utis thanks for putting the health benefits of each product in here ! X

  3. I have really enjoyed your series on spices and herbs. I can’t imagine how good things will taste if it was fresh.

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