Scientific name: thymus vulgaris
Thyme (said like "time") is a small, woody plant with lots of tiny leaves. It grows all year around, and gets tiny pink flowers in the spring. It has a very strong smell, and is used to flavour meat, soups and stews. Some varieties of thyme are lemon scented and can be used in dishes that need a hint of lemon. Thyme can be grown from seed, cuttings, or just digging up parts of the plant that have already grown roots. When thyme spreads, branches that touch the ground grow roots at that point and are easy to separate. It likes to grow in a hot sunny spot, and can tolerate very heavy frosts and drought. It is a perfect rockery plant.
Scientific name: curcuma longa
Turmeric is a spice made from the root of a plant related to ginger. It is usually sold dried and powdered. It has a slightly peppery flavor, but is mainly used for its bright yellow color.
Scientific name: vanilla planifolia
Vanilla beans are the seed pods of a kind of orchid. When they are grown outside Mexico, they need to be pollinated by hand. Vanilla has a strong, aromatic smell and is used in many different sweets, particularly icecream. The part of vanilla that makes the flavour can also be made artificially, and is a lot cheaper than natural vanilla essense.
Vinegar is a liquid made from wine, in a process that turns the alcohol in the wine into acetic acid. Vinegar has a different flavour depending on what kind of wine was used to make it. Balsamic vinegar is very dark, rice wine vinegar is very light and apple cider vinegar is yellow. Vinegar is used to make sauces like ketchup, to preserve fruits and vegetables by pickling, and to dress salads.
Zest is the outside, coloured layer of citrus fruit like lemons and oranges. It is used to add flavour to many different kinds of food. Zest is removed from citrus fruit using a special tool called a zester, or just with a regular grater.