what is SALT
Herd, seasoning or spice
What other item is in the same category as salt
All you mentioned are seasonings; things used that add to or affect the flavor of other foods, but which, usually, are not eaten by themselves.
Salt is unique. It is a mineral, and the only rock we eat by choice. As MissyJean implies, there is nothing else like it. Depending on quantities used, and point in the cooking process it is added, salt can either add it's own taste, or cause the primary foods to taste more like themselves.
Herbs are the soft aerial parts of plants----the leaves, flowers, sometimes stems, etc. Everything that grows above ground that isn't a seed, fruit, or other hard part. They are used either fresh or dried, and the form can have a distinct effect on the flavor. See basil as an example.
Spices are the hard parts of plants---the roots, seeds, buds, bark, fruit, pods, and so forth. They are almost always used in a cured form, primarily dried, but sometimes pickled.
Some plants provide both. The coriander plant, for instance. When the fresh leaves are used we call in cilantro. But the seeds, called coriander, are used as a spice.
There are other items used as seasonings as well. For instance, a squirt of lemon juice, as we all know, can often perk up an otherwise dull dish. I suppose it would, when used that way, technically be a spice. But nobody thinks of it that way.
Sometimes, too, vegetables that could be served on their own are used as seasonings. The famed mirepoix, for example, or anytime aromatics are used to perk up the flavors.
Sure, I've "herd" of salt, use it every day. I put a pinch of it in my coffee press to take a bit of the edge off the bitterness.
Seasoning, in my opinion, is the broadest, most inclusive term. Seasoning is something that alters or adds to the flavor of food. Herbs are a subset of seasoning, as are spices. It is like 'beer' which refers to all types of fermented, mostly barley based beverages. But that is broken down into ales and lagers, and each of those categories has a myriad of styles.
Beer and wine, as well as various other alcoholic concoctions can be used as seasonings, though they are neither herbs nor spices. And what of vinegars? KY covered the basics pretty well.
Salt is different. It is the only rock we eat, and along with water, something that we ingest that does not come from some living entity. Salt is tasty dirt. And some of the more exotic salts have additional types of dirt in them for added flavor and color.
We differ slightly on what a seasoning is, Teamfat. But only to the point where we'd settle it over a cuppa.
Certainly wines, beer, and spirits can be used to flavor other foods, along with numerous other ingredients. But the key to being a seasoning is that it's something we normally do not eat by itself. That can't be said about potables.
With your definition, things like chilis would be seasonings. But, because they are often eaten on their own, I don't consider them such. But black pepper, on the other hand, would be a seasoning.
Or take my example, above, or a mirepoix. It is used as if it were a seasoning, even though it technically isn't one. A flavoring agent? You bet. But not all flavorings are seasonings.
I've been taught to make the distinction on the function (seasoning or flavoring), not the stuff used. So one thing could have one function or the other, or both, or neither. I'm aware that the discussion is on seasoning/herb/spices, but in my opinion/experience, the first one is a function, while the two others define items. So let's focus on the two main functions discussed here:
Making the flavor of the dish come up, stand out. Typically using salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, sugar, honey, vinegar or lemon, orange etc....
Changing the flavor of the dish. Typically using spices & herbs or just about anything you can think of.
The classification is made more on the GOAL than on what you use. For example, you can use lemon to season a dish (just a few drop to brighten up the existing flavors, but not enough to be able to taste the lemon itself), or you can use it to flavor a dish (enough to be able to taste the lemon).
One thing is for sure: salt is not a spice, and it's not an herb. It's a mineral that is used for seasoning.
I'm not sure why you'd make that distinction: you can eat sugar or honey by itself, you can eat a lemon by itself (I know quite a few people who love to eat them as you would an orange), you can use an orange to season a dish, etc etc...
PS: for the distinction between herbs and spices, I've been taught exactly what KYHeirloomer described in details in his first post.
PS: for the distinction between herbs and spices,
Ironically, as I cook I never really knew the difference, except extentionally. That is, I knew X was an herb and Y was a spice. Just couldn't tell you why.
It wasn't until I started practicing herbal medicine that I learned the definitions. I don't think anyone would argue with how I separated them apart, as it's a fairly standard breakdown.
Yup, neither did I really. It's funny to think that if you chop up the stems of a cilantro plant, you're using an herb, but if you chop up its roots, you're using a spice. But a distinction has to be made somewhere.