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Herbs & Spices

The term "spices" is often used broadly to include all seasonings. Spices come from the bark, roots, leaves, stems, buds, seeds, or fruit of aromatic plants and trees which usually grow only in tropical countries. Pepper, allspice, cloves, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, ginger, saffron, and turmeric are spices.

Herbs are soft, succulent plants which usually grow in the temperate zone. Until recently cooks have had to make do with very few fresh herbs, such as sage, parsley, and thyme. Nowadays you can also find fresh basil, coriander, chervil, tarragon, rosemary, and dill. Since herbs are at their best when they are young and freshly picked, it is well worth growing your own.

To learn about herbs, spices and seasonings, select from the list below. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Basic Herbs & Spices

There are hundreds of herbs and spices to choose from. The list below gives you an idea of what some of the basic herbs and spices are that you'll encounter in recipes. Click on a name to learn more about it.

Basic Herbs & Spices
Allspice Anise Basil Bay Leaves Black Pepper Cardamom Cilantro
Cinnamon Coriander Cumin Dill Garlic Ginger Horseradish
Lemon Grass Mustard Nutmeg Onions Oregano Paprika Parsley
Rosemary Saffron Sage Tarragon Thyme Turmeric Vanilla

 

Allspice

Allspice

Description

Allspice is the dried, unripened fruit of a small evergreen tree, the Pimenta Dioica. The fruit is a pea-sized berry which is sundried to a reddish-brown color. Pimento is called Allspice because its flavor suggests a blend of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Uses

Allspice is used in seasonings, sauces, sausages, ketchup, jams, pumpkin, gravies, roasts, hams, baked goods, and teas. Caribbean cooking relies on Allspice as the main ingredient in jerk seasoning. It is used in Caribbean, Mexican, Indian, English, and North American cooking and in seasoning blends such as jerk seasoning and curry.



Anise

Anise

Description

Anise is the dried ripe fruit of the herb Pimpinella anisum. The crescent shaped seeds are unmistakably identified by their distinctive licorice-like flavor. Anise is not related to the European plant whose roots are the source of true licorice.

Uses

Anise is used whole or crushed in cookies, cakes, breads, cheese, pickles, stews, fish, and shellfish. Roasting enhances the flavor. Middle East, Portuguese, German, Italian, and French cuisines use anise in seasoning blends such as curry, hoisin, sausage, and pepperoni seasonings.



Basil

Basil

Description

Basil, also called Sweet Basil, is the dried leaves of the herb Ocimum basilicum, a member of the mint family. Basil is a small, bushy plant that grows to about 2 feet tall. Its botanical name is derived from the Greek "to be fragrant."

Uses

Basil is used in tomato sauces, pestos, pizzas, and cheeses. It is used in green Thai curry blend, bouquet garni, and Italian seasonings.



Bay Leaves

Bay Leaf

Description

Bay Leaves or Laurel, are the dried leaves of the evergreen tree, Laurus nobilis. The elliptically shaped leaves are light green in color and brittle when dried. They have a distinctively strong, aromatic, spicy flavor. Bay Leaves is the approved term for this spice, but the name "laurel" is still seen frequently.

Uses

Used in soups, stews, stocks, pickles, marinades, tomato dishes, and meats. Mediterranean, French, Moroccan, and Turkish cuisines use Bay Leaves in spice blends such as bouquet garni and curry blends.



Black Pepper

Pepper

Description

Black and White Pepper are both obtained from the small dried berry of the vine Piper nigrum. For Black Pepper, the berries are picked while still green, allowed to ferment and are then sun-dried until they shrivel and turn a brownish-black color. They have a hot, piney taste.

Uses

Black Pepper adds flavor to almost every food of every nation in the world. It is used in rubs, spice blends, salad dressings, and peppercorn blends.



Cardamom

Cardamom

Description

Cardamom is the dried, unripened fruit of the perennial Elettaria cardamomum. Enclosed in the fruit pods are tiny, brown, aromatic seeds which are slightly pungent to taste. Cardamom pods are generally green but are also available in bleached white pod form. It is available both in the whole pod and as decorticated seeds with the outer hull removed.

Uses

Cardamom is used in Danish pastries, Saudi Arabian, North African, Asian, and Indian cooking and in spice blends such as garam masala, curry powder, and berbere.



Cilantro

Cilantro

Description

Cilantro is the dried leaves of the herb, Coriandrum sativum, an annual herb of the parsley family. Also known as Chinese parsley, Cilantro has a distinctive green, waxy flavor. Cilantro is the usual name for the leaf of the plant that is otherwise identified as Coriander, and from which Coriander Seed is obtained.

Uses

Used in salsas, chutneys, salads, dips, beans, and soups. Cilantro is used in Asian, Mexican, Indian, Tex Mex, Caribbean, and North African cuisines, and is used in seasoning blends such as masala, curry, salsa, and recados.



Cinnamon

Cinnamon

Description

Cinnamon is the dried inner bark of various evergreen trees belonging to the genus Cinnamomum. At harvest, the bark is stripped off and put in the sun, where it curls into the familiar form called "quills."

Uses

Cinnamon in the ground form is used in baked dishes, with fruits, and in confections. Cassia is predominant in the spice blends of the East and Southeast Asia. Cinnamon is used in moles, garam masala, and berbere.



Coriander

Coriander

Description

Coriander is the dried, ripe fruit of the herb Coriandum sativum. The tannish brown seeds have a sweetly aromatic flavor which is slightly lemony. A zesty combination of sage and citrus, Coriander is actually thought to increase the appetite.

Uses

Coriander is used in lentils, beans, onions, potatoes, hotdogs, chili, sausages, stews, and pastries. It is used in the cooking of North American, Mediterranean, North African, Mexican, Indian, and Southeast Asian cuisines, as well as spice blends, including curry powders, chili powders, garam masala, and berbere.



Cumin

Cumin

Description

Cumin is the dried seed of the herb Cuminum cyminum, a member of the parsley family. The Cumin plant grows to about 1 to 2 feet tall and is harvested by hand. Cumin is a key component in both Chili Powder and Curry Powder.

Uses

The flavor of Cumin plays a major role in Mexican, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian cuisines. Cumin is a critical ingredient of chili powder, and is found in achiote blends, adobos, garam masala, curry powder, and baharat.



Dill

Dill

Description

Dill is an annual of the parsley family and is related to Anise, Caraway, Coriander, Cumin, and Fennel. Dill Weed is the dried leaves of the herb Anethum graveolens, the same plant from which Dill Seed is derived. The flavor of Dill Weed is lighter and more subtle than Dill Seed.

Uses

European and American cuisines use Dill Seed in pickles, meats, seafood, cheeses, and breads. Dill Seed is an important flavoring in spice blends for salad dressings, dal curry blends, and spices for pickling. In the cuisine of the Middle East, Dill Weed is used to season meats and vegetables, such as lamb and spinach. German cuisine relies on Dill for potato soup and Greek grape leaves are seasoned with Dill Weed. Dill is also used in the seasoning blend for rice pilaf.



Garlic

Garlic

Description

Garlic is a part of the allium genus and is thus related to the onion. It is, of course, best known as a cooking ingredient used for its wonderful taste. It would actually be better to say "tastes" plural since it can take on a completely different taste depending on how it's cooked, everything from a subtle sweet flavour to a strong almost overpowering one.

Uses

Garlic has been used in various food preparations as well as medicines for centuries, and despite its peculiar and somewhat offensive odor, garlic is one of the healthiest herbs there are.



Ginger

Ginger

Description

Ginger is the dried knobby shaped root of the perennial herb Zingiber officinale. The plant grows two to three feet tall. Once the leaves of the plant die, the thick roots, about 6 inches long, are dug up. Crystallized Ginger is fresh gingerroot cooked in syrup and dried.

Uses

Ginger is used in Indian curries, and Chinese, Japanese, and European spice blends.



Horseradish

Horseradish

Description

Cooks use the terms "horseradish" or "prepared horseradish" to refer to the grated root of the horseradish plant mixed with vinegar. Prepared horseradish is white to creamy-beige in color. It will keep for months refrigerated but eventually will start to darken, indicating it is losing flavor and should be replaced. The leaves of the plant, which while edible aren't commonly eaten, are referred to as "horseradish greens." Although technically a vegetable, horseradish is generally treated as a condiment or ingredient.

Uses

In the USA, prepared horseradish is commonly used as an ingredient in Bloody Mary cocktails, in cocktail sauce, as a sauce or spread on meat, chicken, and fish, and in sandwiches. The American fast-food restaurant chain Arby's uses horseradish in its "Horsey Sauce", which is provided as a regular condiment, alongside ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise. This is not a common practice at its major competitors.



Lemon Grass

Lemon Grass

Description

Lemon grass is a long thick grass with leaves at the top and a solid portion several inches long at the root end. The lower portion is sliced or pounded and used in cooking. As a spice, fresh lemon grass is preferred for its vibrant flavor, but is also sold in dried form. The dried spice is available in several forms: chopped in slices, cut and sifted, powdered, or as an oil can be extracted from the plant.

Uses

Lemon grass is widely used as a herb in Asian (particularly Vietnamese, Hmong, Khmer, Thai, Lao, Malaysian, Indonesian, Philippine, Sri Lankan) and Caribbean cooking. It has a citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. The stalk itself is too hard to be eaten except for the soft inner part. However, it can be finely sliced and added to recipes.



Mustard

Mustard

Description

There are two commercially important classes of herbs from which Mustard Seed is derived; Brassica hirta which produces white or yellow seeds and Brassica juncea which produces brown and Oriental seeds. Both types exhibit a sharp taste.

Uses

Mustard Seed is used in pickling spices for vegetables and meats. Dry Mustard is used in egg and cheese dishes, salad dressings, and meats. Mustard is used in French, German, Scandinavian, and Irish cuisines.



Nutmeg

Nutmeg

Description

Nutmeg is the seed of the fruit which grows on the tree Myristica fragans, the same fruit from which Mace is derived. The oval shaped seeds have a sweet, spicy flavor. When ripe, the fruit splits in half exposing the netlike membrane or aril known as the mace. The mace closely enwraps a dark brown, brittle shell inside of which is the single, glossy, brown, oily seed or the Nutmeg.

Uses

Commonly used in sweet foods and enhances savory foods. Nutmeg blends well with other spices and is found in the ethnic cuisines of Italy, the Caribbean, France, India, Germany, Scandinavia, Greece, Latin America, and the Middle East.



Onions

Onions

Description

The onion is an edible bulb. While it is a vegetable at heart, it also acts as a spice inasmuch as it can provide an aromatic undertone to various meat and vegetable dishes, without being a major ingredient. The characteristic appearance of the onion is well known, but there are many variations of color, shape and size. The color varies from white to red to purple, the shape from spherical to almost conical. Onions should be firm, though not rock hard. The papery skin should be tight over the surface of the bulb. Spring onions, or scallions, are immature plants where the bulb has not completely formed. They may be cylindrical, the green stem shading into the white bulblet, which may be almost spherical. Onions are also available in processed form, as dried flakes and powder, or liquid.

Uses

It is used as a vegetable, or as a spice to bring out the flavor of other dishes without overpowering them. It often accompanies meat, especially mince and meat dishes such as shepherds pie and meat loaf which would be insipid without it. Onion is also widely used in soups, pickles and cooked vegetable dishes, sauces, hearty casseroles, and bean and lentil dishes. It is a common ingredient in marinades, and an onion studded with cloves is often a main flavoring in stocks and courts-bouillons.



Oregano

Oregano

Description

Oregano is the dried leaves of the herbs Origanum spp or Lippia spp (Mexican). Both varieties have traditionally been harvested in the "wild." The Mediterranean variety is closely related to Marjoram and is very similar in physical appearance. "Oregano" means Marjoram in Spanish, and although sometimes referred to as "Wild Marjoram" it is a different herb.

Uses

Mediterranean Oregano, which gained its popularity after the troops returned from WWII, is found in much of Italian cuisine: pizza, spaghetti sauces, and other tomato-based sauces. Mexican Oregano is found in chili powders and adds flavor to chili con carne and other Mexican dishes.



Paprika

Paprika

Description

Paprika is the dried, ground pods of Capsicum annum, a sweet red pepper. It is mildly flavored and prized for its brilliant red color.

Uses

Paprika is used in seasoning blends for barbeque, snack foods, goulash, chili, and the cuisines of India, Morocco, Europe, and the Middle East.



Parsley

Parsley

Description

Parsley is probably the most well-known and used herb in the United States, used extensively in garnishing foods as well as for flavoring of sauces, stews and stocks. Curly leaf Parsley is best known for garnishing, while flat leaf or Italian Parsley is used in bouquets garni and other flavoring applications.

Uses

Parsley adds color, and thus visual appeal, to many foods. It is used in egg dishes, soups, stews, stocks, and with other herbs to bring out their flavor. Parsley is popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and the spice blends of fines herbes, bouquet garni, and pestos.



Rosemary

Rosemary

Description

Rosemary is the dried leaves of the evergreen Rosmarinus officinalis. The slender, slightly curved leaves resemble miniature curved pine needles. Normally hand harvested, the Rosemary plant grows about 2 to 3 feet tall and is very hardy as it grows under harsh mountainous conditions.

Uses

Rosemary is found in bouquet garni, herbes de Provence, and seasoning blends for lamb and Mediterranean cuisines.



Saffron

Saffron

Description

Saffron is the dried yellow stigmas of the violet flowers of Crocus sativus, a member of the Iris family. The stigmas must be harvested by hand and it takes 225,000 of them to make one pound of saffron.

Uses

Saffron is mainly used as a colorant and flavoring for cheeses, pastry, rice, and seafood dishes. Saffron is used in spice blends for paella, curry, kheer, and bouillabaisse.



Sage

Sage

Description

Sage is the dried leaves of the herb Salvia officinalis. The aromatic leaves are silvery gray in color. Cut Sage refers to leaves which have been cut rather than ground into smaller pieces. Cut Sage is preferred when the user wants the Sage to be apparent in the end product. Rubbed Sage is put through minimum grinding and a coarse sieve. The result is a fluffy, almost cotton-like product, unique among ground herbs. More Sage is sold in the rubbed form than any other.

Uses

Sage is used in Greek, Italian, and European cuisines. It is used to season sausages, poultry, and fish. Sage has been traditionally used for its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.



Tarragon

Tarragon

Description

Tarragon is the dried leaves of the herb Artemisia dracunculus. The slender dark-green leaves have a pleasant anise-like flavor and aroma.

Uses

Tarragon blends well with other spices. It is used in sauces, especially Bearnaise sauce and tarragon vinegar. In French cuisine it is an integral part of fines herbes and dijon mustard.



Thyme

Thyme

Description

Thyme is the dried leaves of Thymus vulgaris, a small perennial of the mint family. The leaves measure about one quarter of an inch in length and one tenth of an inch in width. The plant grows about eighteen inches tall and produces small flowers that are very attractive to honey bees.

Uses

Thyme is used in stuffings, meats, stews, fish, and game. Thyme is part of bouquet garni, herbes de Provence, and the Middle East spice blend Zahtar, along with jerk and curry blends.



Turmeric

Turmeric

Description

Turmeric is the dried root of the plant Curcuma longa. Noted for its bright yellow color, it is related to and similar in size to ginger. Turmeric's flavor resembles a combination of ginger and pepper.

Uses

Turmeric is a powerful coloring agent. Used to color and flavor prepared mustard, pickles, relish, chutneys, and rice dishes as well as butter and cheese. It is also used in spice blends in the Caribbean, India, North Africa, the Middle East, and Indonesia such as curry powder and rendangs.



Vanilla

Vanilla

Description

Vanilla is derived from the dried, cured beans or fruit pods of the large, green-stemmed climbing perennial, Vanilla planifolia, which is a member of the orchid family. Although Vanilla beans are sometimes used in their whole form, they are most commonly used for producing extracts and flavors.

Uses

Vanilla is used principally for ice cream, soft drinks, eggnogs, chocolate confectionery, candy, tobacco, baked goods, puddings, cakes, cookies, liqueurs, and as a fragrantly tenacious ingredient in perfumery.

Buying Herbs & Spices

Most herbs and spices are sold whole and ground. It's preferable to buy whole spices and grind them yourself.

Be sure to shop in a busy store for your herbs and spices. Busy stores are more likely to move their inventory rapidly, thus having fresher herbs and spices. Don't buy herbs or spices that look faded or uneven in color.

For whole spices, make sure there is very little powder or broken bits in the container. For ground spices, the finer the grind, the better the quality.

When you buy herbs and spices from a large bulk bin, make sure there is plenty of aroma. Only buy enough herbs and spices for the next six months to a year to ensure freshness.

Grinding Spices:

Whole spices can be ground in a small coffee grinder, small food processor, pepper grinder, or mortar and pestle. To clean coffee grinder after use, add small amount of sugar or uncooked rice and process.

Hints For Herbs & Spices

When using dried herbs, crush them in the palm of your hand or between your fingers. This will release the flavor quicker. A strong-flavored seasoning (rosemary, sage, winter savory, etc.) may be combined with several mild-flavored ones. Whole herb leaves are a better choice than ground or powdered herbs because they hold their flavor longer in storage; pulverize just before using. Below are some other hints for using herbs & spices.

Substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs:

Dried herbs are stronger in flavor than fresh leaf herbs. When adding dried leaf herbs to a recipe that calls for fresh ones, substitute 1/3 the amount called for in the recipe.

Substituting whole spices for ground spices:

When adding whole spices to a recipe that calls for ground spices, use 1 1/2 times as much as the recipe call for.

Increasing a recipe:

When doubling a recipe, do not double the herbs and spices. Increase them by 1 1/2 times and then taste, adding more if necessary. In general, always taste for seasoning before adding salt.

Menu Planning:

Don't season more than one dish in a meal with the same herb. Also, every dish on the menu does not need to be herbed, two or three at the most is enough.



Seasonings or Flavor Enhancers

Quite often seasonings like those listed below, are mistaken for herbs and spices. Here are some of the more popular seasonings.

Accent®

A seasoning also called MSG (Monosodium Glutamate). It is commonly used in Oriental cooking. It is not a favored seasoning or enhancer in the United States as many people are allergic to it. It is an optional seasoning and can very easily be left out of recipes.

Balsamic Vinegar

The rich, slightly sweet flavor of balsamic vinegar readily lends itself to vinaigrette dressings, gourmet sauces, and brings out the sweetness of fresh fruits such as raspberries, strawberries, and peaches. Its flavor and complex fragrance is exalted over its lowly cousin, red wine vinegar, just as red wine vinegar leaps ahead of white vinegar.

Capers

Capers are sometimes confused with the brined and dried fish called anchovies, since both are harvested from the same regions and are processed similarly. Capers are actually immature buds plucked from a small bush native to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions of the world. Fresh caper blossoms are not especially flavorful, but their sharpness increases dramatically after sun-drying and brining in vinegar.

Chili Powder

Chili powder (also spelled chile powder) is a generic name for any powdered spice mix composed chiefly of chili peppers, most commonly either red peppers or cayenne peppers, which are both of the species Capsicum annuum. But it can be made from virtually any hot pepper including ancho, Cayenne, Chipotle, New Mexico, and pasilla chilis. The spice mix may simply be pure powdered chilis, or it may have other additives, especially cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Some mixes may even include black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, mace, nutmeg, or turmeric. As a result of the various different potential additives, the spiciness of any given chili powder is incredibly variable. As a rule, the purer the chili powder is, the more spicy it is.

Molasses

Molasses is a delicious by-product which is extracted during the sugar cane refining process used to make sugar crystals. The sugar cane is crushed to remove the juice which is then boiled vigorously. Machines utilize centrifugal force to extract the sugar crystals from the syrup. The remaining syrup becomes molasses. (In some parts of the US, molasses also refers to sorghum syrup.) The flavor and color of molasses varies depending on how early or late in the process the molasses is extracted. In Britain and Eurupe, molasses is often referred to as black treacle.

Old Bay® Seasoning

Old Bay Seasoning is a blend of herbs and spices that is currently marketed in the United States by McCormick & Company, and produced in Maryland. It is named for the Chesapeake Bay area where it was developed by German immigrant Gustav Brunn in the 1940s, and where the seasoning is very popular to this day. The seasoning mix includes celery salt, bay leaf, mustard seed, both black and red pepper, cinnamon, and ginger. It is traditionally used in Mid-Atlantic States and the northern Gulf Coast to season crab and shrimp. It's also used as a topping on popcorn, salads, eggs, fried chicken, french fries, corn on the cob, and potato chips.

Salt

Salt is a dietary mineral essential for animal life, composed primarily of sodium chloride. Salt for human consumption is produced in different forms: unrefined salt (such as sea salt), refined salt (table salt), and iodized salt. It is a crystalline solid, white, pale pink or light grey in color, normally obtained from sea water or rock deposits. Edible rock salts may be slightly greyish in color due to this mineral content.

Sugar

Sugar, or sucrose, is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in every fruit and vegetable in the plant kingdom. It is the major product of photosynthesis, the process by which plants transform the sugar energy into food. Sugar occurs in greatest quantities in sugar cane and sugar beets from which it is separated for commercial use.

Tabasco®

Tabasco sauce is a brand of hot sauce made from tabasco peppers (Capsicum frutescens var. tabasco), vinegar, and salt, and aged in white oak barrels for three years. It has a hot, spicy flavor and is popular in many parts of the world.

Spice Advice - What Spices to Use

For many new cooks, knowing what herb or spice to use can be confusing. There are so many names and types of spices, it might leave you wonder which works best? The correct spice or herb for any food is the one that tastes right for you. However, we have compiled a list of herbs and spices that work well in particular foods.

When experimenting with a new spice or herb, crush some of it and let it warm in your hand; then sniff and taste it. If it is delicate, you can be bold and adventurous. If it is very strong and pungent, use a light hand the first time that you use it. When you're at a loss about what to add to a dish, try something from the list below.


Basic Foods Herbs & Spices
Beans cumin, cayenne, chili, epazote, mexican oregano, oregano, parsley, pepper, sage, thyme
Beef basil, bay leaf, black pepper, chili, cilantro, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme
Breads basil, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, lemon peel, orange peel, oregano, rosemary, saffron, sage, thyme
Cheese basil, celery seed, chili, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Chicken allspice, basil, bay leaf, cinnamon, chili, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, mustard, paprika, pepper, rosemary, saffron, sage, tarragon, thyme
Eggs basil, chili, dill, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, thyme
Fish basil, bay leaf, cayenne, celery seed, dill, garlic, lemon peel, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, saffron, sage, tarragon, marjoram
Fruits allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander
Lamb basil, bay leaf, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Potatoes basil, coriander, dill, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Salads and Salad Dressings basil, celery seed, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mint, mustard, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Soups basil, bay leaf, chili, cumin, dill, garlic, marjoram, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, thyme
Sweets allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, lemon peel, mace, nutmeg, mint, orange peel, rosemary
Tomatoes basil, bay leaf, celery seed, cinnamon, chili, dill, garlic, lemongrass, marjoram, oregano, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, thyme
Vegetables chili, dill, marjoram, parsley, thyme

Storage of Herbs & Spices

Spices and herbs lose their color, taste and aroma over time. To preserve peak flavor and color, store spices and herbs in a cool, dry place, away from exposure to bright light, heat, moisture or oxygen. If possible, avoid storing spices and herbs too close to the stove, oven, dishwasher or refrigerator, where rising steam or heat can come into contact with them. Dampness can cause caking or clumping of ground spices. Store herbs and spices in airtight containers, such as glass jars, plastic containers or tins to protect against moisture.

Red colored spices, such as chili powder, cayenne pepper and paprika can be refrigerated to prevent loss of color and flavor. The best storage temperature for herbs and spices is one that is fairly constant and below 70 F. Temperature fluctuations can cause condensation, and eventually mold, so if you store spices in the freezer or refrigerator, return them promptly after use.

The shelf life of each herb and spice is different, and all will age, even under the best conditions. Check your herbs and spices, and those you consider buying, to see that they look fresh, not faded, and are distinctly aromatic. The shelf life of herbs and spices will vary according to the form and plant part, too. Those that have been cut or powdered have more surface area exposed to the air and so lose their flavor more rapidly than whole herbs and spices.

Here are some guidelines:

Whole Spices & Herbs
Leaves & Flowers: 1 year
Seeds & Barks: over 2 years
Roots: over 2 years
Ground Spices & Herbs
Leaves: 6 months
Seeds & Barks: 6 months
Roots: 1 year

 

 

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