How long do herbs and spices last?
January 6, 2008
The beginning of the year is a good time to go through and clean out your spice cabinet.
Spices and herbs are aromatic natural products. Spices are the dried seeds, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark, or roots of plants, usually of tropical origin. Herbs are the leaves and sometimes the flowers of plants, usually grown in a climate similar to the Mediterranean. After they are harvested they do not spoil, but they do lose their strength.
Here’s what you can expect from your ingredients:
|Herbs||1 to 3 Years|
|Extracts||4 Years, except pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely|
|Ground Spices||2 to 3 Years|
|Whole Spices||3 to 4 Years|
|Seasoning Blends||1 to 2 Years|
Check The Date. The expiration date on the container is the first indication of when the spice or herb is ready to toss. If there’s no date, it could be that the bottle pre-dates the expiration-dating system…and is really ready to go.
Check The Bottles. There are three ways to determine whether spices and herbs are fresh: appearance, smell, and taste. Faded color is the first giveaway. Scent is the second: Potent spices and herbs have an intense aroma. Rub or crush the spice or herb in your hand. If the aroma is weak, taste it: If the flavor is not apparent, it’s time to replace the spice.
Store Away From Heat, Light and Moisture. Store herbs and spices in tightly- capped containers, and keep them away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. This means storing them away from the stove, dishwasher, sink or near a window.
Don’t Expose To Air & Moisture. Don’t sprinkle spices directly into a steaming pot or pan. Steam introduced into a bottle will hasten the loss of flavor and aroma and will also result in caking. Use a dry measuring spoon and measure seasonings in a small bowl, then add them to the pot or pan. Replace bottle lids tightly immediately after use. Make sure the measuring spoon is completely dry when you dip it into the spice bottle: The added moisture may cause caking or flavor loss.
Don’t Freeze. Freezing does not maintain freshness. In fact, the bottles may develop condensation, which can accelerate the loss of flavor and aroma.
But Refrigerate Capsicums. Members of the red pepper family (capsicums), such as chili powder and paprika, should be refrigerated to help retain color and guard against infestation. This is important especially during the summer months and in particularly hot climates.