March 18, 2012

What is the shelf life of dried herbs & spices?

Have you ever wondered "how long do spices last?"  As spice jars are not often stamped with a best before date, here's a handy guide to help you determine freshness and flavor.

Herbs 1-2 years
Seasoning Blends 1-3 years
Ground Spices 2-3 years
Whole Spices up to 4 years
(whole peppercorn, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks as well as particularly potent whole spices such as cloves, cumin and cardamom can stand the test of time)
Seeds 4 years
Extracts 4 years

If you aren't sure how long a jar of dried herbs or spices has been in your cupboard, try testing the colour or aroma. The colour of your spices should be vibrant, so if the colour has faded, chances are the flavor has to. Now pop open the lid and have a sniff, or try rubbing or crushing the spice in your hand.  If the aroma is weak and flavor is not apparent, it is time to replace. Keep in mind that herbs and spices do not spoil, they simply lose their strength. So if a ground spice has some fragrance left, but less than you think it should, just use more in your recipe.  Then you'll run out faster and have a reason to procure a new batch.

Finally, storage plays a role in maintaining potency, so be sure to store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.  Try not to store jars near the heat of the stove, close to the humidity of a dishwasher, in the bright sun or in the freezer where condensation can be an issue. Similarly, try not to shake spices out of the jar directly above your pot on the stove, as that's a sneaky way to let unwanted steam in.

No comments:

Post a Comment