Herbs and Spices

Most consumers know that culinary herbs and culinary spices aren't the same. They're just not certain how the two seasonings differ. Culinary herbs are often the green, leafy part of aromatic trees, bushes, or shrubs. These include parsley, chives, marjoram, thyme, basil, caraway, dill, oregano, rosemary, savory, sage, and celery leaves. Culinary spices come from the bark (cinnamon), root (ginger), buds (cloves, saffron), seeds (mustard, poppy, sesame), berry (pepper), or the fruit (allspice) of tropical plants and trees.
Dried herbs and spices may be whole, crushed or ground.
As a general rule, spices should be added to a dish at the start of cooking so that their flavors can meld and blend with the dish. Add herbs near the end of cooking to make the most of their color and flavor.
The shelf life of herbs and spices varies quite a bit depending upon the particular type of spice or herb, so generalizations about all of them should be taken with a grain of salt.  For example, peppercorns may last four years, but poppy seeds barely a year.  
Here are some of the most popular herbs and spices:
Whole Spices/Herbs:
Celery Seed, Cinnamon Sticks, Coriander, Ginger, Peppercorns, etc.
Spices/Herbs, ground:
Cinammon, Cumin, Garlic Powder, Ginger, Nutmeg, Paprika, Pepper, Tomato Powder, etc.
Chili Powder, Curry, No-Salt Seasoning (Mrs. Dash, Mr. Spice House), Seasoned Salt, Italian Seasoning, etc.
Herbs, flaked or crushed:
Basil, Bay Leaves, Dill Weed, Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, etc.
Fresh Herbs:
Basil, Marjoram, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, etc.
Cooking with spices and herbs can help you reduce the salt and sugar in your recipes.  To reduce or totally eliminate sugar, add one or more of these sweet-tasting spices: allspice, anise, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, or nutmeg. The following spices and herbs can help you cut down on salt: black pepper, garlic powder, curry powder, cumin, dill seeds, ginger, coriander, and onion.

For these and many more excellent suggestions about using spices and herbs, click here:

Herbs and Spices Shelf Life
Spices, whole1-3 years- -2-3 years
Spices, ground6-12 months- -1-2 years
Herb/Spice Blends, opened1 year- -- -
Herb/Spice Blends, unopened2 years- -- -
Herbs6-12 months- -1-2 years
Chili Powder6 months- -- -
Herbs, flakes or crushed6-12 months- -- -
Fresh Herbs- -Up to 1 week- -
Garlic1 month1-2 weeks1 month
Handling Tips: 
Store in airtight containers in dry places away from sunlight and heat.
Whole cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon sticks maintain quality beyond 2 year period.
Dried spices and herbs don't spoil; they just gradually lose their aroma and taste. If properly stored, they may be fine well past the "use by" date. Color aroma, and taste are all indicators of quality. Check potency by pouring a small amount in the palm of your hand (if seeds, crush first) and then sniff. If the scent is gone, discard the spice.
According to the experts at the Spice House, freezing won't hurt dried spices and herbs, but it probably won't extend their shelf life either.
Whole spices last longer than ground ones. For best quality, buy whole spices and grind them yourself just before use.
Refrigerate and DO NOT freeze fresh herbs. Basil is the most fragile. If it turns gray, discard it.
Boyer, Renee, and Julie McKinney. "Food Storage Guidelines for Consumers." Virginia Cooperative Extension (2009): n. pag. Web. 7 Dec 2009.

"Cupboard Storage Chart." K-State Research and Extension n. pag. Web. 23 Dec 2009. <http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/humannutrition/hrap/storage/cupstor.htm>.

Desi at The Spice House, Evanston, Illinois

Specific Herbs and Spices Products


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