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Volume II
November 19, 2008

Spicy Tips
By Camille Rhoades

When spices get too old they do one of two things: They lose potency or the become bitter. Either way they will effect the taste of your food in a way that is much different then you were hoping for. No spice is better than an expired spice!

I know we have all done it. Kept that old bottle in the cupboard for the day we will eventually need it. By the time you actually do and pull it out you realize the price tag is from a store that closed 5 years ago. Okay, maybe that was just me! Well, if it has been in that cabinet too long, you might just want to toss it in the garbage rather than in your favorite recipe.

So, how long is too long you might ask. This simple list will give you basic guidelines.

Leaves and flowers: Such as basil, oregano, parsley, mint, etc will last one year in their whole form. Once they are ground they are good for about six months.

Seeds ad barks: Such as cinnamon, cumin, mustard, fennel, poppy, pepper, vanilla, and sesame can be stored two years if whole and one year once ground.

Roots: Such as ginger, ginseng, and arrowroot also last about two years whole and one year once ground.

If the spice has faded or lost color or has an unpleasant odor or taste it is time to toss it out. Also, if you find that you are needing to add additional spice to that favorite recipe to make it turn out right, your spice is probably telling you it is getting a little weak and needs to be replaced.

Proper storage of spices wonít necessarily buy you more time, but improper storage will certainly cost you some. Here are some ďdoís and donítsĒ of spice storage.

  • Store then in a dry, dark place like a cupboard or drawer.
  • Donít store them in the refrigerator. The humidity is harmful.
  • Donít hold an open container over a hot pan on the stove to pour the spice in. The steam rising from your pan will introduce humidity to your spices.
  • Also, use only dry, wooden spoons when scooping spices.
  • Keep spices out of sunlight and fluorescent light as much as possible. Ideally you would like them to never be in sunlight.
  • Keep everything well labeled. If you repackaged it or it didnít have an expiration date, write your own on the label.

    There are many different methods for storing your spices and as long as you follow these simple guidelines the rest just comes down to personal preference. I love the magnetic canisters that stick to a strip on the inside of my cabinet door. Some prefer a nice spice rack or a spice drawer. Whatever way you choose to spice up your kitchen, just remember that keeping them fresh will keep them flavorful.

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