Storing Spices

 3 factors affect the quality of stored spices:

1.  Light. Spices containing color pigments (such as capsicums, saffron, green cardamoms, turmeric) and chorophyll (dried herbs) need protection from light. For instance, the color of capsicums is mostly due to carotenoids, which are photosensitive and oxidate in the presence of light.
 2. Humidity. Since most spices are sold dry, they tend to attract water and mold.
 3. Oxygen. The essential oil of spices oxydates in the presence of atmospheric oxygen, specially at high temperatures. However, most whole spices are protected by a pericarp and their natural antioxidants which they contain.

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How long do the seasonings last?

 We recommend not buying a larger amount of any seasoning than you expect to use within a year. Old seasonings will not make you sick, they just wonít accomplish their true purpose. A good, simple test is to smell them. If you donít get a scent, itís time to throw them away. A fun way to throw them away is to toss them on your grill when cooking. This is a way to release the last little bit of volatile oils that might still remain, and put flavor into your grilling food!

In studies, the loss of essential oil in the following spices: anise, cardamon, coriander, fennel, cumin, sweet marjoram, mace, cloves, pepper, allspice, and cinnamon.

When the spices where kept in small paper bags (containing 1 to 5g), in the dark for 5 years, they lost 47% essential oil on the average. In case of powder spices, they lost an average of 62% and up to 90%.

The same spices, when kept, during six years in dark glass containers, lost 24% of their essential oils on the average.

When the containers were hermetic, and the spice filled the container, the loss was from 0 to 5%, whether the spice was powdered or whole.

So keep your spices in dark, sealed containers. Fill each container completely. Put them in a fresh place and away from light. And your spices will last long enough (whatever that means to you).

Should I store my spices in the fridge? 

Some people store spices inside the fridge. The fridge keeps the spices in a dark, low temperature environment, hence protecting them from light and rapid oxidation. There is only one problem, whenever you open the spice container, humidity immediately condenses on the surface of the spice and the container, then you close the container and the moisture is kept captive. Humidity is a natural enemy of most dry spices. The fridge suits the bill if you do keep big containers there, from which you regularly fill small-daily use ones. Nonetheless, for the majority of the spices, it is more practical to buy small amounts of each spice every once in a while, which in effect, guarantees their freshness.  

 Some people freeze small sealed envelopes, each one storing a very small amount. Therefore, they don't have the condensation problem.

 Ground spices, with greater surface exposed, tend to lose their volatile oils. They also deteriorate faster than whole spices. The needs for packaging vary from spice to spice. In general, follow the next guidelines:

Storing Herbs And Spices

Air, light, moisture and heat speed flavor and color loss of herbs and spices. Follow these guidelines to help preserve their quality:

How Long To Keep Spices And Herbs

Follow these tips to help you use spices and herbs when flavor and quality are best:

Last Updated - Monday, February 27, 2012 05:03 PM