When you buy herbs and spices to cook with, your main priority needs to be keeping them as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Herbs and spices don’t “go off” like some foods, but they do start to fade and lose their flavour over time.
Different types of herbs and spices also require different forms of storage, so it’s good to know in advance which ones need what. Here are some top tips for keeping your herbs and spices fresh:
Know Your Expiry Dates
Herbs and spices don’t ever completely expire, as mentioned above, but they do lose their freshness and become completely tasteless over time. Whole spices will last a lot longer than ground spices, as they keep their flavours locked in.
As a general guide, whole spices tend to stay fresh for up to 3-4 years, ground spices maintain their freshness for around 2-3 years, and leafy herbs for 1-2 years, especially when they have been stored correctly.
Make Containers Airtight
The most common way to store herbs and spices is in plastic containers, but if you do this, it’s important to make sure to use BPA-free ones. BPA is a chemical found in many plastic products and has been linked to a number of health problems.
The majority of food experts recommend using glass containers or bottles that have airtight lids, as this stops the air getting to the herbs and spices and will help prolong their freshness.
Use a Labelling System
If you buy a lot of herbs and spices it can be tricky to keep tabs on which on is in which container, and the last thing you want to do it put the wrong spice in a dish you have almost finished cooking.
Write a label for every container you use, and note down which spice is where and the date on which they were purchased. This will really help you find the herb you need when cooking and will quickly tell you how fresh it is.
Keep Away From Heat and Steam
The best place in your kitchen to store herbs and spices is in a dark, cool cupboard or on a shelf in a pantry. Don’t keep your spices near the oven or sink, as heat can affect their freshness. It’s also a good idea to keep them out of direct sunlight.
Moisture can also affect your herbs and make them hard and clumpy, so try not to directly sprinkle herbs into a steaming pot or pan, just put the herbs you require into a teaspoon or measuring cup and then transfer them to your food.
Dry Them Out
If you have bought more herbs than you actually need, you can make them last longer by drying them out and storing them – this works really well with herbs like oregano, thyme, and sage.
Either hang them to dry in a warm, well-ventilated room, or pop them in the oven with the door slightly ajar. You can also freeze herbs like basil, coriander, and parsley, by popping them into an ice cube tray and topping with oil or water.