Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

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 Questions and Answers:


Q: I have several bottles of food flavoring that I have had several years, it still has a good smells good. Should I throw it all away, I heard not to use it after a long period of time, it does not have ab expiration date on it Thanks, LS

A: I always like to consult when I'm wondering about things like this. Assuming you mean extracts, like vanilla or almond, they say they don't really go bad, they either lose the flavor or evaporate all together.


Q:  Hi, Just to let you know sumac is not the MAIN INGREDIENT in Zaa’tar but Thymbria spicata or commonly called zaa’tar is. This is an herb that grows freely in the mountains of the Middle East.  I also grow it in South Louisiana.  It is similar to rosemary needles except  smaller and has a VERY pungent taste.  We love it on feta cheese with Nigella sativa (Black health seeds is the common name), olive oil and Madalene Hill Oregano. Happy Herbing. RS

A: Your comment threw me for a loop because I have never heard of a plant called zaa'tar, only the spice blend (here's a link). It seems this is a case of regional differences. Wikipedia has entries that make us both correct! This entry illustrates your point, while this one supports my knowledge. They are indeed two different plants and two different spices, all with the same name.


Q: I live in an apartment in S. CA. and have a small garden. There are small green caterpillars (aprox. an inch in length) attacking my tomatoes, lavender, watermelon, and lemon thyme. Although, it is not attacking any other plants yet. During my internet research all I keep seeing is information on the hornworm. This green caterpillar has no horns on it. It does have a faint white line down its back and blends very well under the leafs. Is there anything you can recommend to rid this pest without using pesticides? Thank you much. DR

A: You might want to look into "cabbage loopers." The best control for these or hornworms is to simply handpick them off the plants. It's creepy, I know, wear gloves. Be sure to check the undersides of leaves for eggs, too, as that's where both of these creatures like to lay them.


Q: I'm growing my 1st plant ever, basil, in a clay pot. I neglected watering it and the leaves were droopy and I watered it as soon as I noticed it. Then it poured rain the next day and now my plant has dark brown spots on the tops of the leaves. My plant also gets alot of sunlight. The leaves are still a healthy dark green color and smell great. Can me and my guinea pig still eat these leaves? Will these leaves recover or should I pinch them off? It kind looks like they are sunburnt but I also read it could also be that the leaves don't like to get wet? Help please. VP

A: The leaves won't recover but they are still edible. Just pinch them off at the closest leaf pair section on the stems. I would tear off the brown spots just to make them more palatable.


Q: Where can I buy JD Magic seasoning? JW

A: I am not familiar with this brand and it doesn't seem to be available online anywhere. I did find a recipe to make your own at


Q: Hi, I’ve recently bought a potted Greek basil plant from a supermarket which I keep inside on the window ledge. There appears to be little black blobs appearing at the leaf joints usually after watering. These black blobs are moist about the size of a pin head and resemble little blobs of poo. There is no apparent infestation and no degradation of the leaves or anything and to all intents and purposes, the plant looks extremely healthy. Could these blobs be a result of watering? Thanks RMAT

A: I can't imagine that watering a plant could cause these blobs that you describe. This is one of those cases where you would want to take the plant to a Master Gardener office or local nursery where they could help you determine the problem after seeing it in person.


Q: My basil leaves have white squiggly lines on them from columbine leaf borers. Can I eat the leaves fresh? SC

A: The white lines are dead cells so I don't think they would hurt you or anything. However, I would check the leaves thoroughly to make sure all the bugs are gone.


Q: Can I use fresh rosemary stems in bottling olive oil for later use? JL

A: You can use fresh rosemary to flavor olive oil, but you will want to store it in the refrigerator for no more than a week. Botulism is a common worry to flavored oils.


Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

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