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Is there a substitute for curry powder that tastes similar. I am making a chicken/broccoli casserole for 120 but there are allergies to curry powder and I don't want to change the taste of dish. Thank you, SH
This is very tricky because curry powders are a combination of many spices. It is important to know exactly what spices cause your guests problems. Please see "All About Curry Powder."
 

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My dill plant leaves look yellow and green, but there are some brown stuff that looks like seeds. Are these seeds? When should I remove the seeds if these are seeds. Can I plant them and get more trees? They look brown. B
Sounds like your plant is nearing the end of its life cycle. You don't say if they flowered but seeds are the natural progression after flowering. You can, indeed, plant these seeds to get a new crop. They are also a delicious seasoning. Allow them to dry on the plant and then hold a paper bag or plate under them before snipping off the "dill head."
 
I purchased a Basil plant in a grocery store and kept it alive inside over the winter. I was easily able to grow 2 new plants from clippings. Recently I noticed what looked like fine sawdust on the leaves. I noticed a few white flying insects We washed the leaves off with soapy water and they appeared clean for a few days, but droopy. Now the white stuff is coming back. Any Ideas on diagnosis and treatment? EAM
You might want to Google "whitefly" to see if this is your problem and find a treatment that works for you. To be even more sure, consider contacting your local Master Gardener office for their help.
 
I live in Las Vegas and my rosemary bushes have little clumps of white foamy stuff all over them and they are turning brown right in the center of the plant, both of them. What's wrong with them and is this something that might spread to the rest of my plants? JG
Sounds like spittlebugs, which don't generally hurt plants although they can. Try giving your plants a strong spray of water to wash them away.
 
Can I use bay leaves without drying them? Are they weaker or stronger in taste? MG
As long as you are sure they are actually bay leaves (see the article Nine Ways to Use the Herb of the Year 2009) you can certainly use them fresh. Theoretically, they would be weaker in taste but I haven't noticed a marked difference between the two in my kitchen.
 
We bought a lovely bay tree in memory of our little boy who we lost last summer – we chose a bay as we thought it would be robust and survive the usually mild winters we have in GB. However, due to the severe winter and harsh frosts, the leaves of the bay tree have all turned brown and it looks as though it is dying. The tree is potted and stands about 4 foot high. Can you please give us some tips on how we may be able to revive the tree – any help will be much appreciated. CT
I'm so sorry for your tragic loss. We are having the same problem with our bay tree at the demonstration garden. You can check to see if it is still alive by scratching the bark on one of the limbs close to the trunk. If you see a bit of green or white, the tree will probably be okay. Our tree showed the green so we snipped off all of the brown leaves and are hoping for the best.
 
What is the difference between spices and herbs. At age almost 60, I am learning to cook. YEA!! MT
Congratulations! Cooking is a rewarding endeavor. Generally speaking, spices are fruits or seeds, or in the case of cinnamon--bark, of plants while herbs are leaves. Please see our "Articles" list for information on individual herbs and spices to learn more.
 
I recently had a wonderful dish the Greek Restaurant called “Flaming Spegetti”. It was not spicy hot, but was excellent. I was trying to figure out what spices they would have used (they wouldn’t tell). One looked like a “grass” of some kind and there seemed to be a slightly sweet taste. What are the most popular Greek spices that might have been used? LP
Your grassy herb may have been dill weed, or if you tasted licorice, maybe fennel. Oregano, marjoram, mint and bay leaves are other common herbs. Spices include cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cumin. They also use parsley, rosemary, sage, paprika and lots of lemon. Kind of leaves it wide open, doesn't it?
 
I've looked everywhere on the net on how to make rosewater. They all say it has to be refrigerated. But people sell it online... how do they do that if it has to be refrigerated? Is there something I can add when I make mine to preserve it? Having trouble w/ rosewater perfume recipes too. Help!! MS
This is a bit out of my league, but I do have an idea. The bottle of rosewater I have, which is food-grade, lists the contents as distilled rosewater and natural flavors. I suspect there is something in the distillation process that makes it shelf stable. However, it's not clear whether it is the essential oil from distilled rose petals added to water or if the rosewater is distilled. Again, I'm not sure but it might be worth investigating the use of rose oil instead of fresh petals to make your rosewater have a longer life.
 
Hello, I am looking for a seasoning which I bought before but cannot find now. The brand says... "Minnesota Pork Seasoning", it is a red color mixture in a bag. Any ideas ??? DJ
 I'm afraid I can't help so I turn it out to the world. Anybody know about this one?
 
Last year, a seller at the semi-annual sale at the Virginia Arboretum said she had a terrible time growing Thai Queen Basil, and would not attempt it again. I put my self to the challenge and have started with seeds, proper starting mix, light close to the tiny seedlings etc., etc., even a fan on now and then. But they are already very difficult: tiny, extremely fragile, slow-to-grow, and very few seeds have actually germinated. Any clues? Thanks for all the info. I hope you are still posting. DH
Sounds like you are doing everything right. You don't mention temperature but I do know that basil likes to be warm. Basil seeds are viable for about 10 years, so it's probably not old seeds but maybe you should try a different brand.
 
My parents recently got home from a trip to Istanbul. They bought me a lovely box holding several spices. There are a few that I haven’t heard of and am not sure what to do with them. Thankfully, I found information on your site about cooking with Sumac, but the other mysteries are “Yasmer Spices,” Red Peppercorns, Berry Cumin (which I sort of think is just whole Cumin and something just labeled “Mix Spices” (helpful, I know.) Any help would be appreciated. Thank you, P
I found one reference to Yasmer Spices on an Italian webpage that simply explained that they are a Turkish spice blend. I'm thinking the red peppercorns are often called pink peppercorns here, not an actual pepper but the spicy fruit of a small bush.
 
Hello, I was mortified to find some white worms in a sealed jar of sage I keep in a spice carousel on my kitchen counter. The spices are about a year or two old and all came from Bed, Bath and Beyond already in the jars. I've not spotted these creatures in any of my other spices, but now I will definitely look...any idea where they came from? Thank you, JT
My best guess is that the sage had some eggs clinging to the leaves when it was packed.
 
I live in Reno. NV (zone 6-7). I have a 4ft tall brick planter that I have been trying to grow trailing rosemary in. SOME years the plants over winter, but, usually I have to replant some if not all of the plants. I was wondering if I twined a cable soil heater or heat tape around the plants when I replant if that would possibly protect them when the temperatures occasionally dip to 5 degrees or so? If you don't think so, can I train a cold hardy upright type of rosemary (Arp or Madeline Hill ,both zone 5-6) to be more prostate by pruning somehow? Thank you for any help you can give me!!
 As so often happens with this Q&A, I have learned something new. I didn't know these cable soil heaters even existed. I can't imagine why your idea wouldn't work. You might ask more questions about using them from whomever you buy it since it seems like a bad idea to use electricity around water.
 
Hello: This may seem unbelievable to you, but we have several plastic packages of saffron in our refrigerator that were sent to my mother from Spain in the 1960's! Mother has now passed away & we are wondering if the saffron could still be used
to make the Cornish recipe of saffron buns. Thank you so much! JAM
I'm doubting it, but the best way to find out if it has any flavor is to crumble a bit into some hot water and then taste it. Use a small pinch of the spice in about 1/2 cup of water.
 
Can I substitute cajun spice for curry? K
Sure, as long as you understand you'll be changing the flavors as well. Cajun and curry spice blends often contain some similar ingredients, like cumin and peppers, but they become truly different as other seasonings come in.
 
I have a kibbie recipe and it calls for mint. My question is peppermint or spearmint? MT
You would probably have good results with either one, but spearmint is the most common mint for savory dishes.
 
I like to make homemade brushetta. I use olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, basil and basalmic vinegar. Question #1: If I store the leftover in the refrig am I
asking for botulism? Question #2: When I eat the leftovers the following day or two it always has a much stronger bite than when first made...Why? BDL
If you eat up the refrigerated leftovers within a day or two, I don't think you are breeding any illness. The flavors will have longer to meld, making them taste more intense. Sort of like how lasagna and soups are often better the next day.
 
What's the equivalent of a tablespoon of coriander seeds to powdered coriander? MB
I would use 1 teaspoon of ground coriander to replace 1 Tablespoon of whole seeds just because you will get more flavor distributed throughout the recipe if it is ground. Sometimes, however, a recipe might call for a Tablespoon of whole seeds that will be toasted and ground--then you would want to use a whole Tablespoon of ground coriander. Or, in something like pickles, you wouldn't want to make the substitution at all because your liquid would be cloudy and the flavor might be too intense.
 
A couple of years ago Spice Islands came out with a Ground Habanero Chile product. It was rather expensive ($16+ of 1.5 ounces, as I recall), but being a "hothead" I had to try it. I really liked it, but haven't seen it anywhere since that one time. So, is anyone -else- marketing pure ground habanero chile, and if so, where can I buy it? Dr H
I plugged ground habanero into our Mini Mall's search engine and came up with a couple of options for purchasing it online through Amazon. Many companies had it listed as a product not currently available. Pendery's, where I like to get all of my chiles, also has it for far less than you paid before.
 
My mint has turned partly black and a little crisp. Can I still use it for cooking? SM
It doesn't sound very appetizing, but unless it's moldy, it probably won't hurt you.
 
This summer my herb garden became infested with small black bugs - they look like poppy seeds. I picked some Rosemary yesterday, in the ice and snow and was surprised to see they were very much alive! Help! EB
Are you sure they are alive? Generally, things on plants that look like poppy seeds are droppings from bugs like caterpillars. If you are sure they are insects, you might try plugging "small black bugs" into the Google Image function to see if you find something that matches them in appearance. Once identified, you can learn how to deal with them.
 
I have been successfully growing basil in an aerogarden for 4 months. I’ve pinched so they are nice and bushy. The top leaves are healthy: dark green and firm. The lower leaves have become a lighter green and limp. Sounds like overwatering… but it’s an aerogarden! Maybe nutrients? JF
Nutrient deficiencies usually affect the older leaves first so this could be a logical conclusion. I wonder too, however, if maybe the plant is so full that those lower leaves aren't getting enough light?
 
I am “harvesting” juniper berries from a large, older tree in our yard and plan to make a juniper tincture for culinary use. I am concerned whether I may use all of the berries I’ve collected or should limit my selection to the larger, blue berries, rather than including the smaller green berries in the mix. Thanks for your assistance. RKD
You will want to harvest only those berries that are ripe. Be sure to read "All About Juniper Berries," if you haven't already as there are particular medical conditions that make the spice unsafe.
 
Dear A Pinch Of...I recently bought a mint plant from a market, but I am new to gardening. It looked healthy to start with, but now the leaves are turning brown. It’s not spots of brown, it sort of creeps from the tips inwards. Nearly all of the leaves are like this and the only leaves that aren’t brown are too small to use. I re-potted it today into a bigger pot, but I was wondering if it was from over-watering? I water it every day because we’re having quite a dry summer. Please help? AD
The damage you describe could be called "scorch." It is basically a sunburn although it could also be the result of drought. Your plant may have come from a greenhouse and then gotten burned when you first put it into full sun. As for watering, you will want to water the plant thoroughly, until water runs from the drainage holes, and then let it become dry over the top two or three inches of soil before watering again. It's better to completely saturate the soil and roots rather than just a bit every day.
 
What is the standard conversion of freshly grated orange peel versus dried? Believe it or not, I can't find this on any website! JD
My jar of Penzey's Orange Peel says to rehydrate the dried spice with 3 parts water to 1 part spice. So to equal 1 Tablespoon fresh you would used 1 Tablespoon water with 1 teaspoon dried peel. If I am adding it directly into a recipe I just use the standard herb conversion of 1 teaspoon dried to 1 Tablespoon fresh.
 
I cannot have any seed because of a colon problem. I love rye bread with caraway. Could I grind to a powder and add to bread? LM
I have used ground caraway with pleasant results in the past. I do think you should probably check with your doctor to make sure this is safe for you.
 
Hi: I have a problem. I bought fresh garlic, but it looks smaller then what they show on TV. I am wondering I need an inch for fresh garlic. How many ounces is in a normal one inch piece? Thank you for your help. BM
You are saying garlic but I'm guessing that you mean ginger since we are talking in inches rather than cloves. I just weighed a one-inch piece of ginger and it came in at a half an ounce.
 
Hiya, I was bumbling about on the web looking for ways to preserve my habaneros, I've had a huge yield, and thought I'd share another way to preserve them that hadn't really been mentioned (unless I missed it :)). Use a dehydrator to dehydrate peppers. Mary Bell has written a fabulous book on dehydrating all sorts of foods and includes recipes for your bounty. I highly recommend "Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook" for anyone interested in the art of preparing and using dried foods - to include trail mixes, crushed herbs and vegetables for soup mixes, potpourri, jerky, fruit leathers and more. BTW, you don't necessarily need a dehydrator. The oven or toaster oven works just fine on low temperatures. In the past I've dehydrated bell peppers, wrapped them tightly in saran wrap and frozen them for up to a year. Not so good for eating like fresh, but just fine for cooking.
On another note, Penzey's spices has a nice page in every free catalog (available by mail or online at Penzeys.com) describing various chilis; their taste qualities as well as the Scoville unit ratings. Believe it or not, I'm not trying to sell anything. Just found some really good products/info worth sharing. I have nothing to financially gain. Respectfully, if warmly, submitted, KM
Thanks for sharing your ideas. Dehydrating is a great way to preserve chiles that I hadn't thought about seriously. You're right about Penzey's, too. Their catalog is as informative as their products are high-quality.
 
Good Morning, I currently store my dried cooking spices on the bottom shelf of a kitchen cabinet. Directly underneath this shelf is a halogen task lighting unit. When this unit is on it gets hot and the heat radiates through the shelf making the surface where the spice containers are stored quite warm. Even though we use this light occasionally my concern is that this heat can damage the spices. What do you think? Your advice on this is most appreciated. Thank you, PG
Like I always say, heat and light are the biggest enemies of fresh spices. You would do well to find a different place to keep your supplies.
 
I cannot find blades of mace in my local stores. I believe I can use ground mace or ground nutmeg. What would be the equivalent of either in place of one blade of mace. Thank you. SP
Blades of mace vary in size so I would use a hefty pinch of ground mace, then taste and adjust as necessary.
 
Winter greetings! My pork and squash stew recipe calls for 1 tsp, dried coriander. Don't have it, never used it and don't even know what it is! I know, shame on me-but what can I effectively use as a substitute that I may have on hand? thanx snowy bunches, from buffalo ny! MM
Well, first, you might want to see "All About Coriander." It's one of my favorite spices. You could probably get away with using the same amount of cumin, instead.
 
I found a recipe for horseradish coated prime rib that I would like to use. The coating ingredients include ½ cup of sea salt and ¼ cup of freshly ground pepper. Since it does not specifically state that I grind the sea salt, do I use it whole? Thanks. Make it a great day. CO
That sounds delicious. I don't think I would grind the salt since one of the lovely things about sea salt is that it is coarse. Plus, the recipe would tell you to do so if it were necessary.
 
I have a recipe that calls for a red pepper pod. May I substitute ground or flaked red pepper? If so, how much. Thank you. JH
This is a little tricky because you would usually remove the red pepper pod before serving. Certainly you could substitute ground or flaked, but I would start with just a couple of pinches and maybe pass more at the table if people want the dish to be spicier.
 
Can anything else be used in a rice recipe besides 2 tbsp. crystallized ginger? Very seldom have I seen a recipe that calls for this so don’t know that I need-or-want to spend much money on such an item. Though if it were to help with motion sickness (car sickness) and also indigestion it might be worth trying? PF
Crystallized ginger is a nice addition to baked goods, especially those that already call for ground ginger. Some people eat the crystallized ginger like candy and others swear by it for the ailments you describe. Besides, maybe you will like the rice recipe and prepare it more than once.
 
I have a potted rosemary that had grown fantastically over the summer. I live in the southern most Lancaster PA, and as the fall settled in we brought the planter in and placed it in the southern exposure window and all of the leaves (needles) have dried and fell of and the stems have died out. I have harvested the herb and moved the plant to the garage to see how it winters. Do you have any thoughts? JB
I think you're probably going to need a new plant. Rosemary has a hard time recovering from drying out as you describe. You are right to give it a chance and the garage is a good spot, especially if there is a window. Next year, you might want to try taking the pot from the outdoors right into the garage and it will likely fair better (unless, like I always do, you forget to water it!).
 
I am making dressing and I have fresh savoury instead of ground. How do I convert this? CC
I would use three times the amount of fresh savory as your recipe calls for ground.
 
I grow my own garlic and after a couple months of storage in the basement, it begins to develop the green sprout in the middle of the cloves. There is still quite a bit of garlic left that I don’t want to be wasted (couple dozen heads). I was thinking that by chopping the remaining garlic (removing any green sprouts) and refrigerating in oil, it would keep for months. After reading a couple sites, it seems that due to botulism risk, this will only keep a week or two. If I were to freeze the garlic/oil mixture in an ice cube tray and then store the individual cubes in a freezer bag, would this eliminate the risk of botulism? Thanks! DZ
This is probably a good option. Just be sure to freeze it right after mixing and don't wait long to use it after it has thawed.
 
I was fixing garlic toast and when we eat it, it was metal tasting and bitter. How do I fix garlic toast without using garlic salt. My husband is on a low sodium diet. Thanks JH
Perhaps you should try using roasted garlic. Roasting garlic makes it more mellow and would provide a nice consistency to mix with butter for your toast. See the "Great Garlic Roasting Experiment" article for ideas.
 
I live in the northern Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico. It is not like Arizona or California because the altitude is higher (4000 feet) so it gets cold, below freezing, in the winter. I have a beautiful trailing rosemary in a pot in my courtyard. In the summer I water it when it is completely dry as recommended and it does fine. Does the same hold true in the winter? Thank you. DD
Plants tend to dry out a bit quicker in the cold so you should follow your regular watering pattern, but maybe just keep a closer eye on it.
 
On the soil of my rosemary plant, there is some white stuff around the edges of the pot, I water every other day, what is the white stuff? Thanks, AR
Most likely it is a calcium build-up or some sort of residue left from the minerals in the water.
 
I recently bought some fresh Oregano and without thinking stored it in the fridge with Sage and Rosemary. The Sage and Rosemary were fine, but most of the Oregano's leaves turned black. My question is: is the Oregano safe to eat if we picked all of the black leaves off? And if so, what would happen if it wasn't? Would it just affect the taste, or would it actually be harmful to ingest. Thank you. CS
Unless you see visible signs of mold, you could probably eat the blackened leaves without harm but that doesn't sound like a very enjoyable idea. If you have green leaves, pick them off and they would be fine.
 
I have access to rosemary that grows along a busy 4 lane road. I make a meat rub with rosemary and want to use this rosemary. When I picked the rosemary my fingers were not only sticky (common) but were very black with what I assume is road grime. How do I wash this rosemary so it is safe to eat? Thanks BF
I say don't eat it. These plants have been exposed to engine exhaust for their entire lifespan. That can't be a good thing to eat.
 
I used to order a dish call "Rosemary Chicken" in a restaurant in Dillon, CO. They have since discontinued making it and I asked them how was it made. They told me a few ingredients - rosemary herb and whipped cream and poured over ravioli filled with chicken. The color of the sauce or gravy was olive green. It was delicious. I am not a great cook but would you have any idea how to make it? It was some what sweet. Thank you for listening. CA
That does sound good. I would start by trying a simple reduction of rosemary-infused cream. This is accomplished by bringing the heavy cream to a full boil, add a few sprigs of rosemary and continue boiling until there is only half as much cream as you started with. Strain out the rosemary then season with salt and white pepper.  I'm not sure if this would make it the olive green you describe, but I'll bet you would get a nice flavor.
 
Hi, My basil plant is producing leaves, but it is growing "up" and leaves are not growing at the bottom of the plant. There is about 5 inches of exposed plant with all of the new growth at the top. Why is this happening? Why aren't leaves growing at the bottom? Thanks! KC
Usually when plants get "leggy" it is because they are reaching for light. You might try to get your basil into a sunnier location. You can also encourage it to turn more bushy by pinching back the new growth.
 
Hi, thank you for this helpful site. I have started my Thai basil from seed early spring this year and after just under a couple months my newly grown basil started to flower. I keep them inside in my sunroom to receive as much sun and keep them warm as possible. Is this normal? My sweet basil are still happily growing unlike the Thai basil. Thank you. DS
Sometimes a plant will flower when it is in distress. Maybe your plant isn't getting enough light and/or water. It also may just be that your plant is finishing its life cycle. One seed catalog says Thai basil takes 75 days to reach maturity.
 
I saw a recipe for a chowder that called for peppercorns. Can you put the peppercorns in whole or should the be ground up first. I think they just threw the peppercorns into the pot. Will they dissolve? Thanks JH
You can put the peppercorns into a dish whole, but you would want to fish them out before serving or avoid them while eating the chowder. They won't dissolve and most people would find biting into a whole peppercorn rather unpleasant.
 
A friend of mine from Canada e-mailed me 2 recipes which include the use of Hye's seasoning salt. I live in California, U.S.A. and I just wanted to know where I can get it or if there is a substitute for it. Thanks. - J
The folks over at Canadian Favourites.com have it in stock and say they will ship anywhere in the world, however, the cost is high. I'm not sure what makes Hye's so special, but you might be able to substitute Lawry's Seasoning Salt with good results.
 
Can I freeze nutmeg the same way I can freeze ginger? How long will each last in the freezer and do they need to be peeled before I freeze them? KM
There is no need to freeze nutmeg, nor do you need to peel it. We freeze ginger because it is a fresh product. Nutmeg is already dried.
 
Where in the Denver area can I find annatto? TL
Google tells me you have several locations of the Savory Spice Shop chain in the metro area. I've been to the one in Boulder and it is a wonderful place to spend some time.
 
I prefer the taste of anise oil over the taste of extract but if the recipe says 2 tbls. of extract then how much oil would I use in place? Thank you for your help. I am going to make pizzells. KH
Wow, that is a lot of anise extract. As you probably know, the oil will be much stronger. A general rule of thumb is 1/4 teaspoon oil will be equal to 1 full teaspoon of extract. Even though this would make your recipe call for 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil, you might want to start with a scant teaspoon and adjust in very small increments as needed.
 
I have frozen pureed parsley in cubes (each is 1 tsp.) and wondered how much fresh parsley would each cube be equivalent to? EB
I would consider your pureed cubes equal to 2 teaspoons worth of fresh parsley.
 
I have recently grown sweet basil from seed. It has only been about 1 1/2 months. The plants look great, but the leaves taste bitter. I know most of the articles I've read say that if the basil plant flowers that it could become bitter. These are new plants. Could planting it near garlic chive or green onion have anything do to with it? Please advise if there is anyway that I can sweeten the taste of my plants. Thank you. JW
The only thing I can come up with is that the variety of basil you are growing is somewhat bitter. Perhaps it will get sweeter as it grows. I don't think it has anything to do with the plants around it.
 
What does mold on basil look like? I have dried basil and there are black spots on some of the leaves. Is this mold? thanks. JM
Mold on basil could be black or white. I think this is a case for "when in doubt, throw it out."
 
I have a basil plant, and it is growing great, except for the mushrooms growing around it. The mushrooms are leaving a black oil residue, and I am concerned to eat the basil if this oil substance gets on the basil. Is this normal? Is my basil still edible? WM
Mushrooms generally won't hurt other plants, they feed on decaying material in soil. I would go ahead and pluck them as I see them developing, but the basil should be okay after a good rinse.
 
Hi, I purchased several rosemary plants this past summer. Two I kept in the house by the window and they produce light and tender needles. The outside bush has become large and the needles are broader and much larger. It looks very healthy but not as nice to eat. Perhaps they are different varieties....do you think both are edible? I wonder if I should just let the larger one grow into an evergreen as that is the appearance it has. I love cooking with this wonderful herb and appreciate your website, it is very helpful! Regards, HS
There are many different varieties of rosemary and as long as you are certain the one outdoors is actually rosemary, there's no reason not eat it (except that it doesn't taste as good). They do make nice shrubs. You might also enjoy using it for the flavor and aroma by throwing a few of the branches into the fire next time you barbeque.
 
Hi A pinch of, I have made some mustard for friends and family, and would like to can it in jars. I have read that heating mustard will make it loose flavor and heat. Is this true? How can I preserve it then? I do not want to use any artificial preservatives. Thanks for your help. EM
I can't find any reliable information on canning mustard. The best way to maintain the heat of your homemade mustard is to refrigerate it. Usually we let it sit in a cool dry place for up to eight weeks and then keep it in the fridge. The standing time will depend on how long it takes to get to the level of heat you desire--it will be hottest just after you have prepared it. Maybe your best bet is to give your friends jars of mustard with little tags attached telling them how to store it.
 
I bought a rosemary plant from Home Depot about 6 months ago. It sits on the back porch and gets approximately 6 hours of direct sun. About a month after I got it half of it leaned over and died. The small 6 inch plant that is left has never grown any more. It looks very healthy and green with great aroma and I have pulled off a couple of the leaves for cooking and it is just getting smaller. What would you suggest? ST
Sounds like maybe a stem got broken off of the side that died. For the part that remains, make sure you aren't overwatering and give it a little more time. It sounds like it's okay, but you might give it just a light dose of a natural seaweed fertilizer to invigorate it.
 
What is the correct method to store fresh ginger Please? KB
I have learned that the best way to keep it short term is unwrapped in the vegetable bin. If you want to keep it longer, try cutting it, unpeeled, into one-inch lengths, wrap individually and freeze. These recipe-sized portions will thaw quickly when needed.
 
Is it possible to use the berries of laura nobilis? Thanks, HV
Bay oil is pressed from the berries of laurus nobilis and has been known to alleviate joint pain. They won't hurt you if eaten in small quantities, however, apparently they are extremely bitter.
 
Hi, My beautiful basil plant is no longer doing well. I had it outside for the summer but living in Rhode Island I had to bring it inside. Approximately 6 weeks ago, I brought the plant inside my home and placed it in front of a sunny window. It was doing fine until 7 to 10 days ago when it started to die. Some leaves have turned brown while others have become droopy. It all seemed to start when it grew flowers. I had read on a website that they needed to be picked or the basil would become bitter. After I picked them everything seemed to go down hill. It was a nice healthy bush with tons of leaves standing over a foot high. I'm so upset and need your help in keeping my basil plant alive. Please help ! GS
Could be the plant is just at the end of its life cycle, but I wonder if maybe you are overwatering it. Indoor plants don't need as much water and we have a tendency to overdo it when we bring them in. Even if the surface looks dry, check a couple of inches below the top before adding water.
 
Hello, No answer anywhere. I have wonderful basil in the garden this year and would like to know if the seeds are in the flowers, or if not where.
How do I get the seeds from the existing plants? And best way to insure indoor growth. Thanks, Verrrry Much. E
The seeds are in the flowers where they mature after the flowers die. Just leave them on the stalk until the little pods are starting to open. When you are ready to harvest, hold a paper bag under the seed pod and snip it off so that it falls into the bag. A couple of good shakes and the seeds will separate. Make sure they are completely dry before storing.
 
Hi - I have a beautiful young exchange student from Colombia here and I want to make his favorite soup. It calls for Guasca, which I know is indigenous to Colombia. I have looked EVERYWHERE here in Minneapolis to no avail. Can you recommend a substitute or something similar, to at least get CLOSE to the flavor? Thanks. KA
We have talked about guasca before (see the What's This? Q&A). Since the plant is considered a weed in this country also, you might want to contact a local wild plant forager. It's a growing hobby these days so you could post to Craigslist or something similar. The USDA has good information on the plant for help in identifying it. Unfortunately, they don't say what it tastes like, and I've never had it, so I can't suggest an alternative.
 
I have a bottle of olive oil with herbs used for dipping bread before dinner. What temperature should I store the oil? What is its shelf life? J
While dried herbs and spices seem to present less of a danger than fresh vegetables or garlic, food safety experts seem to agree that flavored oils should be stored in the refrigerator and consumed within ten days.
 
Where I can find Aji Panca and Aji Amarillo chiles/powders in the Bay Area (preferably Oakland or Berkeley, CA)? Thanks! PR
These Peruvian chiles seem to be rather elusive at the bricks and mortar shops, but you can order them online from a variety of sources. Please see our Mini-Mall for more information.
 
Can you please help me? what makes my basil get woody at the bottom of its stems? BF
Sounds like your plant is getting a bit old, this happens as a plant ages.
 
Hello! My basil plant was going very well outside & I noticed most of the leaves are now yellowing. I used some green & some slightly yellow leaves to make pesto but was told my pesto didn't taste the same. My questions concern using yellowed leaves. Is there any reason not to use or is there special uses for it? Also, what is the recommended use for basil plant tops? Thank you for your help. AB
Yellow leaves indicate they aren't healthy for some reason. If they are about to die and fall off, it stands to reason they probably haven't retained their essential oils that give the flavor. If by basil plant tops, you mean the flowers, they are a nice garnish or tasty tossed into salads. They would be pretty in a flavored butter. Please see "Compound Butters Rescue Plain Foods."
 
Please where can I find pure Mexican vanilla in Newcastle or London? And does Madagascar vanilla taste better than Mexican? Thank You. TT
I'm not sure where you might find it in your area. You could check with high-end grocers or specialty food shops. They might be able to order it for you if they do not have it in stock. Some people are crazy about Mexican vanilla although you have to be careful that it is the real thing rather than a synthetic. Mexican vanillas are notorious for containing coumarin from tonka beans or other adulterants. Madagascar vanilla is considered to be the world's finest.
 
I have a recipe for a seafood gumbo which calls for a tbs. of sassafras. I am unable to find this spice anywhere I live. Where do I buy this ingredient? Thank you, CH
Have you looked for it in the spice aisle as "gumbo filé?" If you can't find it at your supermarket, you could always order it through our Mini-Mall.
 
Hello, Where can I find Annatto Powder in Cape Town? Best regards, EE
Annatto, or achiote, is generally sold whole which looks a bit like reddish-orange gravel. It may be difficult to find it ground. You could try Atlas Trading Company, 94 Wale Street, Bo Kaap 021-423-4361.
 
Hi there. You have a wonderful site but I can't seem to find out what the very, very tiny white bugs are that are all over my counter. You see we brought my mint and chocolate mint plants inside last night as it is getting very chilly here in Colorado at night. Any idea as to what the bugs are and what I should do about them? DM
So many white bugs exist, but my first guess would be aphids. Ladybugs love to eat them, however, if you have the plants indoors you might just want to give them a good shower.
 
My basil is in pots on my porch. Nice and green and looks good. However, it does not have much basil flavor. What could affect the flavor? ET
Could you have used a fertilizer? This will sometimes cause herbs to grow quickly without developing the essential oils for flavor.
 
I saw a question on your page about wilting leaves and darkening of the stem, which you answered could be 'wilt', an incurable fungal disease. This has happened to every herb I've grown, and I grow them all from seeds. Is there any way to prevent this in the first place? ST
Often this is a soil-borne problem so you would want to start with fresh soil. Use a seed sprouting mix at the beginning to get your plants off to the best start. You can also look for resistant varieties of seeds as well.
 
I live in Florida, where the humidity is horrible, especially in the long, hot summer months. I have and use a lot of dried spices. I just bought some ground cardamom, and it is a very expensive spice. Our home is air-conditioned, of course, but the humidity still sometimes seems to creep in. Should ground cardamom and other ground spices which are susceptible to high humidity be stored in the refrigerator, or just in a dark cupboard? AG
The dark cupboard gets my vote as the refrigerator can introduce moisture as well. You might want to look into a product called Dry Spice. They are little canisters you can put into a jar to help control moisture and clumping.
 
My Italian basil plants have a few slimy, milky substance on the leaves. No one seems to know what might causing this. Are the leaves still edible and how do I eradicate this unknown something? Thanks. LS
 Have you considered slugs? They leave creepy little trails where ever they have been.
 
I buy chopped garlic in water in a jar. I store it in a jar inside two plastic bags. The odor still permeates the refrigerator, working its smell into the ice cubes in our freezer. How can I store my garlic without stinking up everything else in the refrigerator? JR
Aside from an airtight container, something like Tupperware, my only solution would be to get rid of that smelly stuff and chop fresh garlic cloves as needed.
 
I planted a chocolate mint plant last year. I would pick some fresh leaves and put in my coffee. It was wonderful!!! I have tried to do the same this year, but am finding that it tastes more like greens. The plant is full and looks very healthy. Am I doing something wrong? Would it be better to dry it? How can I get the best results out of my plant? LB
Sometimes when we use too much fertilizer the plants grow full and lush but the essential oils don't develop as much. Herbs that are allowed to flower will often have less flavor as well
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Dear pinch of, I have brought back some cuttings of mint to the tropics. The cuttings were already rooted and they survived their trip and transplant. They are in hanging pots, getting some sun and they have to hand watered. I read as part of your answers that the leaves should not be wet - in a garden I would assume they might get rained on. Is this just to avoid the rust disease? My problem is that they are not growing that well. They get leggy, and the most of the stem dies and I am left with the top part. I usually cut it and try to root it, but the success rate is not that great...maybe 1 out of 10 cuttings will root. I also read you should not fertilize more than twice/year. Any advice to make my mint plant happier in a hot and humid climate? Thanks for a great web site. MB
I have a problem with leggy mint too. As the plants get taller, the lower leaves die. So far, I have found that if I keep it trimmed back, the problem lessens. You might try getting them more sun. Plants in containers need a bit more fertilizer than those in the ground so perhaps you could give light applications more frequently. Getting the leaves wet on a regular basis could encourage disease as does a lack of air circulation. The most important thing for plants in pots is good drainage. Nobody likes wet feet.
 
What is the spice Camino? Can I substitute it with something else? PB
I wonder if you are referring to cumin? It is sometimes called cumino. Learn more about it at the article "All About Cumin."
 
I found a jar of mustard flour that I had put into one of my own jars - who knows how long ago? I didn't even know what it was used for, so I looked it up online and found your website. I see some of the uses for it now, but my question is, is there a shelf life for mustard flour? SC
Mustard flour is generally considered to have a shelf life of about two years. Mustard, prepared or dry, won't really go bad, it will just lose potency.
 
I bought “Italian Basil” from a vendor I have never used before. While the plants are absolutely gorgeous, it has a distinct licorice taste that seems very strong. What is wrong? I’ve been growing basil for years and making pesto and freezing it for the winter and never had this happen before. RS
 I've noticed that licorice, or anise, flavor in basil before. It seems more prominent in dried basil to me. So many different varieties exist, it is difficult to say exactly which one you bought, but "Italian" is pretty vague. I don't think there is anything wrong, you just happened onto a variety with which you aren't familiar.
 
Hi there, This is the 5th time I've purchased fresh basil from the supermarket in a clear pouch with wet roots at the bottom. They look great. But after reading instructions were they suggest some light and place the roots in water the plant's leave start to wither, shrivel and die. The stems end up with a lengthy indentation and are some stems are keeling over. I suspect way too much water. Well after two days of that I decided to plant them indoors. I made drainage holes in a large peanut jug, dug the center, planted, pressed the sides down firmly and watered thoroughly and now have put her in the sunny window. What is the chance that they will recover? Thanks for answering my question. CDB
These basil plants with the root cubes still attached aren't meant to be planted so we will have to wait and see if yours takes off. The folks at Utsalady Farm say that their supermarket basils are fully mature plants ready for eating and that while some people were successful at planting them, others were not. They also recommend putting the root balls in water that covers only half, so you may be correct in the "way too much water" suspicion.
 
I live in Miami and I've noticed when I pull the leaves off the stem of my rosemary plant to use it the leaves don't come off easily and the plant it a bit sticky. I've rinsed it off and used it but is this safe? Do you think it is because of the heat? Thank you, VP
Just from curiosity I went out and snipped rosemary from my own garden. After stripping the leaves, my hands did seem a bit sticky. The leaves came off easily, however, it was tender new growth. Perhaps yours are resisting because it is from an older part of the plant?
 
I use my fingernails to pinch off the flowers on my basil plant (they just keep coming!) and the main finger nail I use is getting a brown mark on the nail. I wash with plenty of soap as soon as I'm done, but it's not preventing the stain from getting darker. Any ideas on how to lighten/get rid of the stain? SB
Lemon juice might help. You could also change your tactic and use some snippers to get those flowers off the plant.
 
I have recently moved to Hawaii and for some reason every time I buy garlic it goes bad within a few days. How should garlic be stored in a very humid environment?? SW
You might do well to get one of those little terra cotta garlic keepers. Also, if you're like me, you just keep it in a basket on the counter. I wonder if you would have more luck if you kept it in a dark cabinet, maybe even wrapped in paper.
 
I was looking at your web site to find out how much dill seed to use instead of a head of dill. In one spot you state that 2 tsp. of dill seed equals 1 dill head. In another spot you state that 3/4 tsp. equals 1 dill head. What is the correct substitution? MH
You're right, I am inconsistent but I'll bet dill heads are too. The 3/4 teaspoon measurement is correct. I will have to correct the 2 teaspoons.
 
We just had a big rain storm after days of really hot weather. I just went out to my basil plant which has been doing very well, and there are very small purple and white colored things on all the leaves. At first I thought a bird dropped something on my plant but I touched them and they felt slimy. Could these be baby slugs? I don’t know how to get rid of them. There are several on every leaf. I did read that spraying with vinegar and water may help? If it does can the basil still be eaten? Any suggestions? DH
Could be tiny slugs or snails. If it is, they will likely disappear as the weather warms again. If they don't, I would suspect something else. You might want to pick a leaf and take it to your local garden center or master gardeners. I haven't heard about vinegar and water working, but you could set a beer trap to catch the slugs. This is a matter of filling a small bowl or tuna can with beer and burying it level with the ground. The smell attracts the slugs and they fall in.
 
I am trying to grow strawberry plants along side my Oregano. Both have spread out as a ground hugging plant. Yet I have read oregano gets tall, and mine just spreads. Today I see that some plants are flowering. Have I waited too long to harvest? Can you make an herbal oil out of some herbs? Thank you for your time. I am really a novice at this! JD
You have learned the lesson that different plant varieties have different growth habits. Oregano is a notorious spreading plant, but some varieties also grow tall. You can still harvest the oregano with flowers. We talk about making herb oils on the Cooking Q&A Page.
 
Hello, I've been looking all over the internet for an answer but so far no luck! I have sweet basil growing in a large pot outside. I noticed that the tops were about to flower, so I pinched them all. Under the leaves, near the stalks where the flowers were about to grow was some sort of white/clear mucus. It really looked like spit, just a little thicker. What is it? I don't have a pest problem (as far as I can tell) and the basil seems happy. There is a cucumber vine that keeps invading the basil's territory, but it's nowhere near the top of the plants. Thanks! LD
Have you considered spittlebugs? They emit the sort of froth that you describe, but don't really do much damage to the plant. You could give the plant a good spray of water and that will probably get rid of them.
 
Hi there, What can I do to fight of little white flying bugs on my basil? I’ve heard about 1 drop of soap in a gallon of water sprayed on the plant. I don’t want to kill the plant. Any suggestions? Thanks! KL
I'm providing a link to the University of Illinois page about whitefly. If this isn't your pest, you can search their site and see if you can find out what it is.
 
I have made pickles for years using a clove of garlic. I put the pickles in a brine solution of 1 part vinegar and 3 part water salt brine then can in pints or quarts using the hot water bath method. After jars are sealed they are stored in a basement closet until needed. Is it safe to use minced garlic in oil instead of fresh garlic cloves? AL
The National Center for Home Food Preservation doesn't recommend canning foods for a second time. I think your minced garlic in oil would qualify as already being canned once so you are probably better off with sticking to the fresh cloves of garlic.
 
I have basil plant with holes and black round things on the leaves. I cannot find any slugs or caterpillars. I researched this some and think the black things may be caterpillar frass. How can I rid my plant of this? BS
It is really important to identify the pest before you can do anything about it because each one needs different treatment. Continue to monitor the plant and look for the caterpillars at different times of day, even after dark. They may have moved on by now and you won't need to do anything.
 
Hi! I just discovered your site and found it very helpful, but I didn't find the answer to my question anywhere else. My grandfather planted some peppermint and it ran wild, so he let me dig up a plant and bring it home. It had been growing sideways over his driveway and many of the leaves were black and yellow, or yellow with black spots. I plucked off all of the diseased leaves and the plant seems to be okay, but I was just curious as to what might have caused it. I also want to make sure it wasn't anything poisonous. Thank you for your help! ED
Could be that the leaves had been stepped or driven on since they were so close to the driveway. Might also be a lack of water or too much water. I know, it's really hard to say. If the plant seems okay now it was probably environmental rather than a disease.
 
Please let me know how to dry dill seed. I've looked at multiple sites and the all talk "about" dry seed, but not one of them tells me how to dry the seed. Thank you. CM
We cover this topic in the article "All About Dill."
 
After picking the basil and cutting it, the basil develops dark spots. I understand that I may be bruising the leaves. Any suggestions on how not to? LI
It's best to tear the leaves just before using them rather than cutting with a knife.
 
What store can I find Morton's Chili Blend in? JH
I'm not sure which stores would sell it, we did find this popular chili powder through our Mini-Mall.
 
I bought large amounts of dried green and red chile powder while in New Mexico. Can I freeze them? If so in what kind of container? Should I freeze them in small amounts or doesn’t it matter? Thank you, SDM
You don't want to freeze them if they are already in a dried powder form. This would introduce small amounts of moisture that would actually shorten the shelf life. It's better to keep spices in a cool, dry place away from any heat sources.
 
Looking for McCormick Meat Marinade which I can no longer find. Also Schilling's Tuna Casserole Sauce Mix. Thanks. RD
I checked the McCormick website and the meat marinade is still available, but no luck with the tuna casserole mix. You might ask your grocery to stock the marinade mix if they have other McCormick products on the shelf.
 
What spices make up “Pumpkin Pie Spice”? What can you substitute?
Blends will differ, but most will have some combination of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg or cloves. You could make a pretty decent blend of your own by using the spices in our recipe for My Best Pumpkin Pie on the "All About Cloves" page.
 
I dry my thyme from my garden. Can you tell me if it is okay to dry thyme after it has developed flowers on it. Does it make a difference in the over all flavor? EH
 While it is best to harvest herbs before they flower because the essential oils in the leaves are more intense, I think it is okay to dry it after flowering. Might even be kind of pretty.
 
My basil plant looks like it has the start of scales. I am afraid to use a commercial insecticide because of coarse I will be eating it soon. I know my usual fix of soap and water spray will not work because of the hard shells they have. What can I do? Thanks, L
 Scale is hard to get rid of. I've had good luck getting rid of them by wiping the stems with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.
 
Where can I find grains of paradise spices in Rhode Island? IR
Grains of paradise (also known as Melegueta pepper) is a spice that is just starting to catch on in this country, but you should be able to find it in most spice shops now. If you can't find it locally, most of the spice companies online are carrying it. We found it through our Mini-Mall.
 
Wow I have stayed up way to late reading this site, but what great info! My basil has kind of beige bumps on it, mostly on the stem just under where a new leaf would sprout. They are very clustered, narrow all lined up. I have looked for hours today at insect egg pictures and can not find one that matches. I'm not even sure they are eggs, in some places it looks like part of the plant, how ever it also looks in some places like whatever it is, is causing a lot of damage. Please help! Thank you.
Glad you are enjoying the site! Did you consider aphids yet? That sounds like what it might be and they do like that tender new growth the best.
 
I just bought a beautiful basil plant at Trader Joes yesterday. I put a little water and stuck it outside because it said it needed full sun and I don't get much sun inside my house. This morning my plant was wilted and the leaves had brown spots. Should I have kept it inside? What can I do to save it? Thanks, VL
Your new plant may have gotten a bit of a sunburn. Some plants need to be "hardened off" when introducing them to the outdoors. This means to start putting it in full sun for just a few hours at a time, increasing the time by an hour or so each day. Your Trader Joe's purchase probably just arrived from a greenhouse so it hadn't seen full sun yet. I'm guessing it will recover with a bit of tender loving care.
 
Hi there, I'm not sure that you can help me but I'm looking to try and find arugula for sale online. not the seeds but the leaf. I love having it in salads but the town that I live in GA, USA has nowhere that sells it and the nearest store that does stock it is 2 hours away. Any ideas? Thanks, LH
The only place I could find it was at Amazon.com  through our Mini-Mall, but you have to order a four pound bag. That's a whole lot of arugula and it costs $10 per pound. Have you considered growing it yourself? We cover the basics of growing it in the article "All About Arugula."
 
What is a sprig of ruda? It is used in Mexican cooking. LL
Assuming you mean the length, a sprig is generally a four- to six-inch portion of a stem. Ruda is known in English as Rue (botanically Ruta graveolens) and many people don't consider it safe anymore. I have actually gotten a rash on my arms from working with it in full sun.
 
I'm happy to inform you that "Orlando Vanilla" will be available in the US within the next month or less. The US division of Orlando Vanilla name is "Vera Cruz Vanilla." On their label it will also say Orlando Vanilla. Exact same vanilla, same company. They had to change the name for sale in the US because of some legal reason. I know that it will be on the shelves at Whole Foods in some of the San Jose, CA, and bay area stores really soon. For more information contact - Erica Cruz at emc52484@aol.com. She is one of the owners for the US division. I hope this helps.
Thanks for the heads up. This Mexican vanilla seems to be quite popular with our readers.
 
Do you have any suggestions for preparing pineapple sage? The plant is quite a monster and taking over my garden, very hardy and nothing bothers it. I need to harvest it but I have not found it to be desirable in cooking...SR
I think of pineapple sage as a novelty herb, but have been known to toss the chopped leaves into fruit salsas and to whirl it into piña coladas. In his book, The Herbal Kitchen, chef Jerry Traunfeld suggests using the leaves for tea and the flowers as a dessert garnish.
 
Hi, I am very allergic to any thing pepper. My questions is ....Is CUMIN part of the pepper family? Can you give me a list of any or all spices that are? I know of several but some I have questioned. Thanks for your response. ID
As always, I urge you to seek out such important information from your allergist. In answer to your question, cumin is a member of the Apiaceae (formerly known as Umbelliferae) family. Black pepper is a member of the Piperaceae family while chile peppers are capsicums, a genus from the Solanaceae family.
 
How difficult is it to grow my own mustard plants/seeds? I live at the 3500 foot elevation in California. Make a difference? Next question, if you do recommend my growing my own spice pepper plants, where do I buy the original seeds? Thank you for your advice, MB
I don't think you would have any trouble growing mustard, even at your elevation. Most gardeners grow mustard for the greens rather than the seeds. In my experience homegrown seeds are rather small and not much like the commercial seeds we can buy from a spice shop. Of course, you could always let your plants go to seed to decide for yourself. As for the pepper, I started to write that it can't be grown in this country, but then decided to check that fact. Turns out, some folks are babying pepper vines along in one way or another. I found a thread of information over at Dave's Garden. Sounds like you might want to hunt for a cutting rather than seeds.
 
Might anyone know of a peanut pear salad recipe that was featured on a can of some Schilling spice in the 1940's? My 72 year old mom sure would like the recipe! DD
I pose your question to other cooks out there who may recall this recipe...
 
I have dried the leaves of my 10 year old Bay Laurel from time to time, however they never seem to be as fragrant or flavorful as the ones I buy at the grocery store. I'm wondering why? JG
One question pops into my mind for you: are you sure that you have a bay laurel tree? We have photos of commonly confused plants in the article "Nine Ways to Enjoy the Herb of the Year 2009, Bay Leaves." Otherwise, the finest bay leaves come from Turkey and that is most likely what we are buying at the supermarket. Penzey's Spices has a rather lyrical description of why these are the best bay leaves.
 
My basil plants are wilting and I notice the stems are turning black. I don't see any slugs. What's happening? JA
Slugs don't cause leaves to wilt, they cause them to disappear. Sounds like some variety of the fungal disease called "wilt." There isn't a remedy so you will probably need to get a new plant.
 
So glad to have found your site. I am growing my first garden this season including 2 basil plants. I am hoping to be able to keep some of it through the winter by drying or freezing. We make our own pasta sauce, among other things. What do you recommend about washing basil before you dry or freeze it? I notice the texture change as soon as I rinse it, even if I am using it right away, so I hope there is an easy solution for drying/freezing. Thanks! MG
I probably shouldn't say this out loud, but I don't wash herbs from my own garden before using them. I know I haven't sprayed them with anything and it rains a lot so they are already clean. If there is visible dirt you can brush it off.
 
I have a pot of basil on my porch every year that with pinching off, turns into a beautiful bush & provides much pesto. This year so far it is being eaten by red beetle type bugs that burrow in the soil. When I water the plant they all come running up out of the soil & I try to grab them all out of the pot. More come back & the plant is looking chewed up. Buy a new plant & start over or soapy water into soil? Will the plant recoup if I do get them to leave? BM
I didn't realize there were so many red insects until I started researching your question. You will need to figure out what the pest is before you can take action. I suggest you search "red insects" in the Google photos function to see if you can find a bug that matches yours. These photos will often take you to an article about management for that pest.
 
I just wanted to let people know that Herbal House has a new address. This is where to buy ANGEL DIP, TEASONING, SPICE RIGHT, PEPPER UPPER AND PINK POPPY DIP. The new contact info is Herbal House, 74 Mt Airy Rd, Bernardsville NJ 07924 Tel (908)-953-0863. It seems a lot of people search for these seasonings and Herbal House has no website so they can be hard to find. PT
Thanks for this new information. You're right, people seem to really like these items and we're happy to help them find what they seek.
 
I have had several bottles of cinnamon, bay leaves, chopped chives, ground sage, etc on the shelf inside of the door of refrigerator for years in some cases. Some have never been opened. I thought it was safer storing these items in the refrigerator than on the shelf, but now I wonder. DJB
We want to keep spices and herbs in a cool, dry place. The refrigerator or freezer has a tendency to introduce a bit of moisture which is undesirable in maintaining the quality of these products. You could open them and see what sort of condition they are in, but you will probably want to replace them anyway since they are so old.
 
I have a simple, but wonderful tasting mint dipping sauce for BBQ shrimp, meat, chicken etc. I place 2 cups (packed) of mint in food processor with 2 T lemon juice and I/2 C of vegetable oil and a 1/4 t of sugar. Mix well. My question is can I freeze this mixture? Look forward to your response. Thanks. LB
There isn't anything in this mixture that doesn't freeze well so I don't see why you can't. You will probably see a difference in texture of the frozen sauce as the mint will get a little soggy. If I were you, I would freeze a small amount and thaw it out to see if you are happy with the result. NOTE: LB did try it and was happy. She writes: "After 20 minutes defrosting the aroma is wonderful and it doesn't look sad and tastes great---so after being frozen in a plastic container for 4 days, I will use it."
 
Hey pinch of - my basil has black patches throughout. I live in Texas and it's mighty warm, but this is the first time this has happened. my penny royal also has the same. any thoughts? LD
There are many reasons that black spots appear on plants. Your best diagnosis will come from someone who can actually look at the problem. I suggest you take a sample of both plants to your local nursery or Master Gardeners' office to see if they can help.
 
My basil plants have turned yellow and brown spots, can you tell me why? LC
Sometimes leaves turn yellow when the plant is overwatered. This condition is also indicative of fusarium or verticillium wilt. Both are fungal diseases for which there is no cure.
 
I am growing Thai basil (from seed) in my kitchen window. The plants look beautiful they are around 3 inches tall. If you look close you will see there is some type of bug looks like a white aphid to me but really tiny? There are hundreds of them on the top and bottom. Where do they come from? This has never happened to me before with my basil. I have sprayed it down and pretty much removed all of the bugs. Do they live in the soil and how do I know they are all gone? I love having it growing in my kitchen but now I am thinking about moving it to the garden. I guess I am afraid of them being transferred to my outside garden. Any suggestions or info on this would be great. Also if they are an aphid I thought basil was supposed to repel them? Thanks. KS
Aphids love to feast on new growth so what could be better than seedlings? It seems most likely that they would have come from the soil, but it's hard to say. In large colonies some grow wings so they might have come in that way. Your spray of water is the best control, however, in the garden other good pests, like ladybugs and lacewings, will help, too. This is a positive argument for planting them outside. While basil is bothered by few pests, aphids are definitely one of them.
 
I'm wondering if there is a published guideline for herbs that should NOT be mixed together. I know a significant amount of info about cooking & herbs but I experiment a lot with them. I'm wondering if a guideline exists of what shouldn't be mixed; no particular example, just a list? AK
I'm not aware of any such rules about mixing herbs. In general they all work pretty well together and it is more a matter of taste. Some are stronger or more delicate than others so need to be combined carefully. That's where experimentation comes in.
 
Hello there, I have an indoor Basil plant that I bought potted at Trader Joe’s…I’ve had it a month and a half or so now, and today I noticed it had holes in many of the leaves, and upon closer inspection there was a green worm hiding on one of the stems. Where did it come from??!?! I don’t think it was there the whole time, the plant has been sitting on my sill indoors all this time. Is it still safe to eat the leaves that aren’t half eaten, or should I throw the whole thing away?!?!
Thank you for your advice! TF
The worm may have hatched from eggs laid on the leaves or in the soil, or it could have hitched a ride from the greenhouse where the basil was grown. Sounds like you have gotten rid of it so just keep your eyes open for others. The plant itself should be fine and completely edible.
 
I was given a small bay tree that was about 2 feet tall. It's growing indoors as we live in a very cold winter climate. After the first year, it had grown about a foot and I repotted it into a larger container. It has really grown quickly since then. It just reached about 6 feet tall, but the only side branches are at the bottom of the tree. Recently, the tall top of the tree started to lean over. I had to support the upper part of the tree with string to keep it from leaning over at nearly a right angle. I would like to prune it in a way that will stimulate the growth of more side branches. Can I cut it off about 2 feet from its top? That's the point at which it is leaning over. Will that cause more side branches to appear? What a pleasure to find this website - thank you for your help! ID
You are right on track. Pruning from the top will cause the tree to branch out. Just keep in mind you don't want to take more than one third of any plant at a time.
 
This may be a stupid question but is minced garlic you buy in a jar in the produce section of the store cooked or is it raw? KP
I think it's a pretty good question. Jarred garlic is considered to be in the raw state.
 
If I put garlic in a container with oil and red wine vinegar, is there still a chance of botulism if unrefrigerated? TS
Yep, it's the garlic the creates the potential for botulism.
 
Hi, I am a real basil lover! After many tries, I have finally gotten my basil to thrive located in my windowsill. I notice that the basil leaves on the top of the plant are much larger than the basil leaves on the bottom of the plant. When harvesting the leaves, does it have any effect on the health of the plant if I pick the larger leaves (top) before the smaller leaves (bottom) or vice versa? MBA
Your basil will thrive and become more bushy if you harvest the leaves from the top. Pinch clusters of leaves at a point where they emerge from the side stem or at other v-shaped joints.
 
Hello! I have a question for you about my basil plant. I live in Houston, TX and am growing a basil plant in a pot in my backyard. It is growing nicely, but I have noticed wormlike paths on some of my leaves. I have attached a picture so you can see it. What is it and how do I get rid of it? Also, are the leaves that do not have these squiggly lines still safe to eat? Thank you so much! CH
Our policy is not to open attachments so I didn't see your photo, but it sure sounds like leafminers to me. Pinch off the affected leaves and check the plant for eggs to prevent more damage. The unaffected leaves should be fine.
 
I am a first time grower of basil. I really like the taste and thought I would try to grow it on my own. Started from seed and the plants were about 2-3 inches tall, full of leaves and doing well. Overnight I only have stalks growing now, no leaves and they look bad. Can you tell me what is going on? Thanks. NA
This could be a common condition called "damping off," but it sounds more like a chewing pest to me. That leaves it wide open to anything from caterpillars to deer depending on where you live.
 
Hi. I'm a beginner cook. I would like to know general rules, like what spices are best used with what meat, and whether fresh or dried spices are better. I mostly prepare chicken, pork, beef and fish dishes. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks! CC
This website is your best place to start for this sort of information. Check out our Articles List for all the topics. In particular you may want to visit "Basic Guidelines for Seasoning with Herbs and Spices" or the ever-popular "Fresh or Dried?"
 
Good Afternoon, I came across your website looking for information about planting a Herb Garden. I am going to have 3 ~ 2’x8’ raised beds for both herbs & vegetables. Where can I find info about what herbs go/should be planted next to one another or what herbs should not be planted next to one another too? Also recommendations for herbs to intersperse with vegetables. This is my first try at herb gardening and all this has been brought on by my granddaughter who has never had a garden.
Any other suggestions or references to other sites for information is most welcome and appreciated. DA
The most important consideration for planting your beds is the water needs of the plants. Annuals, like basil and chile peppers, require more water than established perennials like tarragon and rosemary. I suggest you plant one bed as a permanent herb garden and then use the other two for vegetables and annual herbs. See the article "Herb Harvesting How-To," as well as many other articles about growing herbs on this site. Seeds of Change website has this wonderful article about Companion planting.
 
Hi, I was scraping seeds out of large jalapeños (thankfully, from what I’ve been reading, I was wearing rubber gloves) when I started coughing and felt like was having an anaphylactic reaction to them. Had to run outside to catch my breath. Does this mean I’m allergic to them or is this a typical reaction? Thanks, KB
Most sources that recommend wearing gloves when handling chiles will also say to avoid inhaling the fumes. As you found out, they can be quite intense.
 
I am looking for celeriac....either fresh, dried or powdered...where on earth can this be found? Thanks CD
This is really a fairly common root vegetable in the produce department at supermarkets although it is often sold as celery root. I've never seen it dried or powdered.
 
Is mint with rust safe to eat? Should I throw out the whole plant? and how do I prevent it in the future? Thanks, SZ
Rust is a fungal disease so that is definitely not desirable on the dinner table. Rust is also nearly impossible to eradicate so you might as well get a new plant. Good air circulation is an important way to prevent rust. Also important is to avoid getting the leaves wet when watering.
 
Hello, Please can you give me some tips on how to cover the bitterness in taste of the perennial basil in a pesto for example? Thanks, RF
Bitterness can be hard to mask, but you might try adding a couple of cherry tomatoes (as we do in our Cooking School Pesto recipe). Some people add a pinch of sugar to tomato sauces to prevent them from being bitter so you could try that too. One more idea would be to use less basil and more parsley in your pesto.
 
Love your web site! Found it while the TV was off due to weather; which is part of my question. I live in zone 6. As an avid cook, nothing beats fresh herbs. After a bad first attempt I raised the bed six inches, that really helped. I grow completely organic. My question is: any idea, other than five gallon buckets, to keep parsley from getting beat down by heavy rain, which we are prone to? Thanks, JB
The only thing I can come up with short of an umbrella would be to offer your parsley some support in the way of staking and tying. The more I think about the umbrella, however, the more I think that might work. You could find an old one and sink the handle into the garden, then when the rain starts, just open it. Hmmm...
 
Can you please tell me where I might buy black poppy seeds for use in baking? I have a lovely recipe for poppyseed lemon cake but had to use caraway seeds instead as I couldn’t find poppy seeds anywhere. DG
I see you are writing from the UK so I can't recommend any particular physical places, but I did find it available online at the Spices of India website. World Spice Merchant, based in Seattle, Washington here in the US, also says they can do international shipping...for a price.
 
Hi - I've been reading your Q&A page this evening and you certainly are a wealth of knowledge! I didn't see anything that pertained to my situation so I'll ask directly: I live in central Texas (Austin), which seems to be a great climate for rosemary. A friend is moving and offered to let me have/transplant her rosemary bush, which I'd love to do. However, you say that spring and fall are the best times to do this, and now it's already in the 80-90 degree range here (Fahrenheit). Is it unwise to transplant in this weather? And do those times also apply to planting rosemary plants purchased, say, from a nursery? Thanks!! JR
You can transplant at any time of the year, but the heat will be added stress so you'll want to baby your plant along for awhile. Make sure the soil it goes into is high quality, maybe add a bit of compost if you're putting it into the ground, and provide plenty of water as needed. Do keep in mind that rosemary doesn't tolerate "wet feet" so don't overdo the water either.
 
What is the best way to have long term storage of Saffron? TE
As with all spices, heat and light are the enemy. Your saffron probably came in a tin or a glass vial so leave it in that and store in a cool, dark place.
 
I didn't know that I'm not supposed to refrigerate fresh garlic. It's been in my refrigerator for about 4-5 days. Is it still ok to use? TS
This is more of a quality issue than a safety issue in that garlic and onions get soft and will sprout more quickly when refrigerated. If the garlic is still firm and unsprouted, it should be fine to use.
 
Is there a difference between ground and dry oregano? FP
Ground oregano is dry oregano that has been processed to a powder. They are interchangeable although you would want to use a little less of the ground product just because it takes up less room in a measuring spoon than the dried leaves.
 
Hi I was planning to make a special tea with fresh mint leaves inside of them but I was wondering how long would the fresh mint lasts inside of the hot water or how long would it be before the fresh mint went bad. If you can answer my question I would be very happy. Thank you so much. YA
If you are planning to make a tea blend that won't be consumed right away you will want to use dried mint leaves because they would likely mold if not completely dry. For brewing the tea, you just need to steep it for about three minutes in the hot water whether it is fresh or dried.
 
Like many cooks, I also garden. I want to grow my own sumac, but can't find a source for viable seeds for the edible variety. Don't know if it will grow here in coastal Oregon, but other sumacs do, so I'd like to try. Can you help me? AB
It's a good idea, however, I sure couldn't find any sources for the seeds or plants. You might want to contact a nursery that specializes in rare and unusual plants to see if they could help you find Rhus coriaria seeds. Nichols Garden Nursery is in Oregon and could be a good place to start.
 
When we were in Hawaii, we saw a spice called "furry caca". Supposedly, is was a spice for rice. Longs drug store had it but they were out. What is it and where can I get some? Thank You. LM
Your spelling is quite creative, but you might have more luck finding this Japanese seasoning by looking for furikake. It is a savory combination of dried fish, seaweed, sesame seeds and a wide variety of other ingredients depending on the manufacturer. You can order it from our Mini-Mall or look for it at your local Oriental market.
 
Hi! I have tried over many years to grow apple mint and always find it a struggle. I had a lovely plant last year, this year the base of the stem is brown with lots of small white/creamy spots. Some of the lower leaves also have this same problem. What is it, what can I do and is it safe to eat. Thanks DG
Sounds like it may be a fungal disease but there is no way to say for sure without seeing it. For the best diagnosis take a sample of the problem to your local nursery or contact Master Gardeners in your area.
 
Hi, I am trying to make a healthy smoothie and the recipe calls for "a node of cilantro". How much cilantro is that, please? SS
That's a new unit of measure for me. I looked up the dictionary definition of node and, in botany, it refers to a joint in a stem or the part of stem that bears a leaf. Your recipe writer probably means a sprig.
 
I am washing and packing to sell 'nice large' bay leaves at a market and was told by a "Miss Know all" that this particular tree is not a 'cooking' bay leaf tree. Is this possible?? Please help me before I pack. HH
This is a common mistake. Find pictures of bay and other plants it is often confused with in the article "Nine Ways to Enjoy the Herb of the Year, 2009: Bay Leaves."
 
My mother made perogies with cottage cheese smothered with melted butter and topped with chopped "mint". The Food Channel refers to mint for cooking also. When shown, they appear a dark green. I did not relate this to the spearmint family, but that seems to be the majority. I found some in the back yard that match the pictures on your website and my cat loved them, so I thought it was cat nip. When I taste the leaves they are not palatable nor minty tasting. The edges are a little more rounded vs. pointed. I want to find the same mint she used years ago. Any advice? CJM
Those perogies sound yummy! Spearmint is the most common cooking mint. You might start by trying to find out where your mother got the mint. Did she buy it or grow it? Maybe someone in your family knows.
 
I have a recipe that calls for 2 sprigs of dill. What is a sprig of dill and if all else fails can dried dill weed be substituted and if so how much? G
A sprig of dill is a length of the plant with the leaves still on the stem commonly about six inches long. Two sprigs isn't really very much so you might use a half a teaspoon of dried.
 
I am trying to make a lavender simple syrup. The recipe calls for 3 T fresh or dried lavender flowers - I have lavender oil - how much should I substitute for the 3 T? D
Unless you are 100% positive that your lavender oil is food grade, I don't think you should make this substitution. If you are sure that it is edible just start with a drop or two and give a taste to see if you are getting a nice flavor. Too much lavender has a tendency to taste medicinal.
 
I have heard that garlic which is not ORGANICALLY grown is very bad for your health. Is there any truth to this and if yes why? BS
While organic garlic may have more health benefits than that grown conventionally, I can't imagine that all of the past studies that prove how healthy it is have used only organically grown bulbs.
 
Can you eat dried mint? Can you also put dried mint directly into hot water to make mint tea, at the same time eating the mint? E
Dried mint is an herb just like any other dried herb so there is no reason you can't eat it.
 
Hello. I love your website. I am a plant lover and decided to buy a boxwood basil plant to add to my garden collection. I don't know much about this type of basil but have learned from reading your website that I need to punch off the flowers that are starting to appear. Which is off because it is a new plant. My question for you is. How long can my boxwood basil plant live? Its not your normal basil as it grows in a tight roundish bush with tiny leaves. Anyways. If you could give me more info I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks. M from AZ
I wasn't familiar with this new offering from Burpee until you asked. The company lists it as an annual, meaning it should live for about a year. In your warm climate, however, it might live longer. The plant may be new to you, but if it is a good size it has probably been alive for some time.
 
My daughter consumes a whole packet of cardamon pods each day, eating them like sweets uncooked. .... she seems to have an addiction because if there aren't any in the house she becomes very irritable. Is it dangerous to the body to eat such large amounts? Thank you so much for your help. CH
 Women who are pregnant or nursing as well as people who have trouble with gallstones should avoid large amounts of cardamom. Your daughter's consumption sounds excessive to me (and expensive!) and I think you should check with a health professional about the potential danger of such a habit.
 
This is my first visit to your website It won't be my last. I also am interested in finding pastry spice as my Mother's (she is now deceased) recipe for raisin cake called for it. I am about to make it again and made some queries at the local Bulk Barn. The clerk did some searching and could find nothing. Last time I made it I used something called 5 spices. Can you tell me what is in that or for that matter allspice? thanks for any help you can give me. RG
Chinese five-spice powder is usually some combination of star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and Szechuan peppercorns. Recipes vary and your "5 spices" may be a blend of something else for baking. Allspice is not a combination of spices but a single spice. Please see the article "All About Allspice."
 
A local Thai restaurant serves toasted, very smokey dried crushed chili flakes with its other table condiments - the first I've seen of this. You just sprinkle on your food - adds heat and great flavor. They are almost black, but you can see they were red to begin with. The taste/odor is again, very smokey, not just like any crushed dried chili pepper. We cannot communicate well enough with the serving staff to figure out how they do it. The Thai chilis I have found (in San Francisco) are all fresh. Only Asian whole dried chilis I have found are Japanese, although I did find a Thai store that sells dried, already crushed Thai chilis - crushed, not whole. I toasted them (almost killed myself inhaling the fumes - is that dangerous, by the way??) but they do not taste the same, they don't have that wonderful smoke aroma. The restaurant actually showed us a whole one, already toasted and black, but it wasn't all crushed up yet, so they obviously buy them whole and crush and toast them themselves. They told me they sell them at a particular store in SF, but I couldn't find them. Any help at all on this? Thanks very much! MA
I wonder if they might be chipotle chiles? Chipotles are smoked jalapenos. (See the article Smokin' Chipotles) You can get them dried, whole or ground, or in a delicious adobo sauce. They are Mexican rather than Thai but chiles have a tendency to travel. We do need to be careful when handling chiles, as you discovered, this is the same thing that is used to produce pepper spray.
 
I'm glad I found your website. I just bought a potted mint plant that was very healthy looking but has started having a problem with whiteflies. I have been using some leaves in my cooking (really good in wraps or in Thai curries with coconut milk) but I started to notice tiny brownish/blackish dots all over the undersides of the leaves. I can't tell if this is a normal part of the plant or if it has something to do with the whiteflies. It's definitely not their eggs (which are larger and whitish) and from what I've heard it doesn't sound like their droppings. They are tiny, almost like hairs, but it's too difficult to get them all off and I'm not brave enough to eat my mint anymore. Would you happen to know anything about it? Does mint normally have tiny dark specks under the leaves? S
Rust is generally the only disease that will bother mint so that's out. You might want to do a little research into mites, spider and others, as this seems to be a frequent problem with mint.
 
I have successfully grown mint sunk in a herb garden for years, but had to move the garden a few years ago. Unfortunately my mint did not survive in the transplant pot over the winter. It was I believe a Perfum Mint, but I use it primarily for mint tea and other beverages. I liked the subtle mint flavor in the tea. I have seen Spearmint and Peppermint as well as Chocolate Mint at a local store, but am concerned especially with the latter type of mint. What type of mint would you suggest that I replant this Spring that will offer a similar subtle flavor? Thank you. JS
I'm not familiar with what you call perfum mint. Spearmint in a good all-purpose choice for cooking and tea. Peppermint has a bit more of a bite and chocolate mint is peppermint with just a hint of chocolate.
 
Hi, Thanks for your help in advance. I have planted some basil seeds in a Flaired window box 5-3/4"h x 24" w x 10-1/2" d . I have used Potting Mix soil. I planted the seeds half an inch below the surface of the soil. first of all I wanted to know if the soil is proper for planting basil. secondly How long should I wait till I see some growth. It has been 3 days now. It seems like nothing is gonna happen.
Thanks, SS
You might have more success with a seed-starting soil blend but, personally, I find that stuff difficult to work with. Basil seeds take a week or even two to germinate.
 
Do you have any suggestions on how I can get tahini easily out of a can or jar? I have a jar of it and also a can. They both seem to be almost rock hard and impossible to get out. I am ready to just throw them both out. Help!!!! Thanks for your help. C
It's always best to use tahini at room temperature. If you are still having trouble you might try heating it slightly in the microwave or in a pan of hot water. Be sure to remove the lid before trying that.
 
Is it possible to root a bay laurel cutting? Can you tell me how? Thank you. BG
Bay laurel is notoriously difficult to propagate. The best way to attempt it is through the process of "layering." Basically, you bend a branch down, nick the bark with a knife and fasten it to the ground under soil. You might also try taking a cutting and using a rooting hormone. Be aware that it may take months for the plant to root using either method.
 
My basil plant has been flourishing with great leaves, and looks great, except for one thing. As of yesterday, there have been bumps that appear to be growing FROM the plant alongside the stems. They're of the plants colour, but they're along side the stems and follow all the way up...what is this? I thought they were bugs, but they seem to be a part of the plant....?
Sounds like maybe the plant is doing so well it's decided to spread some roots. I've seen this before. If you took a cutting and rooted it in water, the roots would emerge from these bumps.
 
Hi, I've noticed that a lot of store bought mustards contain 'vinegar' as an ingredient. I'm wondering if they're referring to regular white vinegar. The reason I'm curious is that I've seen many recipes for mustard now that contain elaborate ingredients (ie., red wine vinegar, white wine, etc). I'm curious if I can just use regular old white vinegar to make my mustard. Thanks, AB
My guess is that your basic commercial mustards contain the cheapest ingredients available and that is likely white vinegar. Those other vinegars like balsamic or red wine often have a higher acidity and more flavor than the basic white, but you could certainly achieve mustard with it.
 
When I measure lemon peel, am I supposed to pat it down to measure or leave it fluffy? Similar to brown sugar which I compress to measure, I assume I should pat down the peel… What say you? NH
I say you you put it well, not necessarily packing it like you would brown sugar but patting it in a little to compact the measure.
 
Hi, thanks for your help. I live in San Francisco and just put some basil plants out in planters on our deck. I have found the upper leaves of the plants being eaten by something. I examined the plants and found a small, light brown, translucent winged insect about ½” long under a leaf. I can’t identify the insect, can you? jm
I found two insects that meet your description, Braconid Wasps and Lacewings, but they are both good guys who feed on the insects that damage our gardens. This is a good example of how the pest we see may not be the one causing the problem. Looking into what these two like to eat may give you other ideas as to just  who is eating your basil.
 
Hi. My question may sound a little different than most regarding basil, but I am interested in harvesting the buds from my basil plants (once they've formed), for their medicinal value. The plants are each about 7"-10" tall. My question is, are there any things I can do (besides using a higher phosphorus fertilizer) to increase bud production and/or size? Also, if I harvest the buds right before they are about to flower, would they still be free of seeds? Thanks, JP
Basil loves light and heat so it would help to give the plants as much sunshine as possible. The seeds don't form until after the flowers.
 
I see where a lot of people are asking about how long the big jars of garlic are good for...like the ones you buy at Costco. I found that if I used a clean spoon EACH time there was never any spoilage...I actually used one of those big jars over a year's time and it was good till the end. The one before, I was not so careful with and it spoiled within a couple of months. RF
Using clean utensils is a good policy for every sort of jarred product.
 
I planted basil seeds a week ago--Genovese, I believe. I've kept the soil moist, but have noticed coriander-sized white pods in my basil pots. I say pods because they squish when I squeeze them. I just want to be sure this is normal, that these pods are not fungus or some other kind of pest. Is this simply the seed germinating, and I didn't cover them well enough with soil? DG
The seeds germinating should look more like a sprout. I'm thinking you might be seeing slug eggs. They look sort of like little pearls. It might also be perlite in the seed starting mix although that is firm, not squishy.
 
Can bay leaf grow in Washington, DC and can bay leaf be stored in a freezer? Love your site. DW
I'm thinking the temperatures in DC drop well below 20 degrees for extended periods of time in the winter, don't they? If this is the case you would want to grow bay in a container that you could move to a protected area during cold spells. You could certainly store bay leaves in the freezer but they dry so well, I don't see the point.
 
Just wondering...what IS the difference (taste, advantages, disadvantages) between fresh garlic and garlic that's been hanging in the cellar for months?
Gourmet Garlic Gardens.com has an excellent article on this subject. You will find it under the heading "Making Good Garlic Last as Long as Possible."
 
I have some Sierra Nevada Stout and Stoneground Mustard sealed in jars dated with a shelf life of 2007, my question, is this still good to eat and would it harm us? We love this mustard and I bought a whole case. Thank you. N
Unless a mustard contains perishable ingredients like eggs or fresh vegetables it doesn't really "go bad." I suggest you call the manufacturer and ask them what they think if you are uncertain.
 
I was wondering, what other uses are there for fennel leaves and stalks? JM
Have you seen the article "All About Fennel?" You will find links to other ideas on this page as well.
 
I buy basil from grocery stores in the winter. After days in the refrigerator, the leaves get black spots. Are they still edible for use in pesto? Thanks for your help. God bless you. DJ
A few black spots would be harmless unless you see mold, but like I always say, if you find it icky, don't eat it!
 
I have a basil plant, which at first glance looks pretty healthy and full. However, I noticed that some of the leaves are quite shiny and a little sticky. Also around the outside of the pot is sticky. I haven't been able to see any bugs on it. What do you think is the problem? IR
Although it could be completely unrelated to nature, like something was spilled on the plant, a sticky residue is often associated with "honeydew," or excrement from a variety of bugs. Since the plant seems healthy enough, you might try just giving it and the pot a nice bath is plain water and then continue to monitor it for some sort of insect.
 
I've been reading about the dangers of Garlic in Oil. Is it safe if you've cooked the garlic & oil together to a point of boil, then jar it? Refrigeration of course is a must. Just wondering if cooking it before hand makes a difference. Thanks for all the info! JH
As far as I can tell, the general guidelines of keeping garlic oil less than one week in the refrigerator stand for that which is cooked as well. Botulism is definitely not something to push to the limits.
 
Hi! Because St. Patty's day is just around the corner, I am making my official St. Patty's Day drink the Mojito. I have found that the flavor I like best is Spearmint. Do you guys have any suggestions for extracting the flavor or recipes for mojitos that are good? I noticed in Cuba that they look like they boil the mint down and extract the flavor in a simple syrop mix and then add that to the soda and rum. Do you guys have options for the perfect mojito drink? Thanks, KM
Unfortunately I didn't get to your letter until St. Patrick's Day so my answer is not timely for your celebration. One trick to getting the most herb flavor into a simple syrup is to use a good handful of the fresh leaves and let it steep for 30 to 45 minutes. Most bartenders I have seen "muddle," or crush the fresh leaves with sugar right in the glass. I guess you will have to do the research to find out which method you like. Do be sure to let us know.
 
I read an article on your website by Sandra Bowens about freezing Basil. (see A Bounty of Basil) I have an AeroGarden in which I grow basil. After harvesting , I place the basil in a plastic bag and freeze it. I remove the bag from the freezer and quickly use a rolling pin to shatter the leaves & stems into small pieces in the bag!
Can then be refrozen ready for use. Works very well! JL
Thanks for the hint. I tried this and I think it's a great idea. Now I have my own little bag of shattered basil in the freezer!
 
If I eat garlic raw for health benefit only, and if I buy peeled garlic in a jar, ( vs. freshly peel right before I eat), does the garlic still has same amount of active ingredient? Meaning do I still get as much benefit from it? thanks. BYG
The latest research indicates that garlic that is crushed and allowed to sit for about 10 minutes yields the maximum amount of allicin. That said, if you are buying whole peeled garlic it should stand to reason the benefits  would be equal. I could only find one source that said chopped garlic frozen for three weeks still had the same health benefits.
 
I have some good spices that have dried up in the bottles or packages, can I save them and how? EB
I'm not clear on what you mean since most products sold in bottles and packages are already dried. To see if they are still viable, try crushing them between your fingers to see if they still have a nice aroma.
 
I was at a Mexican grocery store, and asked for cayenne peppers. They didn't have any idea what I was talking about! They had shelves and large tables heaped full of peppers --- chili this and chili that. Some looked suspiciously like cayenne, but neither they nor I had any idea if something labeled "chili whatever" was in fact the "cayenne" pepper with which I am familiar. It looks to me like "chili" is simply the Mexican word for "pepper." My question is: What is the Mexican name for "cayenne" peppers? Thank you, JG
Chile peppers get complicated in any language because there are so many different types and local nicknames. From what I can determine Pimienta de Cayena is Spanish for cayenne pepper.
 
I made my own pesto and friends started to order from me, and so I'm thinking of selling pesto as added income, but I don't know the shelf life of a bottle pesto if I store it in the refrigerator? WLU
For my own consumption, I don't like to keep pesto in the refrigerator for more than a couple of weeks. It does freeze well. You might want to check with your local health department for guidelines before you start selling a perishable product.
 
I purchased a Red chili Ristra several yrs ago..and have kept it in my house ..hanging...HOW long will this ristra last for edible purposes? Do they go bad? Lose flavor over the yrs? Does it get to a point where it may be too old and should not be processed for eating any longer? thank you so much, SK
Seems to me a couple of  years or so would be a good limit but I can't come up with a good reason why. It is a dried product so if that process was done right, the only worry would be is if they still taste good. You might want to simply try one of the chiles to see if it has any flavor.
 
Where can I buy edible paper in Calgary Alberta Canada? JM
This isn't really my department but I was intrigued by how someone might use edible paper. Looks like Cakeworks on 26th Street would be a good place to start.
 
Hi! I was going to roast a bulb of garlic today, but when I cut into it, the inner sprout was green. I have heard that this will lead to bitterness. The sprouts had not protruded out of the paper yet. Would these bulbs still good to roast, or should I look for some with no green? Thank you, CT
Cook's Illustrated did one of their big tastes tests on garlic with the green shoots left in or removed. They determined that the green sprout does indeed make a dish harsh and bitter.
 
Is Chinese hot mustard powder the same thing as ground mustard? JD
Botanically, Oriental mustard differs from yellow mustard, but in general prepared Chinese mustard is hotter than others because it is served right after mixing.
 
Hello, I have a "Winter Creme Fraiche Baked Potato Soup" recipe.  What and where is creme fraiche? The recipe calls for 8 oz. Thanks DL
Oh, that sounds yummy! Creme fraiche is a delicious thickened cream. You can often find it at more upscale supermarkets in the cheese department.
 
I have a recipe that calls for 5 sprigs of rosemary. How much dried rosemary should I use? BM
I think I would start with about one teaspoon dried rosemary for this switch and then taste it to see if that is enough.
 
A&P always carried Master Choice Great Shakes Grilled Steak Seasoning. I can no longer find it nor anything with same ingredients. any suggestions on where I can get more? I tried several A&P's with no luck and Master choice brand is made just for them. Any way to purchase this online? KD
Have you tried McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning? A single source on the Internet says that the Master Choice product you seek is the generic version of the Montreal blend.
 
What is the nutritional value of sumac? We bought a kilo bag of this at a local store, the plastic bag it was in was quite sticky to the touch, can you tell us why? DR
You'll find all I know about the food value of sumac on the "Nutritional Q&A Page." Some spices cause plastic to deteriorate a bit so this may be why your bag is sticky. I haven't had this problem with sumac before but it is common with ginger and turmeric.
 
We love to make home made garlic butter (with salted butter). What is the safe storage life if stored in the refrigerator and freezer? Thanks. LG
It is best to treat garlic butter like any prepared food. You wouldn't want to keep it more than 5 days or so in the fridge, but you could freeze it for about six months.
 
Should I just toss 12 bottles of mustard seed that is over 20 years old?
Probably. Try mixing some of the crushed seeds with water to see if they are still viable.
 
Greetings! I have always refrigerated my homemade mustard in the refrigerator. The recipe I've been using which includes eggs has to be cooked on the stove for about 10 minutes, which is then placed in jars. The mustard keeps for about a year in the frig....but what about shelf life in the pantry? I just read another website and it said that "commercial mustard" has a shelf life of 3 months...what's the difference by being commercial? Are there different requirements? Is there a "test kitchen" in Phoenix, AZ where I can take my product to be tested? I may have a chance to sell my product to a gourmet market and want to be safe if the product is left out on the shelf. Appreciate any suggestions you may have to offer. Thank you-DW
Since your recipe contains a perishable ingredient like eggs it should be refrigerated. Commercial mustard is processed mechanically and also contains preservatives to make it shelf-stable. If you want to market your mustards commercially, you should check with your local health department to ensure you meet their requirements.
 
I am searching for Schilling Vegetable Seasoning Supreme product. It also says "Buttery Herb" on the front panel. Please help me find it! Thank you. CDC
These days it is called McCormick Vegetable Supreme. If they don't have it in the spice aisle at your supermarket, maybe they will order it for you.
 
Dear A Pinch of: If I were going to buy 5-8 "must haves" for any basic kitchen pantry, which spices/herbs should I include? I have an old stock of misc. things that have moved with me from house to house and I know it is time to start fresh. Thanks! A fan in Ohio
To me, the basics would be black peppercorns (with a peppermill), thyme, ground cumin, Hungarian paprika, a good quality chili powder blend, Italian mixed herb blend, ground cinnamon, sesame seeds and dill weed. It depends largely on what you like to cook. Someone who cooks Mexican dishes frequently would need different seasonings than one who enjoys more Italian fare. Perhaps the best way to stock a spice cabinet is to accumulate ingredients as recipes dictate.
 
Hello, It is winter in California (end of January) and my basil plant has all gone to wood, like a tree that has lost its leaves. Will it come back in the spring? Or is it time to throw it out? Thanks, LR
If you scratch the stem and it is still green underneath I would say wait to see if it sprouts new growth. I haven't seen a plant do this but I've never grown basil in California, either.
 
A follow up from a previous Q&A:
Hi. You answered my question about a source for brown mustard powder with hulls removed--you suggested Penzey's. Thank you for considering my question. I was also able to discover that Wisconsin Spice Co. sells brown seed powder without the hull material. Again, thanks. DD
 
Hello, I just bought 26 new fresh herbs and spices for cooking at a Cider Mill Farm market that gets these spices and herbs in bulk and bags them for consumer purchase in small amounts. In wanting these spices I found this to be lower in expense. I also bought bottles to store each of these items in from the same place at .99 a piece. I figured the one time bottle expense would make the purchase of replacing cheaper. But now that I have all these spices and Herbs bottled, marked and dated, I came across a couple of sites that say to use glass bottles as storing spices and herbs for long term use is not recommended as the odor of the plastic is taken on by it's content. The bottles I purchased are plastic so needless to say, this is upsetting. McCormick's products are sold in plastic so this isn't something I even thought of. What would you do had this been you? Would you go ahead and keep the plastic jars since doing so would avoid the waste of spent money, or would you eventually replace them with glass? Thank you for your advice, SG
My spice cabinet is a mixture of glass, plastic bottles and tins. While it is true that some spices like ginger and turmeric have a tendency to degrade plastics, most seasonings are fine in plastic. The real key is to make sure that the container is considered "food grade." These are made from polycarbonate, polyester or polyethylene. Since you purchased the bottles from the same place as the spices they have probably done the homework for you. Ease your mind and give them a call.
 
I saw a food special about Indian food in NY and they mentioned a shop/nursery in NJ that specializes in rare Indian herbs and spices. What is the name of this place? MS
It's hard to say. The Garden State seems to have many, many nurseries. Did anyone else see this program and catch the name?
 
Hi! My recipe calls for one cardamom pod. What is the equivalent of dried cardamom? Thanks! SS
I would use about 1/8 of a teaspoon of ground cardamom to equal a single pod.
 
I have a question about mustard recipe development. I've been making my own mustards for few weeks now, but I'm having a problem. I cannot seem to make my mustards "mellow". All of them seem to develop an insane horseradish/wasabi character to them. I've been grinding the seeds into a fine powder then adding the other ingredients (water, wine, vinegar, etc.). What should I change to lessen the volatility of the ground seeds? Thank you. DG
I have a couple of ideas. Maybe you should soak the seeds overnight in the liquid called for in the recipe. I'm not sure if that would make a difference, but that's how I've always done it. The book Gourmet Mustards  says that using vinegar instead of water produces a milder mustard. Perhaps you are just using too much mustard. In their Basic Dijon-Style Mustard, they call for 2 cups wine to 1 cup dry mustard. And, lastly, don't refrigerate the mustard until it has reached the degree of mellowness you desire. Refrigerating "sets" the heat.

Hi. My husband and I have made a New Year's resolution to try 1 new recipe a week. Since I am not a very good cook, I am learning new spices and how to do new things. We live in Kenosha, WI. We found a new recipe for this week - Rotelli with Roasted Asparagus, Chicken, and Lemon Thyme. However, I cannot find any Lemon Thyme - anywhere. I checked all our local grocery stores and cannot find it. Is there a good substitute? Can I use ground thyme and ground lemon peel? Thanks! J&J

That's a good resolution--I hope you'll include some of the recipes from this site, too. (Don't miss the Recipe Index.) You could substitute the ground thyme and dried lemon peel but I think you would get better results with plain fresh thyme plus the lemon peel. See the article "Fresh or Dried" for a conversion plan.
 
Can you suggest a trick for storing garlic in a high humidity area (Hawaii)? It seems to go mushy pretty quickly. Thanks! SC
You might want to try one of the little Garlic Keepers that are available. They come in ceramic or terra cotta and have holes in the sides for ventilation as well as a lid to keep out light. People are giving them rave reviews on all the shopping sites I saw.
 
I recently purchased a jar of organic Tahini paste from a health food store. I have stirred it up and it is the terrible bitter taste, is this the way it is supposed to taste, how can you stand to use it? BS
Unlike the other delicious nut butters that are available, tahini is more of an ingredient than something to enjoy on its own. It is often called for in hummus and salad dressing recipes. Read more on the subject in the article "Tahini in Your Kitchen."
 
Hello: Can you tell me if there is a difference in nutritive value between fresh garlic and garlic powder? And is there a difference in nutritive value between fresh ginger and ginger powder. There is a distinct difference in taste between fresh and powdered forms in both garlic and ginger. The powdered form is bland. Thank you very much and very much obliged. SCW
You're right about the distinct difference in flavor of fresh or dried ginger and garlic, but I suppose that is true about most foods. Anyway, here's what I learned about the nutritional values at a nifty site called NutritionData.com. In garlic, measuring 1 ounce fresh vs. 1 Tablespoon garlic powder: total weight 28g/8g; calories 42/27; no fat; protein 2g/1g; carbohydrates 9g/6g; dietary fiber 1g/1g. For 1 ounce of ginger root vs. dried ground ginger: total weight 28.35g/5g; calories 22/18; no fat; protein 1g/0g;carbohydrates 5g/4g; dietary fiber 1g/1g. Interesting, isn't it? Thanks for asking.
 
Can you tell me the benefits of whole dried lemons (crushed) from middle east versus fresh lemon juice (squeezed). Thank you SM
You stumped me a bit on this. Dried lemons seem be be prized by cooks perhaps because they are delicious and difficult to find outside the Middle East. They impart an intense lemon flavor but should be removed from a dish before serving. I am guessing that in contrast to a squeeze of fresh lemon juice added at the end of the cooking process, dried lemons provide a deeper flavor to foods because they can handle long cooking times.
 
Can cilantro be substituted for basil? Thanks. VV
The leafy herbs are usually interchangeable so this should work in most cases.
 
Can I substitute yellow mustard (for hot dogs) for dry mustard? HH
I don't see why not. You could start with equal amounts and then adjust as necessary.
 
Is rye seed and caraway the same? Can I use caraway rather than rye? WZ
We don't usually eat rye seed, which is more of a lawn grass or grain crop. I'm thinking you might be confusing the seeds that are in rye bread as rye seed when they are actually caraway seeds.
 
I am looking for a poster of the Scoville heat unit of peppers. This for cooking reference to be posted in a kitchen. Thanks. RM
It is a good idea, but apparently one does not exist. The gang over at Wikipedia have put together a good list of Scoville ratings that you could print to keep handy in the kitchen.
 
Hi. Thank you for the wonderful website. I have a recipe that calls for Mint stems. Which part of the stems should I use? The tender part near the leaves or the thicker lower parts? Thanks. DL
I'm curious what you are making? The tender stems near the leaves would probably have far more flavor than the more woody lower stems, however, if you are using them as some sort of skewer, the sturdier the better.
 
Please help - I was given a beautiful Basil plant from a friend but now it is being eaten by something white and rectangle that is attached to the bottom of the leaves - how do I get rid of it?
Thanks. LS
My first impulse is to suggest you have a mealy bug infestation, but mealy bugs don't eat the plant, they suck the juices. If this is actually the case, you could try just washing them away with a good stream of water or wiping the leaves with a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol.
 
I do not like the taste of fresh coriander leaves (coriander seeds are fine), It's the piquancy and the smell. I usually use fresh parsley in it's place but was wondering if there is another fresh herb I might try with a bit more flavour? I mainly have problems with the Moroccan and Asian dishes where it calls for fresh coriander to finish the dish. Thanks! NC
I'm with you, don't care for fresh coriander, aka cilantro. A little trick I do is to sprinkle fresh parsley leaves with ground coriander seed before chopping them, thus making a sort of mild cilantro.
 
I came across an "authentic" recipe for Dijon calling for hulled brown mustard powder, verjuice, and other ingredients, but I have been completely
unable to locate a source for a brown mustard seed powder made once the hulls are removed. Does this product exist?? DD
The only sources I came across for brown mustard flour were selling to industry. Penzey's Spices sells crushed brown Canadian mustard seeds they would probably be a good choice for a grainy Dijon.
 
Where can I buy the spice "Allspice" powder. Or tell me how to make my own out of other spices. Thank you. CB
You should be able to find allspice alongside all of the other herbs and spices at the supermarket. It's not a combination of spices. Read more about it at "All About Allspice."
 
Good Morning! My niece and I share a love for sweet potato mustard we used to get at Safeway...the company that made it is out of business...any ideas how to make a mustard like that?? Thank you! IS
This is a new one on me. It's hard to duplicate a recipe one hasn't tasted, but what if you added a bit of cooked sweet potato puree to a prepared mustard?
 
Hi - I brought my 2 rosemary plants inside to winter a couple of months ago. We live in Minnesota. Usually I just cut down my rosemary in my herb garden in late fall and just start fresh and buy/enjoy a big plant throughout the summer and fall. I thought I would try potting them this year and try and winter them. Sunny southern exposure near our front door. They appear to be doing fine however I noticed today that there are tiny tiny black bugs all over one of the plants and now on our curtains. I assume they are aphids. There are no other house plants. Is there anyway I can treat them? They are tiny! Thanks! HC
If they are indeed aphids you should be able to wash them away with a strong spray of water. Since it's probably too cold outside perhaps you could accomplish this in the bathtub.
 
Hello, I'm hoping you can suggest a rosemary that I can perennialize in my zone 6a garden. I have a few large cold frames and have found that many plants and herbs survive very well in these throughout the cold months of the year. But there are constraints. Space in the cold frames is at a premium, and nothing that grows too tall is suitable. And I want a good culinary variety, not one that just looks nice. So, is there a savory and prostrate variety of rosemary that doesn't grow too wide or too tall? I got an unknown variety of rosemary once that in retrospect seems perfect, but that was before I had cold frames, and it died in its first winter. Thanks for any suggestions. KH
Take a look at a variety called "Arp." Territorial Seeds says it will survive to zone 5 with minimal protection. It gets to be about 4 feet tall.
 
How long do dried spices last if in bottles unopened, ie cinnamon, ginger? EM
Ground spices stay viable for 2 to 3 years while whole spices last 3 to 4 years.
 
I've found black specks in my sea salt. It has only happened to the small amounts I transfer from the big jar to a smaller closed jar that I keep near my stove. They don't move-- or appear to be bugs, but I'm worried. Are these mites or something to be concerned about? thanks, DD
It's unlikely that bugs would want to live in salt. Could the black specks be pepper from a nearby peppermill? Or maybe something is flaking off the jar when you remove the lid?
 
Hello- I am still using Schilling's red and white "square box" spices. On the side of the container it states Made in U.S.A. McCormick 1977. I have nutmeg and allspice. Can you tell me how old these are? Can they possibly be thirty plus years old? Thank you KS
Seems to me the 1977 date is a dead giveaway. You can go to McCormick's website page "How Old are Your Spices" and enter a code, if there is one on the box, to see how old it is. Take note, they say if your spices are in a tin, they are at least 15 years old.
 
Please can you tell me what do I use to reduce the chilli heat in a dish? Thanks in anticipation, M
You could try adding something bland like potatoes or rice, even some roasted tomatillos. You might cool it off a bit by adding cream. However, this could all be a lost cause because chiles have a tendency to continue to increase in heat as they sit and permeate a dish.
 
Just found your site today thanks to Bing.com. I picked up a little Christmas recipe book during a visit to Bath, England in October, and I'm thinking about making their light Christmas pudding. They mentioned an ingredient called angelica, which I had never heard of and had to research (I know what it is now), but none of the herb/spice/baking ingredient sites I buy from seem to carry it. Is there a high quality substitute I can use instead? It calls for one ounce, thinly sliced so I'm guessing they mean the candied form. Thanks!
My sources suggest that angelica tastes like celery but I find it has a more bitter anise, or licorice, flavor. Maybe you could use a combination of thinly sliced celery for the bulk and a bit of crushed anise for flavor. (Read more about angelica in the article "An Herb Garden Takes Root.")
 
How many grams of dried rosemary are there in 1 teaspoon? RAR
One teaspoon of my homegrown and dried rosemary, slightly crushed, weighs in at .6 of a gram.
 
Can I use anything like tarragon, I have many other dried herbs etc, but no tarragon. Many thanks, GH
It kind of depends on the recipe that calls for tarragon. Many times, rosemary or basil will complement the same foods, but if you are looking for the mild licorice taste you might try fennel or anise.
 
I’m making an infused olive oil for Christmas gifts but I’m concerned about spoilage. The recipe calls for 2 sprigs each of fresh thyme, rosemary and oregano. Can I substitute dried to lengthen the shelf life and if so, how much dried equals 2 sprigs fresh? Also, would the substitution of dried basil leaves in place of fresh basil leaves equal the same amount? Thanks! B
I can't recommend using dried herbs any more than fresh in an oil that is not going to be consumed right away. You really don't want to take the risk of making your loved ones ill. Maybe you should consider about making flavored vinegars instead.
 
Hi. First of all, thank you so much for your informative website! I purchased 2 organic basil pots (many plants per pot) which I keep in a south-facing window where they get plenty of sunlight. I water them daily so that the soil is always moist. They have been doing very well, in fact I recently harvested enough basil to make a batch a pesto. I have noticed though that the edges are starting to brown on some of the leaves and other leaves have brownish-silvery spots on them. Also the leaves have lost their dark green color and the new leaves are a bit curly in shape. I have checked for bugs but don't see any. Are my plants lacking nutrients? Help PLEASE! Thanks so much . RT in Cleveland
The situation you describe could indicate a nutrient deficiency. You might try giving it a dose of plant food to see if that helps. If not, I suggest you take the plant to a garden center or your local Master Gardeners for a diagnosis. You might want to rethink your watering methods as well. It's best to let the top couple of inches of soil dry out before you give the plant enough water that it drips from the drainage holes. Best to water thoroughly but less often than a little bit more frequently.
 
Hi, I am so glad I found your web-site! I recently bought poppy seed in bulk and did not know how to preserve it, so just used my food vacuum saver and placed them in the freezer. Is this ok? I've been looking everywhere for an answer, and no one knows! Thank you. MA
You did exactly the right thing. Poppy seeds are rather perishable so they are best kept cool or frozen.
 
Dear a Pinch of... I can't find the answer anywhere, I hope you can help. I know this is heresy, but a recipe for mint jelly calls for 1 1/2 cups fresh mint, I have a bottle of commercially sold mint extract and want to use this instead of the fresh mint. What would be the equivalent amount? Thanks for your help. GBS
Since most recipes call for flavoring a simple syrup with the mint before making the jelly, I suppose the best way to proceed (if you must) would be to add about 3/4 teaspoon of mint extract to the liquids and then taste it to see if that's enough. If not, add more in very small increments until you reach the level of flavor you desire. Be aware, however, that mint extract has some degree of alcohol that may affect the way the jelly sets up.
 
How much mustard powder and water equals prepared mustard? My Coleman's can says to use equal parts mustard and water - is this correct? JPH
If anyone knows mustard it is Coleman's so I would follow their directions. Just be sure to use cool water to prevent bitterness.
 
I have a recipe that I usually use 3 or 4 fresh shallots chopped. I have a jar of chopped shallots in water and was wondering how the amounts compare. How much of the shallots already chopped will be comparable with the fresh ones. Thanks, DB
One medium shallot is considered to be equal to one tablespoon chopped.
 
I grow chocolate mint in my garden and have just brought this years crop in to dry and use. Are the stems edible or just the leaves? I am drying it now so I have time to wait for your answer. Thank you. SE
While the stems are edible, I find them rather unappetizing especially when dried. I always strip the leaves from the stems after drying.
 
This is not a question, but actually a comment for "C" with the house flies on her bay plant. We have the same problem, and after a bit of sleuthing have determined that the plant actually has a (fairly mild) scales infestation, and the flies are feasting on the honeydew. P
Thanks for giving us another idea to solve the problem.
 
My daughter-in-law is allergic to ground cinnamon. What would be a good substitute for ground cinnamon if any? EH
Allspice or nutmeg would provide the warm flavor that cinnamon imparts but you should check with her allergist before trying to substitute them. Faithful reader KJ offers this insight into spice allergies: "It is common for people that have celery allergies to present Celery Mug Wort/Birch Spice Syndrome. I cannot drink Chai because this syndrome can cause allergies to cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper and vanilla of all things. All of these ingredients are used to make Chai."
 
Is there such a thing as paprika flakes (similar to crushed red pepper but mild)? If so, where might I find it? TK
It is fairly easy to find diced and dried red bell pepper at the supermarket or from spice companies that specialize in dried veggies, like Pendery's. If you wanted to make your own flakes that are more like the "pizza peppers," aka crushed red, you could buy whole chiles and crush them into flakes (wear gloves and don't inhale!). Make sure you get dried chiles that more mild than the 30,000 Heat Units in the typical crushed red. See the article "What's a Scoville Heat Unit?" if you are confused.
 
Hi. My husband and I planted some Italian and lemon basil a couple months ago. They have been doing beautifully. Lately I brought them inside as the weather got quite cold and put them under a grow light in the kitchen. The weather picked back up and they are outside again. The lemon basil continues to look perfect, but there a few leaves on the Italian basil that are turning white. They do seem to be at the top of the plant. They are on a different spot on the balcony so they are getting more sun, is it possible they are getting too much sun and burning? HJ
Sun scorch usually causes yellow-to-brown edges on older leaves first. I wonder if you have powdery mildew? This looks like flour has been dusted on the leaves.
 
Hello. I started growing Basil in Spring and have been very surprised as to how well and healthy its been. However now that Autumn is here my Basil looks to be dying. It's an indoor plant. First I took it off the windowsill due to the coldness, yet it was still able to get sun. But now I feel I'm losing this fight. When I water it the brown leaves turn green and flourish, yet 1-2hrs later it's brown and dull again. What can I do to keep it alive? Thanks KC
Could just be that your basil is nearing the end of its life span (see "All About Basil"), however this changing leaf color is puzzling. You may have some sort of disease involved. Snip off a good sized stem and inspect the flesh inside. If if is discolored, you will probably want to give up the fight and start with a new plant.
 
Does 1/4 tsp. equal a pinch of? SE
A pinch is more like 1/16 of a teaspoon.
 
Do you know of any grocers or specialty stores that carry Lawry's beef stew seasoning in the St. Louis area? Thanks for any help you can provide. CT
I can't point you to any particular place. If you have checked all your major supermarkets and superstores and don't find it, you can order all of their products from the Lawry's website.
 
We grew jalapenos and chili peppers this year for the first time. I read on your site an easy way to freeze them for storage. But what I would like to know is how long we can just keep them in the frig before freezing them?
You could probably keep them in a plastic bag for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator. If you intend to freeze them, however, it would be better to do it right away for higher quality.
 
Hi. I like your website. I have 3 cans of Red Roasted Peppers. I bought them in 2007. Could I still eat them? TZ
They are getting rather old. If they don't have an expiration date on the can, you could call the company to see how long they should last.
 
Hello I just found your site today. I was wondering if you ever heard of this as I am trying to find out if this is true. If you place some spearmint leaves or gum in with your flour or rice then you won't get bugs in these items. Please let me know what you think. Thanks CT
I hadn't heard of the mint gum idea but I know that mint is a natural pest repellent. I've heard of using bay leaves for the same reason and have been known to put them in with the seasonal clothing that I put in storage to keep away moths.
 
I am looking for the Schilling Salt 'n Spice mixture. Is it still available? PJM
Looks like McCormick recently discontinued this product but they do offer a recipe that will help you duplicate the flavors. Here is a link to the Salt 'n Spice Blend recipe.
 
Hello, I am in Norwich, UK. Today, I came home to find that my husband had decided to trim the bayleaf tree outside our door. It was blocking the front window and about to block the satellite dish. Unfortunately, he has never had a garden of any kind at all, and did not check beforehand how much pruning was wise to do. It was about 11 feet high with a trunk about 6 inches thick. It is now two feet shorter, but the worst is that he has nearly cut it back to sticks. I stopped him before he got to the very last part of it so there are a few, a very few, leafy branches left. From a little initial research, it seems he may well have put the tree in serious danger of survival. Is there anything at all we can do to try to save it? DC
You might want to check with a certified arborist but I have a feeling the tree will be okay. It sounds like it was well established so just keep an eye on it, water it a bit if your conditions are dry for long periods and see what happens.
 
Hi there, I live in Toronto and I love this sauce they make at subway sub I would love to make it myself. I am looking where they sell chipotle chili in adobo in Toronto, Canada. Anyone help me please I have looked in Food Basics, Metro(doniminion), Price Choppers. Can't seem to find it. HELP? LS
I did a Google search for Mexican grocery in Toronto and came up with many possibilities. You might try that to see which one is closest to your home.
 
I have several salad dressing recipes that call for dried spices. My granddaughter has food allergies and I wonder if there are substitutions that can be used for thyme, basil, marjoram and rosemary. PJ
It's difficult to suggest a substitution since you don't say what it is about these particular herbs that she is allergic. Your best bet would be to talk to an allergist.
 
I have a recipe for Veal and Rosemary that calls for dried rosemary to be crushed by hand and added liberally to the veal and then dry roasted for a certain amount of time. Then wine and a broth mixture are added to and the roasting of the veal continues. I have an abundance of fresh rosemary in my garden and was wondering if the fresh will work as well as the dried or will the flavor be altered somewhat? Thank you. DS
In my humble opinion, fresh rosemary would only make this dish more delicious.
 
Can I freeze fresh home grown sage leaves? M
In theory, you could freeze the whole leaves in a single layer on a sheet pan and then pack them into bags for storage. I haven't done this and I suspect the texture would suffer, therefore, freezing sage just doesn't appeal to me. Sage dries well. See the article "Look What I Made: An Herb Drying Rack."
 
Hi there….My recipe for Italian Tuna Casserole calls for: 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg: This is so expensive, so I don't want to buy a whole bottle for this one recipe. I do have nutmeg spice already on hand. What is the equivalent measurement for this? Pecorino Romano: I have grated Romano on hand already. Is there something special about 'pecorino' romano - or will just plain 'romano' suffice. Thank you so much for your help. MKJ
The measurement for the nutmeg would be the same although you might want to use a bit more of the pre-ground spice since it won't have as much flavor. Authentic pecorino Romano is made from sheep's milk. If you live in the States, your pre-grated Romano is probably from cow's milk.
 
How long does olive oil stay good for at room temperature? DF
Shelf life will vary by product and storage conditions. Kept at a cool room temperature, in the dark and tightly capped, an open bottle should last 12 months or so. The sniff test is always a good measure, when oil goes bad, you'll know it.
 
I grew a pimento plant for the first time. The pimentos turned out beautiful, very deep red. What I was hoping for was a way to make pimento cheese using my own pimentos instead of from a store-bought jar. I tried slicing one and placing it in a jar with some water, vinegar, and a dash of lemon juice. I set it in the refrigerator for a week. But the results were still very hard, crunchy bites, and didn't taste like pimentos. Can you point me to a recipe to create my own jarred sliced pimentos
for use with sandwiches and dips? Thank you very much. KS
Congratulations on your success! You will probably enjoy your pimentos more if you roast them. Roasted chiles only last about five days in the refrigerator, however, so you may want to look into canning them. I couldn't find a good source to refer you. If your pimento cheese doesn't use mayonnaise, you could make a big batch of that for the freezer.
 
Short and simple question: If I roast a bunch of garlic, can I freeze it in airtight containers to be thawed and used later? If yes, how long can it stay frozen? Thanks! F
You could certainly freeze roasted garlic. You would probably want to use it up in 9 months to a year for the best quality.
 
Good morning, I am trying to determine how large (width and depth) of a hole I should dig to give my 2 yr old potted rosemary bushes roots plenty of room to grow in the future when planted in our landscape. In what direction does the root system of a rosemary bush grow in nature? Down? Straight out (horizontal)? All over? Do the roots extend past the outer-most branches? And in what proportion is the root system to the plant above the ground? Right now the plants are about 18-24” tall and ~ 18” across planted in 8 gal pots. I live in zone 8b (Austin, TX) with hard clay soil so I know I need to break up the soil really well, amend with compost and provide good drainage. Just want to know which direction should I should focus my digging? Down or out? DM
I would go both ways digging a hole that is about twice as wide and deep as the pot that the rosemary is currently in.
 
I have a recipe that calls for 2 tablespoons of grated fresh ginger. Can I substitute ground ginger, and second, I have ginger juice, can that be used instead. The recipe if for a paste used with sirloin skewers. Thank you. SS
Ground ginger is generally not a good substitute for fresh ginger. Since you are preparing a sort of a marinade, the ginger juice would probably work well in equal amounts.
 
Can horseradish leaves be substituted for alum, and if so, how? C
Sometimes the things I learn from this Q&A business amaze me. I thought your question was a little crazy. Turns out quite a few people use horseradish or grape leaves to keep pickles crisp. Does it work? I do not know. I recommend you seek out someone who is a canning specialist, perhaps at your county extension office, to find out how to use them.
 
My rosemary has scale. Can I spray it with an oil spray before bringing it in for the winter? I don’t need to use it for cooking until I get rid of the scale anyway so the oil will not be a problem in that respect. Thank you so much! AW
I can't think of any reason why you couldn't spray the plant. Just make sure you are using the proper spray for the pest you have and that it is safe for food plants.
 
Hi Sandra, I read your article about tahini butter and have a couple of questions. You mentioned that tahini tastes different than sesame butter, and that sesame butter is heavier in taste and texture. Have you tried raw tahini? Does it taste very different than the roasted? Also, I normally use sesame butter and I enjoy the taste. Never thought I could make ice cream with it. Can I still make the ice cream with sesame butter? JG
These days the terms tahini and sesame butter seem interchangeable. I've noticed some tahini is quite thick while others are thin, depending on the brand. If you prefer the taste of the raw sesame butter I'm sure you would enjoy it in the ice cream as well.
 
HI, Do you now approximately how many cups of chopped dill I would get from one head of dill? Also, I have bought frozen dill cubes - they are little cubes individually packed in a sleeve that holds 20 cubes. Each cubes equals one teaspoon of chopped fresh dill. I am trying to figure out how many of these cubes I would need for 1/2 head of fresh dill, chopped. Thanks, CC
There is an important distinction to be made here: A dill head contains dill seeds, not dill weed. You would want about 2 teaspoons of dill seeds to equal a head of dill. Dill weed is far less potent than the seed so you may not want to interchange them. And who knew you could buy frozen dill cubes!?
 
Hi. I purchased a couple sweet basil plants and a Thai basil in the spring of this year. It was going well, but noticed half way through the summer, the stems began getting woody and the plant now produces few leaves and has also begun to flower. I learned from reading your website that this means it is nearing the end of it's growth cycle. My question is: Can I do anything to create a new plant at this point? We have a warm fall here in Charleston. I'd love to have fresh basil through the fall. If I need to wait till next Spring, what do I do to the plants in the meantime? LG
As you probably read, you can snip those flowers to extend the life of the plant. To make a new plant, you could take a cutting to root in water from one of the stems that isn't flowering. I haven't actually done this before but it seems like a good idea. I think I'll do it too and see if I can have an indoor basil plant this winter.
 
Hello. I have basil plants that have been doing well, but now the leaves are looking yellowish. The texture on the underside of the yellowish leaves is different, a little grainy. Is this more likely a pest or a lack of nutrients? What are your suggestions for how to help the plants? Thank you! JC
Without seeing the plant it is difficult to say. If you suspect a lack of nutrients, however, you might try a dose of fertilizer.
 
I was wondering, how do I keep my jalapeno peppers firm after canning or pickling them? They seem too soft textured when we open the jars to eat them. Any ideas? Thank you. SM
You might want to look into using food grade lime. The University of Georgia came up with a recipe that is supposed to keep pickled jalapenos crisp. Find it here.
 

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