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Storing Herbs and Spices Q&A

 

Hi, I am planning on air-drying lemon zest at a very low temperature in my oven. How long do you think I can then keep this in a plastic container? Is the essential oil likely to go rancid? SH
The most important thing will be to make sure it is thoroughly dry otherwise the zest may develop mold. I'm not sure how long it might last. Rather than going rancid, I think the flavor would fade the longer it sits. You might have a better, longer lasting product if you froze the zest rather than dry it with low heat.
 
I buy fresh Parilla leaf when serving Korean BBQ and there are always lots left over. Can I freeze the leftover leaves for my next BBQ? Thank you, AKH
You will sacrifice texture by freezing the perilla (aka shiso) but I think the flavor would remain. Since it is so similar to basil, you might want to take a look at the article "A Bounty of Basil: How to Preserve the Harvest."
 
I recently had a pipe burst in my house and the insurance company brought in a company to dry and de-humidify. They assured me that the sheets of plastic they put up over the cabinets, etc would keep the amount of heat in one place, and out of the other areas…therefore my oils and spices, etc should be okay and that I wouldn’t have to move them. Long story short, we had a few situations happen as well as the plastic falling down. My house was well over 100+degrees for at least 2 of the 10 days and then well over 80-90+ for the remainder. The oils are a no-brainer and they need to be replaced, but what about the flour, sugar, spices, etc. The chocolate bars that were next to them were completely liquid melted! RM
Your whole spices will probably be okay. I would consider replacing the herbs and any ground spices as those lose flavor much more quickly, especially when exposed to heat and light.
 
When does Sea salt expire? R
It doesn't.
 
I purchased sliced jalapeno peppers with carrots and someof the seeds are in there, but for the most part, not in the peppers.. I opened the can, put it in a lock and lock plastic container, tightly closed in the liquid from the can. How long will it last please? Love them for sandwiches, with eggs, fried potatoes. Definitely still have the "power" as they are hot. Thanks so much. Respectfully, JM
I am crazy about these peppers too. Try them on pizza. I've never had them go bad, so to speak, but if kept around too long they might become mushy. The jar I have in the fridge right now has been open for a couple of months and the best by date on it is July 2013.
 
Hello, I have a question and I can't find an answer anywhere on the web. Is it safe to freeze canned poppyseed? I made a poppyseed cake for the first time and used only half the can of poppyseed. I put the rest in a plastic container and put it in the freezer. That was about a month ago. I heard poppyseed can turn rancid, so I would like to know if it is safe to freeze the canned poppyseed. Thank you so much for your help. JA
Seems to me it would be okay to freeze the filling alone since I wouldn't hesitate to freeze a cake or bread that I made with it. Poppy seeds do go rancid quickly sometimes and a good way to prevent that is by keeping them in the freezer.
 
What a lovely site. I wasn't expecting that when I decided to Google a question about storing herbs! My question is whether herbs need to be in 'air tight' containers. I currently use old baby jars, glass with metal screw top lid. I want to use lovely little ceramic jars with lids that just rest on the top - well they fit into a slight drop in the neck of the jars?? I suppose the answer may be to put less in each time from master storage?? But just wondered if they keep fresh the same. I know you can buy wooden boxes for herb with just a drop on lid - my French sister in law has one. Many thanks. TH
Tightly closed and in the dark is the preferred method for storing herbs. I think your ceramic jars would be fine for short-term storage to keep them handy for cooking. Like you say, just portion out what you think you'll need in the near future and keep the rest in your jars.
 
I have large quantities of Tumeric which needs to be dried before use. Can you suggest what is the best way? Thanks RR
Thanks for asking. I had no idea so it was interesting to learn of the curing process. I found this great article on Turmeric Post Harvest.
 
How do you tell expiration dates on your spice jar? JB
In the last couple of years some spice producers have begun to put "best by" dates on their jars, but spices don't really go bad so many companies don't bother. Poppy seeds and sesame seeds are an exception in that they will go rancid. One good whiff is all you need to be able to tell if they have gone bad. It's a very acrid aroma.
 
Hi  I have today pick my fresh turmeric from the garden. There is far too much to use in the short term. What is best method for storing? SLY
You might want to check with other growers in your area. I've never grown it but it is so similar to ginger, I would handle it in the same way. Lately I've learned that the best way to hold ginger in the refrigerator is unwrapped in the vegetable bin.
 
Hi this is a great site, very helpful, I was wondering if there is a way for me to keep fresh dill weed from my garden, till I am ready to can my pickles, I was looking into freezing it, but will it loose it taste when I am ready to can? LN
I'm not sure how long it would last but you might try cutting it and keeping in a glass of water like you would do with a bouquet of flowers. Dill doesn't seem like a good candidate for freezing but you could give it a try with a small amount and see what you think.
 
Hello! Are there any herbs or spices that can be stored in a salt & pepper shaker (besides salt and pepper) and still retain their freshness? Thanks! JS
This is a good idea that would work with any spice you use frequently and that will fit through the shaker holes. You might want to fill them only half way to keep the bulk of the spice container at peak freshness.
 
How long can I keep poppy seed frozen in the freezer. I have some that have been in there for years and it still has a fragrance. MR
Generally, we don't want to keep things in the freezer for more than a year or so as quality will begin to decline. I imagine we are all also guilty of keeping things beyond that deadline so we'll have to decide for ourselves how long is too long.
 

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I have purchased a large can of Roasted Red Peppers in olive oil. Question: After opening how long will the shelf life be- stored in refrigerator - or at room temperature on the shelf?? CN
You should definitely store the extras in the refrigerator but not in the can. Transfer the peppers to a storage container and make sure they are submerged in the oil to extend the shelf life. They really won't hold long, though. I find they deteriorate or mold after a week or so.
 
What is the best way to store sesame seeds? I heard that they can go rancide. Can they be frozen, if so, for how long? Thank you, A
Like all herbs and spices, sesame seeds are best stored in a cool, dark place. Seeds will turn rancid, one whiff and you will know, so if you have a large quantity, you could store them in the freezer for six months or so.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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 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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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 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 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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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.
 
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."
 
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.
 
Hi, I'm delighted to have found your website! I'm new to freezing herbs but found that freezing in cubes then putting into baggies works fine. However, I find it difficult to keep the herb submerged once I add water to the tray; the herbs float to top of cube & stick out. Any suggestions? Thanks so much for a great website - I'll visit often! J
Glad to have you aboard! You might try filling the ice cube tray just half way with the water and herbs. Once that is frozen you could top off the cubes, freeze again and the herbs will be in the middle.
 
This is not a question, but a suggestion from a life-long Floridian for those asking about keeping citrus zest. I zest fresh fruit and store in very small zip plastic, then freeze. Key limes are seasonal and are required for authentic Key lime pies, so I also freeze the juice in cubes after sprinkling in some zest. Year-round zest and pies! This method also works for orange and lemon zest. Seems to stay aromatic for several months. I love the information at your Q and A page! LR
Thanks for the tip. Now I have a real hankering for key lime pie.
 
This site is awesome!! Thank you!! I have been around chive plants for almost 60 years and never realized, or heard of, the blossoms ever being used! Please, please, how do I freeze, or dry, the blossoms? Mine are about ready to blow away and I would like to harvest them. Again, please and thank you! LX
Thanks to you for your enthusiasm! I have never tried to dry the blossoms but you might give it a whirl by snipping the whole stalk and them hanging them upside down to dry. Try not to have the heads all bunched together. They need air to circulate around them in order to dry completely. Let me know how it goes if you try it.
 
Hello, I am wondering if chives can be dried at home. I would like to hear from you. Thanks, MM
Your best bet for drying chives would be a food dehydrator I think. Most commercial chives are freeze dried.
 
All of my spices are hard as a rock in their containers in the closet at my RV. How do I make them usable? DK
I'm not aware of anyway to take them back to a powder once the moisture has encroached. You might be able to use a knife to break them up (be careful!) or try rubbing them on a grater. You are probably better off just starting with a fresh batch and using a product like Dry Spice to prevent future problems.
 
My wife says she saw a show where Katie Couric said that you should not use any spices that were more than 6 months old because they were a breeding ground for bacteria. As a result, she keeps wanting me to throw out all my spices and buy new ones. With all due respect to Ms. Couric as a journalist, I have looked on the web (USDA, FDA, other sites) and have been unable found any support for this claim. I myself have used spices that are over 10 years old, and they look, smell, and taste fine to me. What is your opinion? thank you, GH
My opinion is that something has been lost in translation. Flavored oils are often rife with bacteria but I've never heard of it being a problem with dried herbs and spices.
 
What is the shelf life of salt - Kosher salt? Thanks. DS
I checked the Morton Salt website. Here's a quote: "Does salt expire? The salt itself does not expire but added ingredients such as iodine may reduce shelf life. The shelf life of Iodized Salt is about 5 years."
 
What's the lifetime of dried spices, such as Basil, Oregano, Marjoram, etc? I have tons of it that are probably as old as 9 years! I hate to throw it away. MM
The shelf life of herbs isn't as long as that of spices. You could rub some of the leaves between your fingers to see if they still have a pleasant aroma. Although you may find them aromatic, I think you would be shocked by the difference if you did the same with some very fresh herbs. Read more at "Storing Dried Herbs and Spices."
 
What is the shelf life of store bought dried spices in containers? How long do the spices keep once the container/jar is opened? JL
Most seasonings have use-by dates on them these days. They don't really go bad, just lose potency. Whole spices keep longer than those that come already ground. Generally, whole spices last for 2 or 3 years while the ground versions should be used up in 6 to 9 months for maximum flavor.
 
Can you tell me how long I can freeze dried herbs and still use for dips, etc.? How long do packaged dip mixes last? DK
There is really no reason to freeze dried herbs. They are already preserved and freezing introduces unnecessary moisture. As for the packaged dips, it depends on the individual ingredients. If it's nothing but herbs and spices they will last for years but if there are things like powdered dairy products or something they should have an expiration date on the label.
 
Making Hummus and I could only find a 15 oz can of tahini, no jars that I could screw back the top, anyway, once I have opened this can, do I have to refrigerate the tahini or just put it on the shelf? What is the shelf life as there is no date on these cans, I looked through them all. I use only 1/4 of a can at a time, last time I threw the whole can after I used it, such a waste. Please tell me how to store after opening. Thank you. SD
I would transfer the tahini to a glass jar or plastic container and store it in the refrigerator for no more than six weeks. It is easier to work with if you bring it to room temperature before using. Check out our recipe for Tahini Ice Cream for help in using it up!
 
I have dill in my garden. What part of the plant do I use to make my own dill weed? How long do I dehydrate it in my dehydrator to make homemade dill weed? CN
The feathery leaf of the dill plant is referred to as dill weed. I'm afraid I don't have a food dehydrator so I can't offer specifics on timing.
 
I planted several herbs that I have read need to be baked or dried in a dehydrator. But a friend of ours who is a chef fries his in the oven. All I have read has said that it loses its flavor. What is the best for drying basil, oregano and parsley? Thank you for your help! Km
Please see the articles "Look What I Made: An Herb Drying Rack" and "A Bounty of Basil: How to Preserve the Harvest."
 
Hi! I discovered my saffron (wrapped in plastic) is 6 months past the expiration date. Does saffron become harmful or "toxic" if outdated? Thanks very much for any advice, KL
The saffron won't hurt you unless it has developed mold, it just may have lost some of its potency.
 
When we start hearing about food shortages and the price of fuel to transport products it makes us begin to wonder if we should start storing up. Can you take herbs and can them? Will the small amount of heat used to can them reduce the flavor if you can do this. What about drying fresh then can? Any info you can give me regarding this is appreciated. RLC
Your best bet for preserving fresh herbs is just to dry them. Canning wouldn't be necessary and even that small amount of heat would likely cause them to deteriorate. Check out the article "Look What I Made: An Herbal Drying Rack" for information about drying herbs.
 
What is shelf life of diastatic malt powder? KL
The package I have says "keep in a cool, dry place for six months."
 
Hi, I have just dug my scallions up before the frost gets them. I have washed the dirt from them, trimmed them and put them in a plastic bag (stems and all) and put them in the fridge. Now what? Can I cut them up and freeze them? RP
You can successfully freeze the white parts of your scallions, just slice into recipe-size segments and freeze, but the green parts will turn slimy if frozen. Incidentally, for next season, you might want to look into overwintering your scallions. Many varieties will die back and begin producing again in the early spring.
 
I found some white worms with black heads that made webs in my peanut butter, steak spice, nutmeg, and bacon bits. All of these where in separate cupboards. How did they get in there when they were in their original container that I bought them in? They were open and not very old. A
Sounds like cigarette beetle larvae. They are rather common as a kitchen pest. It's hard to say how they arrived in your kitchen but it could very well have been in one of the original containers. Dried flowers are often a culprit as well.
 
I have some flour stored in glass jars. How long is the shelf life so it will still rise when used in baking? Thanks, LL
Most sources agree that flour is shelf stable for about nine months when well wrapped. Self-rising flour is less stable and should be used up within six months.
 
What is the refrigerator shelf life of canned anchovies and anchovy paste once opened? HD
I would treat leftover canned anchovies like any other fresh food and use it up within five days. Be sure to remove from the tin before storing. Anchovy paste, if in a jar or a tube, should keep for six months or even a year. Check the labels.
 
Is there anything one can do once their garlic powder has clumped into a brick? NY
I wonder if the tricks that we use to soften bricks of brown sugar would work on garlic powder. You could try a few seconds in the microwave (not in the original container, however) or leaving the open container in a paper bag with some apple slices. Will you let me know if it works!?
 
Please help me with this dilemma! I have just moved to central Florida and the increase in humidity has my Onion Powder and Poultry Seasoning clumping up into a hard ball. Would it help if I added a few grains of white rice to my spices to absorb unwanted moisture? Onion Powder becomes impossible to use if it is as hard as a rock! Please help! DJM
I did a little research and it seems that the rice in the salt shaker actually may work for absorbing some moisture but its real function is to break up small clumps as they form. Your best defense is probably going to be replacing the clumping spices. Buy smaller amounts more frequently and look for airtight glass jars. Don't shake your spice containers over steaming pots on the stove, either, as this introduces moisture as well.
 
Hi! Great informational site. I had a jar of dried basil in my cupboard, and one day I noticed that insects had invaded! These insects were small, brown, and had larvae that was yellow. They also camouflaged with the leaves very well. What was it? Could it just have been the brand of dried basil that I bought? Thanks! MH
Chances are good the bugs came with the basil, especially if you haven't found them in any of your other stored foods. Sometimes eggs get into containers and then hatch in a cupboard. It's hard to say what type of insect it is because there are so many possibilities.
 
I'm cleaning out my spice cabinet and none of my spices have expiration dates on them, I have no idea when I purchased them, there is a number on the bottom of each container, is there a website for McCormick spices that will give you the expiration date if you enter this number. I heard this from someone before?? TLW
Hey cool! I just figured out the oregano in the container I've been refilling for years was packaged on 3/9/1999. I found this information along with other McCormick information at their website on a page called Do You Know the Signs of Aging?
 
I would like to know which herbs (dried) and spices should be kept in the refrigerator for longest shelf life.  Thanks, M
Keeping herbs and spices in the refrigerator isn't recommended at all as this is a way to introduce moisture that could cause them to deteriorate or form harmful bacteria. The best way to store herbs and spices is always in a cool, dry cabinet or drawer that is away from any heat source.
 
My mom has a plastic bottle of oregano and the cap doesn't close all the way. It's still half full and we've had the container for over 7 years. She refuses to throw it out. Please reply. BS
My goodness, that must be a large container of oregano. I suggest you go out and buy a new one so that she can compare the aroma and taste of fresh oregano to that stuff of which she has grown so fond.
 
How long does a jar of pimentos keep after they have been opened? KS
Pimento is number 69 on the "Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad." They say an opened jar will last 9 months.
 
I have a few whole nutmegs in my kitchen. They have been on my kitchen counter for at least a year. I grate them and put small amounts of nutmeg on my oatmeal each morning. How long will the whole nutmeg last? The whole nutmegs are kept in a nutmeg grinder that does not work very well, so I just use the grinder as a storage container; I have kitchen file grader that I use to actually grade them.
I read in the spice directory that whole spices can last a long time. Should I keep the whole nutmegs in a tupperware container or a ziplock bag maybe? When should I buy new whole nutmegs? Thank you, DS
Whole nutmegs will keep for five years or so but you will want to keep them in a ziplock bag that you store in a dry dark cabinet for best results.
 
My Husband cleaned out my spice cupboard yesterday and threw out most of my spices. There was little ant like bugs in most of them. In the cupboard was things like Curry Powder, Dried Oregano and Basil, Baking Powder, Cayenne Pepper, Dried Chillies and about 20 other spices. We just moved into this house 3 weeks ago and I had no bugs before The Cupboard is only about 2 feet away from the stove. The spice were kept in Plastic jars and Bags some ziplock some not and they weren't in the flour or sugar!! Do you know what they are or where they came from ? Could they have been here from the previous tenant ? Please help LDM
Since you didn't have bugs before they may have come with the cabinet. Or, maybe your new cabinet is much warmer than your former one so that the bugs were able to hatch. It's hard to say what kind of insect it is without seeing it. You might do a Google search on "kitchen cupboard insects" to try to learn more.
 
Can you freeze sage and if so how? RDS
Although I haven't tried it, you could probably freeze sage as you do basil (see above). A better idea might be to dry it. I have had great success with this. See the article "Look What I Made: An Herbal Drying Rack" for more information.
 
What is the shelf life of Rosewater (used a small amount) has been closed and stored in dark closet? And what is the shelf life if never opened and stored the same way? Thanks!! TTQ
Thanks for asking, I've been wondering about my own bottle that I purchased and never really used. Unfortunately, I can't seem to come up with a specific answer. I did come across several vague references to a two year shelf life. I think that I will go with the same criteria that I use for dried herbs and spices: if the aroma is still intense then the product is still good.
 
Can cardamom pods be frozen to get a longer use out of them and keep them fresher? SM
Your cardamom pods should keep just fine in a cool (but not frozen) dry and dark place for a couple of years. The essential oils won't decline until they are crushed.
 
Hi. I seem to have a lot of bugs in my coriander seeds. I store them in a cool dry place, (not the fridge) and the bugs seem to be coming from the seeds and not from the outside? Is it possible that they “Hatched” from the seeds? Should I keep the rest of my dry spices in the fridge? Thanks. MG
You are probably right that the bugs came in with the coriander. This is one of the reasons spices are often irradiated. I would get rid of the current supply and buy new ones from a new dealer who has a high turnover in their spice department. Storing spices in the refrigerator isn't necessary and may add unwanted moisture.
 
Can you successfully freeze orange and lemon zest? Thanks, SCH
Honestly, I haven't tried it. To me it just seems easier to zest a lemon as I need it. Cook's Illustrated found the best way to preserve it in the refrigerator for two weeks (click here to read more). You could try their method and then freeze it to see if it works.
 
Can you dry basil in the oven and also can you use a food saver.......FT
I think it is a bad idea to introduce essential oil-zapping heat to the herb drying process so I wouldn't use the oven. And I don't have a food saver but you could always try it and find out.
 
Once the can is opened, how long can the chilis in adobo be stored in the refrigerator? KC
I find they last for at least a month or two. Be sure to remove them from the can. They store best in a glass container since they will likely stain a plastic vessel.
 
Thank you for an excellent site! But there is some conflict over the tahini... RS
Ah, alert reader RS does find me doublespeaking on the Storage Q&A Page. I suppose the answer is, if you are using Marantha tahini, keep it for a year, if not, keep it for a month. (See original questions below.)
 
I love Kalamata olives and they are cheaper in bulk so I am contemplating purchasing a five pound bag of them packed in Olive oil and salt. Once opened, How long can they be and how should they be stored?
I can't find a definitive answer for you. Perhaps you could call the manufacturer and ask.
 
Good Afternoon - Are you able to freeze fresh oregano like you could freeze fresh basil? Thank you. JL, New York
Yes. Have you seen the article "A Bounty of Basil: How to Preserve the Harvest?"
 
I purchased a large can of anchovies, thinking that after it was opened, I could "food saver" the leftovers in 6 or 7 vacuum bags, then freeze. On the can it stated "do not freeze." I would like to know why. BE
I found several online references that suggested freezing anchovies or foods with anchovies so I can't tell you why they would not recommend freezing. It is always best to go along with label statements but you might write or call the company to ask about the matter.
 
What is the refrigerator shelf life of fire roasted peppers in a jar after it has been opened? N
My favorite source for this sort of thing is the Table of Condiments that Periodically Go Bad. They say you should get nine months from a jar of pimento which is somewhat similar to roasted peppers. I have discovered that they keep better if completely submerged under the liquid in the jar.
 
Can you freeze tahini once it has been opened? NM
I posed your question to the folks at Marantha Nut Butters and received the following response from the Consumer Relations Manager: "There is really no need to freeze it, it will last in the refrigerator for one year even after opening. All our nut butters have a year shelf life even after opening."
 
Thank you for your website. I would like to know the best way to store fresh cut parsley from the supermarket. I have been placing it in a glass of water and sitting it on my counter in the kitchen. I change the water daily. After about 2 days, the leaves start turning yellow and looking very dry on some of the leaves. Thank you for your help! JC
The fresh-cut flower method works for most herbs but I have always just stored my parsley loosely wrapped in a light plastic bag in the vegetable bin. You should get at least a week out of it this way.
 
I have a large jar of jalapeno slices. I refill a smaller jar when it is empty. Can I keep the large jar in a cool place (other than the refrigerator?) or will the jalapenos go bad? SL
It is best to keep your opened jar of jalapenos in the refrigerator to prevent botulism from developing.
 
Hi, I've got 12 oz of crushed chili pepper, which I'd like to preserve for as long as possible (> 1 year). Can I put it in the freezer and use just a bit at a time? Thanks a lot! AM
If the chiles are dried I don't think I would want to introduce moisture from the freezer. They should be fine for a year or more if stored, like all spices should be, in a dry, dark place away from heat.
 
I have some parsley flakes & red chiles in a jar that I mixed together and I use it to flavour potatoes and meats. I've had it for a couple of years at least. It doesn't taste bad, but I was wondering if this is not healthy in any way. Thanks, DB
Dried herbs and spices don't really go bad they just lose their flavor. If your mixture still looks vibrant and tastes good, there is no reason not to use it.
How long can one keep dried herbs & spices in a tight sealed container?
Whole spices will last longer, about 3 years, than those that are ground or cut which will keep for a year or so. For more information, see "Storing Dried Herbs and Spices."
My daughter bought me a large quantity of Saffron back from the Caribbean approx 3-4 yrs ago, and which i have never used. I was wondering what the shelf life is, and would it be ok to start using it now. Thank you.
The shelf life of your saffron may be waning. Whole spices usually last about 3 years. The best way to see if you can still get flavor out of it is to try it in a recipe.
Hi, In searching the ‘net for the answer to this, I came across your site and thought it would be a good question. I didn’t see it posted anywhere. How long can one keep a head of roasted garlic in the fridge before it goes bad? Thanks! RH
I haven't tested this to say for sure but I would treat roasted garlic like most other cooked foods, keeping it for a maximum of five days.
Can you freeze fresh garlic? E
Theoretically, you can freeze garlic but the texture of the thawed cloves won't be the same (it will likely be mushy). With garlic being available all the time and its fairly long shelf life, I don't think it would be worth trying to freeze it.
Hello, I recently found out I'm pregnant and have such a craving for garlic pickles so once a week I buy a large jar that's sold in the refrigerated section. I'd like to know if i can store them, once opened, at room temperature somewhere in my house even though it says refrigerate after opening? My nephew eats everything in sight and I just wanna enjoy my pickles without sharing everything I'm craving. Thank you for your help. B2
Given your delicate condition, I don't think you should risk the botulism that is prevented by refrigerating pickles.
I purchased fresh basil in ziplock type plastic bag from store. I stored in the meat/cheese bin in fridge. Now the leaves are wilted, all wet, from moisture, I suppose. It had only been in the fridge a few days. Is it usable? How can I store it? I want to use it for pizza sauce or pesto sauce. Would 1 Tbsp. of the wilted be the same measure as 1 Tbsp. before being wilted? Appreciate your help. C.F.
Basil doesn't do well at temperatures under 50 degrees (F). It is better stored like a bouquet of flowers: stems in a glass of water on your countertop. Unless it is black or slimy, it should still be okay to use. The measurements would be the same.
Hi, Any ideas on how to store fresh turmeric root? Do I need to "cure" it and if so how? with thanks - ss
Since fresh turmeric is so similar to fresh ginger, I would store them the same way: loosely wrapped in the vegetable bin of my refrigerator. For longer term storage, try cutting the root into 2-inch lengths (or the increment you would normally use for a recipe), wrapping in plastic and then freezing.
I am cooking a huge pot of chili for a party and I have a two gallon stainless pot and I would like to know if one could store the chili in until the next day for the party? Refrigerating it of course. CS
Stainless steel would be a good choice for storing your chili because it is "non-reactive," meaning the tomato in the chili won't corrode it. Do be sure to cool that much food quickly, in an ice-bath or shallow dish for example, before storing it to prevent harmful bacteria from forming.
Hi, How long can I keep fresh grated orange zest and what is the best way to store it? thanks. lls
Your question couldn't have been timed better. Here is an excerpt from the latest (October 2005) America's Test Kitchen newsletter: "Food Science: Storing Orange Zest--It's always easiest to zest oranges before squeezing them, but what if you don't have an immediate use for the zest? To find out if storage was an option, we refrigerated a sample of zest and waited two weeks.
Surprisingly, the refrigerated zest was just as vibrant as fresh. Why?
The flavorful essential oils in orange zest are damaged by exposure to
air (which causes rancidity) and light (which catalyzes development of
off-flavors). Wrapping the zest tightly in plastic wrap and storing it
in a dark refrigerator offers protection from both air and light. The
orange color darkens and fades, but because the color is produced by
pigments called carotenoids--which do not contribute to flavor--color
loss does not correlate with flavor loss."
Hi-I have many English lavender bushes in my yard. I want to use it for cooking, but am not sure how to prepare it. Is there a special way to harvest it, or prepare for cooking? Thank you, JO
Lavender can be used fresh or dried and is best harvested just before the flowers open. To use it fresh, just pull the flowers from the stems and chop roughly if desired. Hang the stems upside down to dry. Have you seen the article "All About Lavender?"
How long can you keep capers once opened (those in water, vinegar and salt). Thank you, J
Like most pickled products, capers should last about 9 months in the refrigerator after opening. Be sure that all of them are submerged in the liquid. 
I have been making tea syrup for ages, but some friends have never heard of it (and they are southerners!). I would like to share it with them, and wondered if it could be canned or frozen for later use. I think it would be a great gift idea for a bunch of southern girls! Have you ever heard of preserving tea syrup? Thanks, SJ
I'm afraid I hadn't heard of "tea syrup" either! A bit of exploring helped me learn that it is basically a tea concentrate that you prepare by adding water. To preserve, you might be able to freeze it--give it a try and see what happens. As for canning, why not contact the experts at your county extension office and see if they can give you any advice?
Hi, How long can I keep fresh herbs in the refrigerator before they go "bad"? I'm trying to decide how long I can hang on to a bunch of oregano (and how often I can use it in recipes) before I give up the fight and hang it up to dry. Thanks! P
Most herbs (but not basil) will last a good week loosely wrapped and stored in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. I've had some store-bought herbs that lasted much longer than that when kept in the original packaging.
Hello, I live in Hawaii and find that within 30 minutes of picking my basil it has turned dark. It's way above 50 degree here so what could be causing this. How do growers keep it green for sale in the stores?? Thanks, FC
I don't really know what to tell you, FC. Growers have amazing tricks that usually involve tons of fertilizer. You might have better luck if you place your freshly-picked basil into a glass of water, like you would with flowers, until you are ready to use it.
Can I freeze excess fresh dried oregano still on branches? Thank you SB
Some people do store dried herbs in the freezer although I don't like the idea because it is likely to introduce moisture. You would probably want to strip the leaves from the oregano before freezing since they would become limp and be difficult  to handle after freezing.
I've made homemade pesto sauce and would like to know how to store it. What should it be stored in and should it be shelved or frozen? Thank you in advance for your help. I.F., Wantage, NJ
We cover pesto in the articles "Endless Pesto Possibilities" and also in "A Bounty of Basil: How to Preserve the Harvest."
I grew cayenne peppers, but don't know what to do with them. Do I tie them together then turn upside down, or on a screen? Do I crust up the whole pepper with seeds. Thanks for your help. D
Fiery-foods.com has a wonderful article about drying chile peppers.
Is it possible to cut up jalapeno peppers and freeze them? JD
Certainly! The best way to freeze most fruits and vegetables is to lay them out in a single layer on a paper-covered baking sheet. After they have frozen you can collect them into a sturdy bag for storage. This method makes it easier to take out what you need without thawing the whole package. The peppers will be a bit mushy when they thaw but are still good for cooking.
What would you suggest as the best way to dry herbs while retaining their flavor? TH
Dry herbs on some sort of a screen (for good air circulation) out of direct sun or heat for the best flavor. You should also know that some herbs retain their flavor better than others. Marjoram and oregano are good examples of herbs that dry well while cilantro and chervil will be nearly flavorless when dried.
 
Hi! I was wondering if there is a way to store fresh herbs and making them last as long as possible in the fridge? SE
Please see the article "Buying and Storing Fresh Herbs" for some ideas. You will also find a link to a fresh herb keeper at the article "Nifty Herb and Spice Gadgets."
 
I would like to prepare Malaysian anchovy by frying them then cook them in chilli, garlic, onion, ginger, tamarind juice and shrimp paste. I would like to store them in bottle for two years. How do I preserve them? Thanks EB
Most of the recipes I found suggest preserving anchovies by covering them in sea salt but those recipes also called for the raw fish. Since I have never done this, I hesitate to offer any advice. Perhaps you could find a book on the subject at the library or find a fish expert in your area.
 
I have recently picked some large firm black olives and several weeks after preserving them in brine have noticed that the black colouring on the skins is disappearing and the olives have become almost mushroom coloured. Several weeks later I tasted several and they seem OK, like a cross between green olives[firm textured] and nice texured softer black olives. 2 years ago I preserved some from the same tree and they were excellent and retained their black colour. Can someone please shed some light on this problem. AD
I'd love to be able to pick my own olives to cure but... Instead, I open your question to other readers. Normally, I would refer you to our friends at PickleNet.com but as of this writing, that site was unavailable.
 
Hi. What is the best way to freeze about 5 pounds of red bell peppers? For use in any dish that requires cooking? What a terrific web site!
Thanks, SL
 
Hey, thanks! Bell peppers freeze nicely without much preparation. You can chop them into a recipe-ready dice or mince and pop them in the freezer. For ease in handling later, you might want to freeze them in a single layer first then gather the individual pieces into a bag.
 
How long are poppy seeds good? Do they ever expire? Thanks PC
Poppy seeds will go rancid but one sniff of the jar and you will know it. For a longer shelf life, store in the refrigerator or freezer.
 
How do you dry fresh oregano, just wondering couldn't find anything on your site. L
You can dry oregano the same way you would most other herbs. Lay the stems on a screen in a well-ventilated area or hang whole bunches upside down, also in a well-ventilated dry area. Just make sure the leaves are completely dry before storing to avoid mold.
 
Does tahini need to be stored in the refrigerator or can it be stored in a cold cupboard? AM
Funny, I have always stored an open can of tahini in the refrigerator. I just checked the can that is in there now and it doesn't say to but it still seems like a good idea. I just allow it to sit at room temperature for awhile before using to make it easier to stir. Don't forget, the shelf life of an opened can is about a month.
 
I use a lot of the East Indian herb, curry leaves, and would like to know the best way of storing them in the refrigerator. I have tried two ways: placing the stalks in a jar of water and covering the top with a plastic bag; and, wrapping the leaves (separated from the stems) in a slightly damp paper towel and putting the wrapped towel in a plastic bag. Is there a better way? Thank you, PS
In her book "Herbs," Linda Tubby reports that the leaves will keep in the refrigerator for weeks and that they freeze well too. Your idea of wrapping in a damp towel is good. To freeze, try arranging them in a single layer on a baking sheet and then collecting into a plastic bag after they have frozen.
 
Hello, Can you advise me about the 'best before' dates on dried herbs and spices? I recently cleared out my kitchen cupboards and found some of my Barts and Schwartz dried bottled herbs to be up to 5 years old! Are they still useable or should I keep to the best before dates? Many thanks, JH
Herbs and spices don't go bad, they just lose their potency. Five years is pretty long for even whole spices but herbs are most likely far past their prime. Read more about the subject at "Storing Dried Herbs and Spices" and also at the "Storage Q&A Page."
 
What is the shelf life of an opened jar of celery seed, well capped and kept at normal in home temperature. Thanks for a reply, JK
Your celery seed should last for 3 years or so under the conditions that you describe. Whole spices last much longer than those that have been ground.
 
I have a jar of meat tenderizer and one of garlic powder and live in South Carolina (a rather humid area). Is there any way to keep them moisture free? I put some grains of rice in my salt shakers and that seems to keep the salt in good shape. I'd appreciate any tip you have about the powder-type items above.
Thanks,CG
If the salt is working in your salt shakers, I don't know why it wouldn't work on the others as well. One other tip that I do have is to avoid shaking these and other spices directly into a cookpot on the stove. The moisture from cooking steams and vapors will invade the jar and cause clumping.
 
How long are spices good for? I was at a Tupperware party years ago and the woman demonstrated take a napkin sprinkle spice and ??? and you can see bugs in spices I forgot the  ingredient and what ever else they used. Can you please help? tysvm
I haven't heard about the bugs in the spices trick but if you have stored your spices properly, that is cool and dry in an airtight container, they should last at least one year. The real test is to smell them. If they still have a nice strong aroma, they are still good.
 
Hi... I have just hang dried some fresh dill. What part of the dill is usable and how do I store it? KN
Nearly every part of the dill plant can be used for cooking. You might want to discard any tough stems. Be sure to see the newly revised article "All About Dill."
 
How long will watercress last in the frig., and what is the best way to store it? Wash first, don't wash? Cut stems, don't cut? Thanks, SC from Fairfax, VA
Store your watercress either loosely wrapped in plastic or like a bouquet of flowers in water (also loosely covered) for up to five days. Wash and trim just before using.
 
Could you advise me on how long can you keep Ginger roots in a refrigerator and how best to store them. Thank you for your help DZ
Unpeeled gingerroot will keep well-wrapped in the refrigerator for about a month or it can be frozen for six months. If frozen, you can just slice off as much as you need and return it to the freezer.
Hi; how long can I keep a jar of raw tahini in the refrigerator? We use it to make hummus.
Your question inspired me to check the jar I had in my own refrigerator. I tossed it out, half-used, since the use-by date was four months ago! If yours doesn't have a date on the label, you might want to try to use it up a month or so after opening. That's according to this delightfully clever and useful chart I came across the other day: Table of Condiments That Periodically Go Bad.
How do I store Dill weed? Can it be frozen? Thank you, L
For short term storage just wrap the dill fronds in plastic wrap or a self-closing bag and store in your refrigerator's vegetable bin. In his book The Herbfarm Cookbook, Jerry Traunfeld suggests pureeing 1 cup of herbs with 1/4 cup of olive oil for the best results in freezing. Just store the puree in a freezer bag and slice off the amount you need for your recipes.
Can you tell me why I get bugs and insects in my red peppers (ground) I store on the shelf? thank you ET
This is rather surprizing since many gardeners use cayenne pepper spray to repel pests! One reason I can come up with is that maybe your peppers have not been completely dried before storage. Or perhaps the insects are in your storage containers. Be sure to check for any "activity" before filling them.
I was wondering if you can freeze fresh basil. I have a bet riding on this! Thanks, from an herb grower in Michigan.
I hope your side of the bet is that you can. Freezing is a common way to preserve basil. The leaves should be stripped from the stems and laid out on a baking sheet. Set in the freezer and then transfer to plastic bags or freezer containers after they are solid. One source suggests pouring boiling water over the leaves before freezing to keep them from blackening. You can also chop the leaves, place them in ice cube trays along with a bit of water and freeze them this way. Pesto freezes nicely as well.
I have oregano growing in my herb garden. What's the best way to dry it for use in recipes? SV
The best way to use your oregano in recipes is fresh but if you have so much that you do want to dry it there are a couple of easy ways. For small amounts you might simply spread the leaves and tender stems in a single layer on paper and allow to dry in a place where they won't be disturbed. This way you can crumble the dried leaves onto the paper and use it as a funnel to pour into a storage jar. Large bunches of herbs can be tied into bundles, by their stems, and hung upside down in a dark, dry place. It helps to suspend them within paper bags so that you can catch any leaves that might fall off as they dry. Either way, make sure the herb is completely dry before storage to prevent any mold from developing. Read more about this wonderful herb at "All About Oregano."
Hi, I have a tin of poppy seeds for baking and was wondering how long do they last? They are still mostly dark in color but some have lightened up a little. I know they are at least 3 years old and probably a little older. Thanks for your help. VB
After three years, it is probably best to go ahead and replace your poppy seeds. The best way to tell if seeds (sesame, too) are still good is to take a deep sniff of them. A rancid smell is hard to describe but I think you will know it. Just seems "off." Fresh poppy seeds have a sort of fresh soil scent and sesame seeds have a light floral grass aroma.
If purchased fresh in the grocery store, what's the best way to store basil for longer freshness. The store had it with the garlic, not in the cooler section with other vegetables/herbs. I love fresh basil, want to be able to keep it longer. Please advise. Thx. L
The most important thing to remember when it comes to storing basil is that the leaves will turn black if exposed to temperatures much below 50 degrees (F). If your basil comes in a package or container, leave it in that and store in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. If it was purchased loose, wrap it in paper towels, then plastic. You might also try storing your basil with the stems immersed in water like flowers in a vase. Secure a plastic bag over the top with a rubber band and keep on your counter at room temperature. Basil does seem to have the shortest shelf life of the fresh herbs and the easiest way to ensure a fresh supply is to grow your own!
Is it ok to freeze garlic powder and sesame seeds? Thanks so much. BA
It is probably a good idea to freeze sesame seeds if you have a large amount of them as they will turn rancid sometimes at room temperature.  I don't think I would freeze garlic powder, however. Seems to me this would introduce a level of moisture that would cause it to clump. If you want to store garlic powder long term, try putting it into a dark container with a tight fitting lid and place in a dry area.
Can you freeze fresh strawberries (without them becoming mushy)?
As far as I know, there isn't a way to prevent frozen berries from becoming mushy. You can take a few steps to keep them from simply falling apart upon thawing, however. Avoid washing them at all, if you can, to start with, then gently remove the stems. Space them out on a paper-lined baking sheet so that they are not touching and place in the freezer. After they are frozen, transfer to storage containers. When you go to thaw them, try reversing the process and they might retain more of their original shape.
I need advice on how to use nasturtium seeds. I understand they can be used as a substitute for capers but exactly how do I do that? Do I need to cook it or pickle it or what?
Cecilia
According to The Herbfarm Cookbook you need to soak them in a brine for three days before pickling.  I am going to send you the recipe from the book via private e-mail since I don't have permission to publish the recipe here.  You might also check with picklenet.com for other recipes. Editor's note: Picklenet.com has unfortunately disappeared.
My husband has successfully grown red peppers in his garden.  Now, he would like to dry them and crush them for use this winter.  He doesn't know how to do this.  Could you help us?  thanks, Kitty
Hey, good job!  I haven't tried it myself but I think the thing to do is cut them from the plant with about an inch of the stem remaining.  String them up so that they hang from the stems and place in a dry place until they are completely dry.  The timing will depend on your climate.  If you don't allow them to dry thoroughly, they may mold.  After drying, simply crush into flakes and keep in an airtight container.  I would probably wear gloves if I wanted to crush them by hand.  

LOVE Your website! I grew Pimentos in my garden and want to preserve them by storing them in oil.  I cannot find anything.  Do you have a quick recipe and do the peppers need to be cooked?  I would think they would to get them soft, but is it just a blanching? Thanks for your help.

Pimentos are beautiful peppers that not many people grow.  Good job!  After checking several sources, it seems to me you have two ways to go.  You might roast the chiles before packing them in oil.  Roasting will bring out the flavor as well as allow you to peel them.  You could also freeze the roasted pimentos. Blanching--boiling the peppers for a few minutes and the plunging into ice water--would work for softening and peeling. 

Or you might consider looking into the canning process for preserving your peppers.  As I have said before, I hesitate to offer advice on canning because I haven't done it and you must be very careful with the entire process.  

Hi, Could you please tell me how to dry some herbs.  I heard you could do it the microwave, is this true.  I'm interested in drying oregano, thyme, marjoram, basil(?), and rosemary. Also, how do you make pickles out of cucumbers?  Thanks for your help,  Kathy

The best way to dry herbs is with a food dehydrator. I don't have one of those either! You can tie them up into bundles and hang upside down in a dry, dark place. Place some paper, or the like, underneath to catch any leaves that fall off. How long this will take depends on the humidity of the location and the individual herbs so check them often.  Do make sure they are completely dry before transferring to an air-tight container, otherwise they will mold.  I don't really care for the idea of drying herbs in the microwave because it seems like this would "zap" the essential oils and I have heard of several oven fires started like this.    

 As for making pickles, I hesitate to offer advice because I've never done any canning.  It must be done correctly otherwise you could hatch a batch of botulism.  See if your library has a copy of Putting Food By or call your local agricultural cooperative extension office and ask for the Home Economist.

I never realized that the fruit from cilantro was coriander. This season I let the plant blossom but what do I do with the coriander seeds? They are still green and on the plant but I would like to preserve them.  Any suggestions?

You will want to dry the seeds otherwise they will taste bitter.  Simply collect them and air-dry, perhaps on a screen, before storing them in a container with a tight-fitting lid.  Check All About Coriander for ideas for using your freshly dried seeds.

Would you please tell me the shelf life of spices? I inherited some spices that are at least 6 years old and wonder if they are still good.
Hmmm, six years old! That's getting up there. Spices don't "go bad" they just lose potency. The best indicator is your nose. If they are still aromatic they might give you some sort of flavoring but try to compare them to newer spices and you will probably notice a huge difference. Whole spices will last much longer than those already ground. Check out the article Storing Dried Herbs and Spices for more information.
I would like to know a little more about black pepper? Is there any other change besides flavour when left on the shelf to long.ie physical appear- ance.How long can it be kept for? THANK YOU Your site is very interesting.
Black peppercorns can be kept for years as they do not lose their essential oils until cracked. Ground black pepper will not really change in appearance as it ages although the aroma will subside. If you buy it in the ground form, try to use it up within six months, a year at the most. Be sure to read All About Peppercorns for more information.
What are some ways of drying or preserving cardamom?
Wow! Are you really growing cardamom? Commercial growers wash the pods well after harvesting and dry them either in the sun for three or four days or in heated rooms for about twenty hours. Surely this would work well on a small scale too. Please write again and tell us about growing this spice. Be sure to check out the article "All About Cardamom" for a delicious cardamom-pecan scone recipe.
I have a big bunch of fresh parsley. Is there a way to freeze it? How do I dry it? Thank you--Maggie
You might freeze your parsley by chopping it and laying it out in a single layer on a baking sheet before placing it in the freezer. Once it's frozen then you can pour it into a bag. Only problem with this is that it will be mushy if you try to use it as you would fresh. You could use it in soups or other cooking with fine results. For drying, tie it into a bunch and hang it upside down in a dry place until it's dried out. You could use it right away by making tabbouleh. Check for a recipe for this yummy cracked wheat salad at the aPinchOf.com website under the article All About Parsley.
Do spices that are in the whole form such as nutmeg or peppercorns have the same shelf life as ground spices?
Whole spices last much longer than those that have been ground because the essential oils have not yet been released. Kept in airtight containers, these larger spices such as nutmeg, allspice, cardamom, peppercorns and cinnamon sticks will last almost indefinitely. Whenever possible, buy whole spices and grind them yourself to get the most intense flavors.
 

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Other articles you might enjoy:

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