Back to the Basics For Your Spices and Dried Herbs…

This is the time of year that most kids have either already headed back to school or are getting ready to. It dawned on me that this would be a good time for a Back to Basics article about Spices and Dried Herbs. 
Most people are already starting to think about fall cleaning and getting more organized… It is good time of year to check out your spice inventory to make sure that your spices do not have outdated expiration dates. You’d be very surprised how long some of those spices you bought years ago are still lingering in your spice cabinet.
 What is the difference between Spices and Dried Herbs?
Herbs are considered the leaves of low-growing shrubs. They can be used either fresh or dried. (Examples: Parsley, Basil, Oregano, Rosemary)
Spices are produced from the bark, root, buds, seeds, berry or fruit of tropical plants and trees. (Examples:  Cinnamon, Ginger, Saffron, Sumac, Paprika)  
What is the “Rule of Thumb to Substitute Dried Herbs for Fresh Herbs?
Basically, you can substitute 1 part of dried herbs for every 3 parts of fresh herbs.
How Should Spices and Dried Herbs be Stored? 
Spices and dried herbs should be store in tightly covered containers. There are all kind of nifty options out there online and in stores (glass jars, plastic containers or tins). 
When storing your spices and dried herbs, it is definitely best to avoid moisture, light, heat and air. If you prefer to keep favorite “go to” spices handy, be sure to keep them away from sunlight and from appliances that generate heat. 
Another tip is to use a dry measuring spoon to transfer spices and herbs from their container to your hot pan (that is most likely steaming away). This steam can enter the container and create moisture which will then cause caking or clumping (or even worse …mold). 
How Long can Spices and Dried Herbs be Stored?
The shelf life will vary for each dried herb and spice. To ensure that you get the most out of your purchase, be sure to buy from a credible vendor and also check the expiration date. There is no telling how long that product has been on the store-owners shelf.
Also, if you are not sure how quickly you will use it, be safe and buy a smaller container.
Regardless of where or how you purchase, it is always a best practice to label the spice jar with the date that you bought it using a permanent marker. 
Here are some general “rule of thumb” guidelines for shelf life.
Whole Spices and Herbs
Leaves and Flowers – 1 Year Shelf Life 
Seeds, Barks and Roots – 2 + Year Shelf Life 
Ground Spices and Herbs
Leaves, Seeds and Barks – 6 Month Shelf Life 
Roots – 1 Year Shelf Life 

Are there any Health Benefits?

Looking to Reduce Sugar Intake?
Target sweet tasting spices. Some Spices that fall into this category are allspice, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. 
Looking to Reduce Salt?
Target spices that have strong flavors like pepper, garlic powder, cumin, tarragon, basil and ginger. Opt to use dried herbs/spices in your pasta water instead of salt.  Read labels.  Many spice blends on the market contain a great deal of salt. 
Taking good care of the dried herbs and spices you buy will ensure that you will get the most flavor…

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