Spices and herbs bring a beautiful flavor and aroma to any dish. However, to maintain these two qualities of spices and herbs you need to store them in good conditions, and use the spices and herbs which haven't lost these qualities. There is no defined shelf life of herbs and spices, but still there is a general understanding. With some tips, you can check if the herb or spice is still good for use.
Spices or herbs do not get spoiled, unless they were stored in bad conditions. However, spices or herbs should not be used if they have lost their strength. After a certain period, spices and herbs lose their flavor, color, and aroma, which makes them useless. Here is a generally accepted shelf life of herbs and spices. Remember, that the mentioned below shelf life of dried spices, herbs, ground spices, whole spices, etc., will remain this much, if you have stored them properly.
- Whole Spices: 1-2 Years
- Whole Herb Leaves: 1-2 Years
- Whole Herb Flowers: 1 Year
- Whole Seeds: 2-3 Years
- Roots: 3 Years
- Ground Spices: 1 Year
- Ground Herb Leaves: 1 Year
- Ground Seeds: 1 Year
- Ground Roots: 2 Years
Checking Herbs or Spices for Freshness
Once a spice or herb is 6-months-old, you should check if it is still good for use. Spices and herbs can be used as long as they have the flavor. Herbs tend to lose their flavor faster than spices, and dried herbs which have no color or very little smell when crumbled are too old for use. It is better that you get rid of them. However, if the herbs don't look green but still have some aroma when crumbled in your hands, then feel free to use them. Ground spices have a shorter shelf life. To check if the ground spices are still good for making any food recipes, shake the jar and let it settle, then take a sniff. If you find that there is no aroma, then throw these spices away. But, if you get even a bit of smell, then they have lost their strength. So, you can still use them but you will need to use them in larger proportion than you normally do.
Airtight jars for storing ground spices, roots, and herbs are best. If you like to use various whole spices and herbs for cooking, then airtight boxes with divisions are great. It is important that you store them in a cool, dry place. By storing them in these conditions, you can retain their maximum shelf life. Take care not to store the spices and herbs anywhere near the stove, or near humid places like near the dishwasher or sink. Also, avoid placing them in a sunny bright place. This doesn't mean that refrigerator or freezer is the right place for them. Condensation can lead to problems, as every time you take the bottle out of freezer, you will be introducing more moisture in the spices.
So, use the above storage tips and you can maintain a long shelf life of herbs and spices. However, remember the above tips on checking old herbs and spices, before using them for cooking, so that you don't use no-strength spices or herbs in cooking.