Herbs and spices are the essence of any good meal, and are critical part of everything a good cook does in the kitchen. The bold flavours of fresh herbs and spices elevate dishes to new heights, but as important as they are, it can still be a challenge knowing the best way to store them.
Terra Madre offer an extensive range of wholesale organic herbs and spices in Melbourne, and we want to help you to get the most out of them.
1. Storage is everything
Like most pantry items, dried herbs and spices will keep best in airtight containers. The best way to store them is in a cool, dry place away from sunlight or excessive heat. This also includes keeping them away from stoves, ovens, and toasters.
- Keep herbs and spices away from stoves and ovens by storing them in jars and containers. Steer clear of single use plastics if you can.
- Darkness is an added bonus. You can even try using dark-coloured jars as an added layer of protection.
2. Keep moisture to a minimum
It’s tempting to introduce spices directly from the jar into a dish while it's cooking. But did you know that the smallest amounts of heat and moisture can actually limit the longevity of your spices? It's important to keep all spices jars away from steam and heat sources.
- Steam can cause unwanted moisture in the jar, jeopardising the freshness of your dried herbs and spices.
- Instead, measure out your spices into a bowl, or pinch and add the correct amount.
3. Know when you bought them
The reality of cooking with organic ingredients like herbs and spices is that they won’t last forever — even if they still look fine. Using stale herbs and spices can affect the taste and quality of your dish. Using dying or rotting herbs can present health concerns.
- Label your storage containers with a name and purchase date. Most dried spices will last up to two years.
- If you need to test your herbs and spices for freshness, you can do so by rubbing some in your palm — if there’s a fragrant aroma, it’s still okay.
4. Set up a storage system
An effective storage system will not only keep your herbs and spices fresh in the cupboard, but also fresh in your mind. The spice rack or spice shelf is the cornerstone of the home kitchen. It's important that all of your herbs and spices are readily accessible when you're cooking.
- Try creating a specific space where you can line up the ingredients alphabetically, whether that's in a drawer or on some shelves — anywhere that keeps them visible and reachable.
- If space is an issue, create your own spice mixes from the spices you already have. For example, create a Cajun spice mix from onion power, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, thyme, paprika, salt and pepper, or an Italian herb mix from rosemary, oregano, and basil.
5. Buy whole herbs and spices
Whole spices, such as cinnamon sticks and cloves, will last much longer than their ground counterparts, often by years. This also applies to whole herbs, such as basil and sage leaves. Buy whole herbs and spices to grind later with a mortar and pestle.
6. And as for fresh herbs…
Fresh herbs can be costly, but if you store them properly, you can add weeks to their lifespan. Start by washing them thoroughly, and then use the following suggestions to keep them thriving.
- Hardy herbs: these include rosemary, thyme and sage. Take some damp paper towel and arrange the leaves lengthwise before rolling up. Then pop them in an airtight container and store in the fridge.
- Tender herbs: these include parsley, coriander and mint. Trim the ends, then stick them in a jar of water, cover loosely with a plastic bag and store in the fridge. Note, basil should not be stored in the fridge but at room temperature out of the light.