Keeping an eye on your spice rack and particularly how long the spices have been there can make all the difference when it comes to creating delicious meals.
While natural products with no additives are all the rage, that also means more vigilance is required. “The price for naturalness is that you have to deal with it differently,” explains Manuela Mahn from Bamberg. She is a lecturer in the commodity science of spices and herbs. Her advice: Have the spices you need ready and don’t pour the powdered mixture directly into the pot, but take out the required amount with a teaspoon.
To get the most out of spices, experts recommend buying them whole and then grinding them or using a pestle and mortar. Once the aroma cells are broken up during grinding, the fragrant substances evaporate and the spice loses its aroma. “That’s why everything that can be ground, such as pepper, coriander or cardamom, should always be ground fresh in small quantities,” recommends cookbook author and spice expert Bettina Matthaei.
And don’t store your spices near the stove, no matter how convenient that might seem. “Spices should not come into contact with heat, moisture, light or sunlight,” explains Kilian Holland of the Altes Gewürzamt factory in Klingenberg am Main. Essential oils evaporate at 25°C and moisture causes ground spices to clump together.
Store spices either inside a cupboard door or in a kitchen drawer – preferably sealed airtight in metal containers or clean jam jars.
How long should you keep spices? “If they are unground, dry, protected from light, stored at room temperature and not above the stove, spices have a very long shelf life,” says Dirk Radermacher from the spice industry association in Bonn.
Traders like Holland usually give a best before date to guarantee the spiciness, for example, three to four years for whole spices and the expiry date only applies to unopened goods.
Of course powdered spices are practical but once opened they should be used within around six months, Radermacher says. For Matthaei, however, it’s OK to use a spice even longer. “It is probably no longer as aromatic as before, but you can still cook well with it.
Rely on your own nose, she says. If it smells musty, you should throw it out. And an annual spice inventory is always a good idea. – dpa