A spice jar over the stove might be handy, but because herbs and spices deteriorate when exposed to heat, light, and moisture, it’s not a good place to keep them.
- The best storage temperature for herbs and spices is one that is fairly constant and below 70° F. This means you need to stock them away from the furnace, stove, and the heat of the sun.
- Temperature fluctuations can cause condensation, and eventually mold, so if you store spices in the freezer or refrigerator, return them promptly after use.
- A good storage system keeps herbs and spices dry and in the dark, too. Amber glass jars with airtight lids are ideal. You might also keep them in a cupboard or drawer, cover the jars with large opaque labels, or use a curtain to cover them when not in use.
- In a nutshell, store your herbs and spices in clean, airtight containers, away from heat and light, and handle them thoughtfully.
How can you tell if your seasoning is past its prime? The shelf life of each herb and spice is different, and all age, even under the best conditions.
- Check your herbs and spices—and those you consider purchasing—to see that they look fresh, not faded, and are distinctly aromatic. Replace them as soon as you detect deterioration.
- The shelf life of herbs and spices will vary according to the form and plant part, too. (Those that have been cut or powdered have more surface area exposed to the air and so lose their flavor more rapidly than whole herbs and spices, for example.)
Here are some guidelines:
Whole Spices and Herbs:
- Leaves and flowers 1 to 2 years
- Seeds and barks 2 to 3 yearsRoots
- Roots 3 years
Ground Spices and Herbs:
- Leaves 1 year
- Seeds and barks 1 year
- Roots 2 years