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Here are answers to questions are customers ask us!

Information about Herbs and Spices

The difference between a spice and an herb is: Spices and herbs are aromatic natural products that are used to flavor food. Spices are the dried seeds, buds, fruit or flower parts, bark, or roots of plants, usually of tropical origin. Herbs are the leaves and sometimes the flowers of plants, usually grown in a climate similar to the Mediterranean.

How can I tell if my spices and herbs are fresh? There are three ways to determine whether spices and herbs are fresh: appearance, smell, and taste. Visually, you can check your spices and herbs to make sure that their color has not faded. Loss of color is an indication of flavor loss. A fragrant, intense aroma is characteristic of fresh spices and herbs. Crush the spices and herbs in your hand. If you do not smell the aroma, or if you taste them and the flavor is not apparent, it's time to replace your spices and herbs. Use our handy guide and product Date Decoder as a reference for your items.

Do spices and herbs spoil? Spices and herbs do not spoil, but they do lose their strength. Old seasonings will not flavor your meals the way they are intended to.

How to store spices and herbs: Spices and herbs should be stored in airtight bottles, away from the exposure to heat, moisture and direct sunlight. These elements hasten the loss of flavor and aroma of spices and herbs. Avoid storing your spices and herbs over the stove, dishwasher, sink, or near a window. Members of the red pepper family (capsicums), such as paprika and chili powder, should be refrigerated to help retain color and guard against infestation. This is important especially during the summer months and in particularly hot climates.

The shelf life of spices and herbs is: The shelf life of properly stored spices and herbs is approximately 3-4 years for whole spices and seeds, 2-3 years for ground spices, 1-3 years for leafy herbs, and 1-2 years for seasoning blends.

Can I freeze spices and herbs? Spices and herbs should not be stored in the freezer. Freezing does not extend the shelf life of regularly used dried spices and herbs. If stored in the freezer, and repeatedly removed for use, the bottles may develop condensation, which can accelerate loss of flavor and aroma.

How to preserve the flavor and quality of my spices and herbs: Replace the lid on bottles right after use. Measure seasonings in a bowl, then add seasonings to the pot. Do not sprinkle spices and herbs directly from the bottle over a steaming pot. Steam introduced into a bottle will hasten the loss of flavor and aroma. Steam will also result in caking. Make sure the measuring spoon is completely dry when you dip it into the spice bottle. The added moisture may cause caking or flavor loss.

How to use Herbs and Spices
Herbs should be used with discretion. More is never better! A good rule of thumb is to use 1/4 teaspoon of a dried herb for a recipe that serves 4. You can then increase this amount according to your taste

Basil is a member of the mint family. It has a taste slightly like licorice. Use Basil with: Eggs, Fish, Lamb, Peas, Squash and Tomatoes. You can buy Basil fresh or dried.

Bay Leaves flavor is particularly good in most all meat cooking; also in vegetable and meat soups and sauces.

Dill is a member of the Parsley family. similar to Caraway, but milder flavor. Good with cottage cheese, fish, tomatoes and potatoes. Buy fresh or dried

Marjoram is a member of the mint family. Nicely Aromatic. Use with beef, cheese, chicken, eggs, fish chowder, lamb, pork and for stuffing's. Buy fresh or dried.

Mint may be used fresh in salads, fruit beverages, jellies, conserves, ices, iced tea, sauces for meats, and added minced to carrots and peas. Good with apple combinations. 
   
Parsley is one of the most popular herbs, which may be used in many ways. A favorite garnish. May be used in fruit and vegetable salads, in sandwiches, in all soups and gravies, in meat sauces, minced and added just before serving to practically all vegetables, minced and added to white sauce. 
  
Rosemary is used on meats (beef, chicken, ribs), stews, sauces, and soups. Fresh Rosemary can be used as a tea by adding a few fresh or dried leaves or it can be dipped in warm olive oil and brushed over a steak using the Rosemary leaves.

Sage can be used fresh and dried. May be used in poultry and meat stuffing's; in sausage and practically all meat combinations; also in cheese and vegetable combinations, vegetable loaf, patties, etc. The flowers are sometimes used in salads.

Savory (Summer) has an agreeable flavor and blends well with other flavors; may be used in stuffing's for meat, in vegetable soups, in sausage, with meats and with horseradish.

Allspice is sold whole or ground. Strong flavor-therefore better combined with other spices in fruit, cakes, pies, pickles, etc.

Caraway seeds have a spicy smell and aromatic taste. Used in baked fruit, cakes, breads, soups, cheese and sauerkraut.

Cardamoms flavor is especially good in honey combination. Use for some baked goods.

Cayenne Pepper is usually obtained from small fruited varieties of capsicum. It should be of dull red color. May be used in very small amounts in vegetables and in some salad dressing and in cheese dishes. It must be used with care, however, and paprika, a milder form of red pepper, is successfully substituted.

Cloves should be dark brown in color. usually used in combination with other spices, which gives a better flavor when used alone. Too much gives an undesirable color as well as a bitter flavor.

Curry Powder: A number of spices combined in proper proportion to give a distinct flavor to such savory dishes as meat, poultry, fish and vegetables.

Fennel is a member of the Parsley family. The seeds have a licorice flavor. Good with Breads, Fish, Sauces and Soups. Buy Fresh or dried.

Mace is the inner envelope of nutmegs. May be used in "blade" or ground

Mustard is sold whole or ground. Gives good flavor; used alone in small amount in various soups, meat dishes, pastry and in such dough mixtures as fancy breads, dumplings and in some puddings; also in combination with other spices for pickles.

Nutmeg is useful in many dishes and adds a nice touch to: Eggnog, Apple Pie, green beans, creamed onions, sweet potatoes, creamed fish and chicken dishes, pork chops, and in stuffing's. You can also use in fruit compotes, custards and ice creams! Try buying your nutmegs whole and using a nutmeg grater for the best flavor!

Paprika is a Hungarian sweet pepper. Bright red in color. May be used in all meat and vegetable salads. In soups, both cream and stock. As a garnish for potatoes, cream cheese, fruit salads and eggs.

Parsley, when fresh, can be frozen. Wash the parsley and pat dry. Chop up the parsley and put it in a zip lock bag, freezer type and put in freezer. When you need some parsley, just take out what you need! No more wilted parsley! Parsley can be kept fresh longer in the refrigerator by wrapping it in moistened paper towels and placing in a plastic bag. To have bright, crisp parsley for winter, spread freshly gathered parsley on a piece of paper and place in a cool oven with the doors left open. As soon as this is dry, crush the leaves and put in a bottle with a cork stopper. The parsley will retain its green color and fresh taste this way.

Pepper (Black) is reduced to proper fineness by grinding and sifting. Used in all meat and vegetable dishes where the color does not affect the product.
Peppercorn is the whole berry of the pepper plant.

Pepper (White) is practically the same as black pepper except the outer shell of the berry is removed. Use where color of black pepper is undesirable.

Rosemary has been used to treat both stomach aches and headaches. It is also believed to aid in memory retention. The oil of Rosemary is used in perfumes and cosmetics. It has also been used as a moth repellent.

Salt is not good for you! If you must use salt, switch to Sea Salt. I just tried it and I really like it. It tastes like salt but doesn't leave that 'drink water' salty taste in your mouth. You can get sea salt in a health food store or in the regular grocery store. There are different brands of sea salt. Some are expensive, some are not.