Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How long do you keep dried herbs?

Sometime ago (back in June 2006 in fact) Sam wrote a post on spring cleaning her pantry. In her comments she made reference to my whole nutmegs I won't tell you how long I've had them but she was quite young when they were brought from the West Indies and they didn't have sell by dates back then!!

I don't have a pantry but decided that I would start going through my cupboards and spice drawer and restock as necessary. I wondered just how long spices and dried herbs should be kept and found this article by Martha Stewart and although 6 months seems to be the optimum time this is not written in tablets of stone.
These all went in the bin, including the nutmegs (glass was recycled).

My spice drawer now looks like this

I do buy fresh herbs, I grow basil in a pot on the kitchen window sill and I grow some herbs in the garden.

Parsley is looking good.

I don't use much sage but I do love it when it flowers.

The mint and chives are looking a bit pathetic at the moment

The bay tree is well established and is kept well pruned to keep it small and manageable.

I have been wondering whether to invest in a herb keeper for the fridge which suggests you can keep herbs fresh for up to 3 weeks this way. Before I invest in one I would be interested to know if anyone has ever tried this method and if so does it work.

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At 24/4/07 12:50, Blogger Beccy said...

Never heard of a herb keeper, what benefit is it if you grow your own herbs?

At 24/4/07 13:47, Blogger Asha said...

Plants are looking good Chris.I love the perfect spider web on Bay.You are a generous lady!Live , let live:))

I clip herbs,clean and freeze in zip lock bags.When I make Potato salad in winter(my kids love it any time!),I take them out to add.Keeping in the fridge takes too much space for me and starts go bad unless I use them often which I don't.If you use all quickly,you could store in the fridge.

At 24/4/07 14:20, Anonymous Lisa said...

I just saw an herb keeper, and have been wondering myself if it does any better than my usual method (a glass half full of water, with a plastic baggie over the herbs.)

At 24/4/07 14:33, Blogger Sabrina said...

Very impressive. Funny, I've been thinking about going throughs my spices and herbs as well!

At 24/4/07 15:21, Blogger Pamela said...

I'm going to plant some herbs this year.

I had a bunch of old spices from my late mom's cupboard == old old old.. in fact, I kept them because I figured the cans themselves were antiques.

anyway, I should have hid them in a box under the bed or something. I married a neatnik. One day he threw them all away because they were "so old."

I sorta cried a little.

At 24/4/07 15:30, Blogger Sam said...

hmmmph. I can't beleive you threw away those nutmegs. I like that they had always been there. Can't you retrieve one for me?

Herb saver? I finsd that wrapped in a plastic bag (and kitchen towel if they are delicate or damp) and often they will last about 3 weeks anyway)

At 24/4/07 16:08, Blogger ChrisB said...

beccy well I don't grow the full range and I find myself buying for a recipe and wasting so much.

asha I rather liked that picture of the spiders web. I had heard freezing was sucessful maybe that's what I should try.

lisa I wondered whether it's just a gimic and the old tried and tested methods are acrtually as effective.

sabrina maybe we will start a trend for clearing the old spices and herbs.

pamela oh dear what a shame I understand the sentimental value and as you say old tins are very collectable: I don't have that problem; embee would never throw out anything unless he has to; I sometimes find empty containers, that should go out, back in the fridge or cupboard!

sam you have been telling me for years to get rid of those nutmegs!! It was hard to do but I'm afraid they are gone.

At 24/4/07 17:07, Blogger Anvilcloud said...

I wonder about these things too. We've had some of these jars of spices and things for a long time.

At 24/4/07 17:39, Blogger cookiecrumb said...

You are the first person I've ever heard of who actually bought all new spices. Wow, what a nice gift for yourself.

At 24/4/07 17:51, Blogger ChrisB said...

anvilcloud now there's a little job for you when you have a spare moment which you won't have of course with the 'new addition'.

CC see the influence daughter no1 has on me!!

At 24/4/07 17:59, Anonymous nikki said...

wait, dried herbs have a shelf life??!?!?!

At 24/4/07 19:23, Anonymous Karmyn R said...

I've never heard of a "herb keeper" If you get one - let us know if it actually works.

I don't think keeping dried herbs longer than a year is a bad thing - I think they just lose their potency...so you would have to use more to get the same flavor. However - 20 years is probably too long.

At 24/4/07 20:17, Blogger my4kids said...

I really don't even want to look in my spice cabinet beyond grabing what I need! Organization is not a friend fo mine!

At 24/4/07 20:23, Blogger ChrisB said...

nikki and karmyn- mine had extended their shelf life many times over so a good clear out was long overdue.

If I do get the herb keeper I will do a post about it, but I'm not really convinced it will work over other methods. However the same company sell a fruit and veg. cushion to go in the bottom of the salad draw and this is brilliant allowing air to circulate to help prevent mould and bruising.

At 24/4/07 21:29, Blogger Devon said...

Most of the herbs I use I have in an herb garden. But I like the idea of harvesting them in fall and putting them in the freezer. I'll try that this year!

We remodeled our kitchen in 2004 and I got new spices then. Some of mine were 20 years old too!!!

At 24/4/07 22:54, Blogger ChrisB said...

devon I think freezing is worth a try. I intend to give it a go even if I do purchase a herb keeper (which recons on keeping them fresh for a month)

At 24/4/07 23:02, Blogger ChrisB said...

my4kids it was necessity really I made a dish that had cinnamon in it and well it didn't really have the desired taste. So bought new and it was perfect.

At 25/4/07 00:31, Blogger Barbara said...

Herb Keeeper - just another piece of plastic I think. In the same category as garlic peelers I'd say.

At 25/4/07 06:17, Blogger Little Miss Moi said...

Dear chrisb. I'm a hoarder of bottled herbs too! I'm not game enough to spring clean. Garden looks great - I never really figured out what a bay leaf does (but I add it to soups and stews anyway...)

At 25/4/07 10:30, Blogger ChrisB said...

barbara I think you're right I just feel so wasteful when I have to throw out fresh herbs because I don't use them quickly enough. So I was clutching at straws really.

little miss moi I bet yours aren't as old as the ones I threw out!! In fact some of mine were probably older than you are!!

At 25/4/07 21:06, Anonymous elena jane said...

i had some old tins of spices in the cupboard and just recently dumped them all. i did keep my schwartz's spice containers, cos they're from the uk and containers are SO pretty (at least to me they are). i have that box of bay leaves too (it's ancient) :-)
loved the spider's web btw :-)

At 26/4/07 16:33, Blogger ChrisB said...

elena jane I was going to save some of the jars to refill but the lids were getting a bit old and I wondered if they were still air tight.

At 27/4/07 10:38, Blogger Sally Lomax said...

I commented on this before, but it can't have passed the security test!! Sorry!

Anyway, what I wanted to say was that we too ahve fresh herbs in the garden and a very pretty bay tree. wE picky them and used them on an as required basis though.

At 27/4/07 12:30, Blogger ChrisB said...

sally I think I need a few more herb plants because I don't for example have rosemary which I seem to need for quite a few recipes. It is so nice to be able to pick fresh. my other problem is I don't have much room.


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