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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Six Ways to Knowing How Long Your Spices Will Keep

This is the $64,000,000 question in the spice world and the THE most common one I get asked so it was time to post about this.

Most spices naturally have a long shelf life but there is no real way to audit this as a consumer.  To define spices as fresh is a little odd given the reality of the process involved from growing them to getting them to your pantry. Freshness is, therefore, better used to describe how long the spices will keep their volatile oils for and this is dependent on what happens to the spices at every stage in their journey. Think of it as a bus journey and the number of stops it has to make to get you from A to B, the journey time in between stops and how long you stop and what happens at each stop too.

The next time you go to the grocery store or are thinking of replenishing your spice cupboard, here are the 6 questions you should be asking yourself or the grocery store:

1. Does the package tell you whether the spices are irradiated and fumigated or not?
2. Are the spices certified organic?
3. Are the organic spices certified to the standard of your country?
4. Are the spices packaged in your country?
5. Does the spice company directly import the spices into your country or do they source from intermediary suppliers?
6. How many times have the spices you buy been packed and re-packed?

Why you should be asking these questions and what impact they has on the longevity of your spices is discussed in the table below. Click on the image to view in larger format.Please note this does not speak to quality of the spices as, needless to say, the better the quality, the better your spices.

That was the long answer! The short answer is, assuming the spices are non-irradiated, of high quality and delivered to you from Farm to Pantry in as short a supply chain as possible,  and, once opened, you store your spices appropriately, seeds should maintain a good level of volatile oil and aroma for between 1-2 years and the ground spices 6-8 months.

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