Locking in Flavor Storing Herbs and Spices

Your herbs and spices won't keep indefinitely—even dried! To lock in the aromatic flavors, store carefully.

  • Store dry herbs and spices in tightly covered containers—in a cool, dry, dark place (not the refrigerator). Avoid placing your spice rack near a window or above the stove. Heat, bright light, and air destroy flavor. Moisture can promote mold.
  • Date dry herbs and spices when you buy them. Then use them preferably within a year. After a while, even properly stored seasonings lose their full "bouquet."
  • To check the freshness, rub seasonings between your fingers, and smell the aroma. If there's not much, get a new supply. Buy just enough dry herbs for a few months for the most freshness.
  • To keep fresh herbs longer, treat them like a bouquet of flowers! Snip the stem ends, then stand them in water. Cover them with a plastic bag, and store in the fridge. Change the water every couple of days.
  • Growing your own herbs? Preserve them for those long, cold weather months. Either freeze, dry, or add fresh herbs to oils and vinegars. Be aware that some herbs are better dried—for example, bay leaves, marjoram, oregano, and summer savory.
  • To freeze herbs... Wash and dry them well; then seal them in plastic freezer bags. Or snip herbs, then freeze them with water in ice cube trays. Adding a "herb ice cube" to soups and stews is easy! Basil, chives, dill, fennel, parsley, rosemary, and tarragon are among the herbs that freeze well.
  • To dry herbs in the oven... Wash the herbs first, blot them dry, and remove the leaves from the stems. Place the herbs on baking trays in a single layer. Heat them in the oven at 100° F for several hours with the door slightly open. Remove the leaves before they get browned. Cool, then store in tightly covered containers.
  • To dry herbs in the microwave oven . . . Wash the leaves first, then place them between paper towels. Then dry the herbs on the lowest setting for two or three minutes.
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