So it’s back to the herbs I’ve been drying in brown paper bags. I’m way past my two week goal and they’re ready to be stored. Even used!
There’s no doubt fresh is best, but sometimes it’s okay to dry them for future use and to save a few dollars.
Besides, who knows how long herbs and spices been sitting on the grocery store shelf?
You can also buy them from the dollar store, but then again, you get what you pay for.
Below I’ve outlined the best practices for storing herbs so that you can enjoy your garden a little longer.
And have you ever wondered what’s the difference between herbs and spices?
Herbs are those flavorful leafy parts of the plant. While herbs can be used fresh or dried, spices are almost always in dried form. So now you know!
Regardless, I love both because they add lots of flavor without lots of calories to my food.
How-to collect herbs
2.) Pull your herb bunches out of your paper bags or however you’ve been storing them to dry. Remove the rubber bands or twine that held the bunches together. Lay flat.
3.) Gently extract the dried leaves or sprigs from the stem. Discard stem. Be very careful not to crush or damage the leaves or sprigs in any way.
Keep them in whole form. Try not to get any stem bits in the storage containers.
Crush right before use for best flavor as ground herbs and spices loose their punch rather quickly.
5.) Place dried herb bits and leaves in containers such as Mason or Ball Jars for airtight storage. Screw that lid on tight!
Glass baby food jars or empty garlic jars work excellent too because they are small.
You could also just save your old store bought plastic containers to store your new herbs in.
Don’t mix the old with the new. It’s convenient if the empty container you’re using for thyme just happens to be an old thyme bottle but not necessary.
That’s what a Sharpie marker is for!
Remember: As your herbs loose their color, they are also loosing their flavor!!
How-to store your herbs
Store your glass jars in a cool, dry location away from any direct light.
Ziploc bags can be a quick and easy storage solution. Don’t buy the cheap brands that don’t seal well.
Always make sure you close the container tightly as soon as you are finished using it.
So even though it’s terribly convenient to store herbs right next to the stove, it’s not a good idea.
A lower cabinet roll out drawer is an excellent choice.
This way you’re always looking down on the selection of herbs and fewer bottles get lost or tossed to the back of the cabinet.
3.) Spice racks are cute. Storing your herbs on the countertop may be tempting and convenient but don’t do it!
Both the light and the heat damage the herbs, both in potency and nutritional value.
But if you love your herb display, choose to store your herbs in dark-tinted or non-clear containers. No Mason or Ball Jars. No Ziploc bags.
Toss old herbs that have lost their flavor or seasonings that you won’t use.
I finally got rid of the Crawfish Crab and Shrimp boils and the Magic Seafood blends. These bottles were just taking up precious cabinet space.
It’s nice to sort and toss every six months just to keep that space clean and up-to-date. Plus, you won’t be able to use the spice or herb you can’t even find!
Not sure if the spice or herb is still good? Try the sniff test.
Bring your nose to the container and take a good whiff. If the aroma isn’t pungent, it may be time to purge.
Another test is to compare the old with the new. Remember that a weak-scented spice or herb is a waste of your cooking time!
The shelf life of herbs & spices
Whole Herbs & Spices
Whole herbs and spices can be stored between 2 to 5 years. After that the flavor begins to deteriorate. They’re not harmful, they just don’t taste as good.
*Note: Many whole spices such as peppercorns & cinnamon sticks have a protective cell structure so they don’t reveal their full fragrance until crushed.
Dried Herbs & Spices
Ground herbs and spices should only for stored from 3 months to two years. If you are buying a spice you don’t use very often, you might just want to buy a single-use spice or just splurge on fresh herbs.
*And there’s always Penzeys to purchase in small bulk quantities!
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belinda bell says
I love growing my own herbs.
Joyce Bogart says
Marilyn C says
We have spice jars everywhere. In our pantry. In the cupboard, and in a spice rack on the counter. This was helpful because I never know how old they are. I am going to get to smelling them!!
Mary Dailey says
I love drying my rosemary and some I freeze for a few months!
Gloria Luongo says
Diane Warstler says
I’ve never tried growing herbs but I’m hoping to add them to my garden in the spring.
Chad Boyd says
Very useful tips! Thank you so much for this
David Farrell says
very helpful and reminder
Rebecca Bishop Parsons says
This is great, thanks so much, I love herbs!! 🌿
Sandra L McFadden says
I love growing many spices to use in my cooking, canning and baking. Its the most rewarding feeling growing your own food and than preparing it for your loved ones and friends.
Another great how to, appreciate the shelf life info too.
Jenni Phillips says
I’ve dropped the ball on rotating my spices lately, this was a great reminder, thank you.
Sharon R says
I like drying rosemary. I just have a few herbs in jars but some in the freezer.
Great tips, love spices
patrick jones says
I’ve not tried this before, but like the idea. Some spices/herbs are pretty spicy like when I get a very small container of even cloves and it’s $5 or more!
Gina Ferrell says
I love herb and spices! I love cooking with so many spices.
Liz Kilcher says
i love these ideas!!!
Sara Alvaro says
We just finished rotating and getting rid of old herbs and spices.
Debbi Wellenstein says
Thanks for the great information!
Cynthia C says
I find the jar lid attachment on my vacuum sealer helps keep things fresh. I put herbs I use often in jelly jars and reseal between uses.
monique s says
I am going to try this. I love having dried herbs on hand
Penny LeBaron says
Thanks for clarifying the difference between herbs and spices
Jessica Peeling says
I didn’t really think of not mixing old and new. Thanks for the tips!!
Debbie Welchert says
I never knew how to dry herbs and now I know. Thanks for all of the useful info.
My are by my stove. I suppose thats why they get all compacted. Thanks
Betsy Pauzauskie says
Kindly speaking our spice & herb storage is in disarray! 🙂 Your blog posts always offer ideas and guidance which prove insightful. Thank you! As an aside, our 16-year-old granddaughter wanted to grow herbs. She has a grave tendency to overwater; thus we sent her a hydroponic AeroGarden from Amazon which arrived yesterday & she’ll set up after school today. She can’t overwater, the controls are easy and we hope the herbs suit her vegan-leaning eating trend which began about 3 months ago. Any advise?
Tony Platz says
These are some great tips thanks for sharing them.
Kari B says
This sounds like a lot of work, but totally worth the effort.
Lori Byrd says
Such great information. thank you
Bradley Marquis says
DeeAnn S says
I love growing and preserving herbs.
Lisa Cress says
Great post! Love the dried herbs! Thank you!
Janis C says
Thanks for the information. I didn’t know that light can damage dried herbs.
Thank you for the timely article.
Joyce Bogart says
Julie Waldron says
These are some great tips! Our spice cupboard is a little messy right now, I try to keep it organized but our daughter loves to cook & bake and she’s always getting into it.
Susan Werth says
i store all of mine on 2 shelves in cabinet next to stove.
They are not only functional but beautiful and decorative
Deb K says
Great Tips as some I did not know!
Susan Werth says
i use two shelves in cabinet next to stove, plus have some in rack on countertop
Kathy Fronk says
Very good information. Thanks
Chris Civitello says
gail bartels says
They always smell great when opened