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!