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How long will spice keep its flavour?


Spices and herbs will last for months or even years if stored in jars that seal well. The same spice left in a paper bag will lose all its aroma and taste in a short time.

Spices and herbs will last for months or even years if stored in jars that seal well. The same spice left in a paper bag will lose all its aroma and taste in a short time.

Photograph by: Arnold Lim, Times Colonist,

I have a collection of dried herbs and spices in tins and jars. What is their vague shelf life?

Pamela Samson

Pam’s use of the word “vague” in her question is appropriate, because suggested maximum storages times vary from source to source.

On spice/herb maker McCormick’s website,, they note whole spices, such as nutmeg and cloves, will keep three to four years. They say ground spices will keep two to three years, while dried herbs will keep one to three years. Other sources I checked say whole spices will keep one to two years, ground herbs and spices six months to a year.

That’s quite a variance and greatly affecting how long they’ll actually last is how they were stored before and after purchase.

If you’ve bought them from a bulk food store their shelf life will often be shorter than if purchased in a tightly sealed bottle or tin. Every time someone scoops that dried herb or spice out of the bin, it’s exposed to air and humidity, things that can have a detrimental affect on flavour and longevity.

If you did buy a spice or herb from a bulk food store, once home, store it in a tight-sealing container. Spices and herbs sold in bottles and tins can, of course, be stored in them.

Store dried spices and herbs in a dark place away from excessive heat and moisture. Racks on the wall near the stove, dishwasher or window are not good places to store them.

When using dried spices and herbs, don’t sprinkle them directly from the container into that steaming pot of stew or other dish. Steam rising from the pot can make its way into the container and negatively affect shelf life and cause caking, particularly in ground spices. Instead, when you need some, use a measuring spoon to get the herb or spice out of the container and into the pot

If you’re not sure how old some of your dried spices and herbs are, do visual and smell tests. Herbs and spices that still have life in them will not look faded and dull and when you rub some in your fingers, will be aromatic. If they don’t have these qualities, throw them out.

Remember that dried herbs and spices are most often added at the beginning of cooking so they have time to reconstitute and release their flavours into the dish they are simmered in. When using herbs and spices in salad dressings and other cold preparations, allow them to reconstitute and meld with the other ingredients at least 15 minutes before serving.

Note: The last two weeks I answered readers’ questions on dried herbs and spices. Next Sunday I’ll answer a reader’s question on using fresh herbs.


Salad Dressing

This tangy dressing is flavoured with such things as basil, oregano and garlic. Drizzle it on mixed green salads or use it to flavour grilled vegetables, bean salads or tomato salads.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: None

Makes: About 1 cup

3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey, or to taste

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/4 tsp paprika

n pinch crushed chili flakes

n salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3/4 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients, except oil, in a bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk the oil into the vinegar mixture. Let the herbs steep in the dressing at least 15 minutes before serving. If kept in the refrigerator in a tight-sealing jar, the dressing will keep up to 10 days. Shake well before using.

Eric Akis is the author of the best-selling Everyone Can Cook series of cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

Grass-Fed Lean Meats Pump Up Energy | My Healing Kitchen

Grazing Cows
Image by bobengland via Flickr

Beef can be healthy and diminish fatigue? You bet! But you won’t get those health benefits from a greasy old beef burrito made from a factory-farmed cow “finished” in a feedlot, shot up with antibiotics, dipped in pesticides and wallowing in pathogens. You’ll find healthy beef comes from happy cows fed on pasture. That increases nutrients essential to healing fatigue, including omega-3s, B and E vitamins and energizing iron. So make the mooove to pastured meats today.

1. Omega-3 fatty acids are needed for health. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are vital to health as they are used to make cell membranes throughout your body. They also help fight chronic inflammation, one of the key functions of your adrenal glands. Under persistent stress, the adrenals secrete cortisol, an anti-inflammatory hormone that is also responsible for keeping you alert and engaged in your daily life.

Cortisol rises and falls naturally throughout the 24-hour cycle, helping you rise in the morning then tapering off later in the day, to allow you to go to sleep. People with adrenal fatigue often have out-of-synch cortisol levels that lead to central obesity and low levels in the morning and higher levels later in the day, the reverse of what they should be for you to get through the day. Eating nutritious foods like omega-3-rich meats allows the adrenals to rest and restore, a key to good health.

2. Chronic fatigue patients lack vital omega 3 fatty acids. People with CFS and adrenal fatigue have decreased omega-3 levels. This is a concern because omega-3 deficiency has been shown to be linked to a depressed immune system in CFS. Strengthening the immune system is vital to fatigue recovery.

3. Pastured beef boasts quadruple the omega-3s of feedlot beef. The meat of grass-fed cows produce meat is very high in omega-3s — that directly correlates with the cow’s natural diet of grass, which is made up of 60% omega-3 fatty acids. A study published in the Journal of Animal Science found that omega-3 levels in beef dropped every single day cows spent in a feedlot, fattening up on grains, an unnatural diet for herbivores like cows.

4. Pastured beef contain far fewer pathogens. A study published in Science found that when cattle are fed their natural diet of grass instead of grain (as happens in feedlots) the risk of disease transmission is greatly reduced. Why? First, it keeps the overall microbe count low. Second, it keeps the bacteria from becoming acid resistant. Acid-resistant bacteria are far more likely to survive the acidity of the body’s digestive juices and cause disease. That’s another way to ease the load on your immune system and heal fatigue.

5.  Beef is also a significant source of energizing B vitamins and iron. Studies show that CFS patients have high levels of the proinflammatory amino acid homocysteine. Vitamins B6 and B12 are key vitamins found in beef that help metabolize the dangerous inflammatory homocysteine molecule and convert it to beneficial substances. In addition, red meat is renowned as a rich source of iron. Upping iron intake has been shown to increase energy in fatigue patients even when they are not anemic.

6. Expect to pay more for grass-fed beef. Although demand is beginning to bring down the price of grass-fed meat, you will pay a bit more for high-quality organic grass-fed meat that is raised sustainably. It’s a good investment. Grass-fed meat enhances your health and energy, instead of creating a burden of toxins, pathogens and inflammatory fats that your body must eliminate in order to recover from fatigue. Think of it as health insurance.

Grass-fed beef — and increasingly, game meats like bison, which are becoming very popular in the US — are low in fat and high in nutrients. As a result, small amounts go a long way. That means that even someone on a tight budget can stretch their food dollars. If you’re on a budget, also look for pastured organic chicken and turkey. Free-range poultry costs less than beef and bison, yet has similar healing properties.

Grass-Fed Lean Meats Pump Up Energy | My Healing Kitchen.

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