Help with source for superior spices

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by dowdeva, Dec 18, 2011.

  1. dowdeva

    dowdeva

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    Hello,

    About 15 years ago I was a health food store manager. We used Horizon organic herbs/spices for our supplier/ source.  At the time, I purchased for myself a lb of nutmeg. The nutmeg was incredibly complex, it had a rich and sweet component, and was riddled with layers of rich tastes that saturated your tastebuds. The seeds were also a rich tannish brown.

    I recently came to my last nut, and thought, well, no big deal, I'll just get some more. HA! My first stop was Fresh market. I bought a bag of nutmeg that had NO flavor at all, with the exception of a very faint aroma of pepper/licorice. In addition, the seeds were dried out and very pale.

    So I went back to my original source, Horizon, which is sold at my current local supermarket.  To my surprise, another disapointment! Although there was more flavor, it was still somewhat flat, with mostly - again - somewhat licorice and pepper notes. Nuts also somewhat pale.

    My questions are:

    Do you think  I just got lucky with a particular lot, one year? I believe also the nutmeg was Morrocan. But I recently read on the web that even Moroccan nutmeg is originally from Indonesia, so that can't be it.

    Or, with all the over-harvesting that's going on today, are all spices just kind of a watered down version of what they used to be?

    Anybody got a source they adore for spices, other than Pensey's? My suspicion is that they use the same growers that Horizon uses.

    If I could convey to you how complex and rich, you wouldn't believe it. I opened up the empty bottle today to convince myself I was wrong, and the nutmeg I just bought was as good. The moment I opened up the bottle, my nose was assailed with all the odors just described, the sweetness/pepperiness/richness, etc.

    I just wish now I hadn't given  away so much of it!

    Thanks in advance,

    Lisa
     
  2. chefhow

    chefhow

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    Are you saying you have been using the same lot of Nutmeg for 15 years?
     
  3. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    A friend brings me nutmeg from the Islands. Compared to that the megs from Fresh Mart are lightcolored. But I never noticed that they were lacking in flavor; even when compared to the new-harvest ones.

    BTW, doesn't matter where a spice originated. Once it adapts to local conditions there can be radical differences in size, color, flavor, and other characteristics. That's why things like vanilla, and saffron, and cinnamon taste differently depending on where they're sourced. In the case of nutmeg, it's been grown in the Carribean for centuries, and has adapted to those conditions.
     
  4. dowdeva

    dowdeva

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    Yes, as unbeliebable as it sounds. It never, ever went stale, or lost it's flavor.

    !!!!
     
  5. dowdeva

    dowdeva

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    So, where do either of your go for your best spices? TIA
     
  6. maryb

    maryb

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    Semi pro/retired now
  7. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

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    My favorite source for fresh tasting dried herbs and spices is Frontier Cooperative.

    Check them out here:

    http://www.frontiercoop.com/

    Their spices are always top quality and you have a choice of organic, conventional, fair trade and source country.
     
  8. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Yes, as unbeliebable as it sounds. It never, ever went stale, or lost it's flavor.

    Not unbelievable at all. Most spices, so long as they are whole and unbroken, retain their flavors. That's what made the spice-trade possible in the first place. And it's why savvy cooks do not buy pre-ground spicies; those may as well be tossed in a year or less, because their essential oils will have evaporated.

    What I do find amazing is that anyone would buy that much of a product they apparently don't use much of. But that's just me.

    So, where do either of your go for your best spices?

    No one place. A lot depends on what's available. Day-in and day-out we buy ours either at the Good Foods Co-Op or The Fresh Mart. Sometimes we have to order on-line, cuz what we're looking for just isn't available any other way. And, as indicated, sometimes traveling friends bring us stuff. We've been gifted that way, at various times, with nutmeg, saffron, za'atar, and a whole range of Indian and North African spices.

    There are a number of ethnic markets we shop at, and we sometimes find otherwise unavailable spices at those.

    I'm not familiar with the Horizon brand. Good Foods uses Frontier products. 

    Penzies has a very good rep, but I've never personally bought anything from them. No particular reason, other than there isn't one close by.

    Kalustyan's (www.kalustyans.com) is the go-to place for a broad spectrum of herbs and spices, along with other offbeat (primarily Mid-Eastern and Asian) ingredients.

    Vanilla Saffron Imports (www.saffron.com) is the place for either of those two ingredients.