Questions about seasonings, spices, herbs?

Joined Dec 20, 2008
Answer the question about "last herb/spice you bought", brought to mind a lot of questions I have about herbs and spices or seasonings.

During the holidays I bought Whole Nutmeg 1.6 oz for a WHOOPING $12+, OUCH!

• How long does whole nutmeg last sealed in a jar?

• In fact does anyone have a good link for storage on dried seasonings and fresh herb, plus best storage methods?

• We have a Winco close by that has seasonings, spices in bulk, which is better to buy small quantities from Winco or have seasoning in sealed containers on my self for several years at a time?

• I usually grind pepper for fresh ground pepper in recipes. But my little hand grinder broke, so I use my little electric to grind pepper, and have been grinding enough for 2 or 3 days. What do you think is grind fresh much more superior to ground 2 or 3 days?

• If you were to stock 10 spices in bulk use container like Costo or Sams sells which are about a quart size, which would you choose. I ask because I do a lot of bbq and smoking and prepare/mix all my rubs rather than buy individual rubs, with a couple of exceptions.
My current bulk spices:
Cumin, Chili Powder, Paparika, Granulated Garlic, Pepper Corns, Lemon Pepper, Red Chili Flakes, Montreal Steak Seasoning, Montreal Chicken Seasoning, Chopped Onion, Kosher Salt.
Joined Feb 1, 2007
Let me give you some general tips.

1. The big destroyers of herbs and spices are heat, light, and air. If you store them in a cool, dark pantry, for instance, they will retain their vigor far longer than if you have them in an exposed rack over the stove.

2. Whole spices can last two days longer than forever. That's what made the whole spice trade possible in the first place. Once they are broken or crushed, however, they start to lose their strength relatively quickly. So it's always better to buy whole spices and grind them as needed. This, btw, includes whole nutmeg.

3. Because of the variables involved, there are no precise figures I'm aware of. But ground spices and dried herbs should be replaced after no more than a year. Even stored dark & cool their shelf life doesn't extend past that.

4. If convenient to do so, it makes sense to buy small quantities often than large quantities that will last for years.

5. Grinding a few days worth of black pepper is fine. It's long term storage of ground spices that gets problematical.
Joined Aug 15, 2004
A agree with KYH. I had a jar of McCormick whole nutmeg. It lasted over 20 years. One of the reasons it is hard to find and is expensive right now is devastation to the world wide crops of nutmeg. I believe it was a blight of some sort, but don't remember exactly.

As for flaked spices (never use ground spices unless you just ground them yourself recently), many have only one crop harvested per year, and therefore if you replace them any sooner, you're getting probably the same batch that you already had. At least, I've read this in a number places so much, I tend to believe its true.

As for how much spices to have on hand, figure out how much you're going to use in a certain amount of time and have that much or a little more on hand.

No reason to have spices on hand you never use. For instance, the wife brought home a huge plastic bottle of cayenne. I use about 2 TBSP of cayenne a year. I ended up buying some fresh whole cayenne peppers at the farmer's market and ground them up and vacuum sealed them in a food save pouch. Actually several small pouches and then froze them. THat stuff with the seeds and membranes is so hot, a pinch between the fingers is more than the wife can handle!

Joined Dec 2, 2009
deltadoc...the one harvest per year theory makes perfect sense. I keep all my spices in one of my small freezers (keep the fish in same place so the strong odors will not contaminate other foods). Some things keep well over a year. I do warm a bit in my hand and crush to assess strength before using, tho. Just to check for "freshness".
Joined Jan 8, 2010
Granulated Garlic, Pepper Corns, Roasted Garlic Sea Salt, Red Chili Flakes, Cayenne Pepper, Pumpkin Pie Spice, Vietnamese Cinnamon, French Thyme, Garlic Rosemarry, Albanian Sage

If I could only have one in the entire house it would have to be the Garlic Rosemarry blend, it's great in just about everything. :thumb:

I try to buy all my spices at Penzy's. They have sizes up to 1 pound or more. I have on occasion bought the big containers at GFS. There is also a spice grinder shop in our Westside Market here in downtown Cleveland. I have bought all types of fresh ground hot peppers and other spices there.
Joined Aug 29, 2000
$12 for one nutmeg??? Or for a bottle? Even for a bottle, that's expensive for a spice from a grocery store.

About 5 years ago, I bought a bottle of about 12 nutmegs at an Italian store in Kenosha, WI (Tenuta's). I've used about four of the nutmegs. They're doing just fine in a tightly closed plastic bottle. The aroma is wonderful when I grate it!

With very few exceptions, I buy herbs and spices at Penzeys, which is a 15 minute ride for me. Their headquarters are in the suburb next to mine.
Joined Dec 20, 2008
Yeah a bottle with about 15 in it. If I wasn't in a hurry I wouldn't have bought it.

I haven't tried any spice store yet. I just checked there are a couple in Sacramento, so that will be a nice trip with the wife checking out the stores.

In our home we typically don't show from a menu, unless it's a special event. Our grocery shopping is usually the same items to restock. So having a lot of spices we thaw out something and then I find a recipe to try, and unless it is for a special occasion I'm using only the ingredients in the pantry and spice cabinet.

Latest posts

Top Bottom