Food storage: Herbs, spices, and sundry items

Is that spice rack by your stove really the best way to store herbs and spices? Here's the truth.

Spices and herbs bring strong, distinctive flavour to food. You can maintain their original zing if you store them properly.

  • Fresh herbs should be refrigerated. Most benefit from being wrapped in a damp paper towel. If you have fresh herbs with the roots intact (such as cilantro), place the roots in a glass of water and cover the leaves with a loosely fitted plastic bag.
  • Dried herbs should be stored in an airtight container and stowed away in a cool, dry, dark place, where most will keep for about 6 months.
  • The leaves of some herbs can be frozen for future use in soup stocks. Place leaves of rosemary, oregano, cilantro, or basil in ice cube trays and cover with water or soup stock. When your ice spices have frozen, store them in plastic bags.
  • Unwashed, fresh chili peppers should be placed in paper bags or wrapped in paper towels and kept in the fridge. If you have dried or ground chili pepper, keep it in a tightly sealed jar away from sunlight.
  • Black pepper should also be kept tightly sealed in a glass container and stored in a cool, dark, dry place. Whole peppercorns can keep practically forever, but once pepper has been ground it will be at peak freshness and flavour for about 2 to 3 years.
  • Whether ground or in stick form, cinnamon should be stowed in a tightly sealed glass container placed in a cool, dark, dry spot. Kept whole on the stick, cinnamon will last about 2 to 3 years, longer if kept in the refrigerator. Ground cinnamon will not last quite as long, about 6 to 12 months.
  • Fresh, unpeeled ginger can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 month and in the freezer for up to 3 months. If ginger has been dried or powdered, keep it in a tightly sealed glass container placed in a cool, dark, dry spot, or in the refrigerator for a longer shelf life.

Tea can have a long, hardy shelf life, but certain factors can cause tea to lose freshness.

  • Moisture and light can affect tea, so it is important to store tea in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark cupboard. Consider tins, ceramic containers, or opaque glass containers to reduce the amount of light that comes into the container when it is out in the open.
  • Freezing tea can help prolong its shelf life but it may affect the quality.
  • Black tea may have a longer shelf life than green tea, and tea in bags may not stay fresh for as long as loose-leaf tea.

Syrup and honey can make a sticky mess in the cupboard. Is this the best spot for these sweets?

  • Until you open a container of maple syrup, it can be stored in a cool, dry spot in the cupboard or pantry. Once opened, though, syrup should be refrigerated. It can even be frozen, though this may affect its consistency.
  • Stow honey in an airtight container in a cool, dry place, where it should remain edible for years. If refrigerated or frozen, honey will thicken.

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