Various spices are used in Indian kitchens, each lending a distinct touch to the country’s culinary delights. Spices prevent spoilage, and without them, food remains tasteless and colourless. Besides that, the herbs provide many health benefits and help prevent diseases like cancer, neurological and cardiovascular problems and inflammatory diseases. According to research, antioxidants are found in various herbs and spices like celery, cloves and rosemary. But do you know that spices also have an expiry date? Beyond a point, it’s advisable to avoid using these spices in our dishes as they lose their freshness and flavour. 

3 different types of spices

  1. Whole spices: Whole spices are toasted to a fine powder, adding flavourful freshness and can be kept for a long time. 
  2. Fresh spices: Fresh spices like ginger and garlic become more flavoursome after drying, but they cannot be retained long.
  3. Ground spices: They lose their freshness over time and usually do not last more than two to three years.

Spices’ shelf-life

  1. Spices are made of dried roots, stem or bark of the plant and used according to the season. Herbs are the leaves (fresh or dried) of a plant used for flavouring and garnishing food dishes. The expiry date of dried spices and herbs depends on their type, processing and storage. On the other hand, ground spices do not spoil for at least two to three years. These include garlic powder, ginger powder, cinnamon powder, cardamom powder, turmeric powder and chilli powder.
  2. Whole spices can be stored longer, as they are less exposed to air, light and moisture. This helps them preserve their flavour and aromatic oils compared to ground spices. These spices can last for about four years. These include coriander, whole black pepper, mustard seeds, cumin, fennel, clove, cinnamon peel, dry chilli, nutmeg and lemongrass.
  3. Talking about dry spices, their shelf life is up to two to three years. These include common herbs such as parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary and bay leaves.

How to increase the shelf-life of spices

  1. When using the herb or spice, do not sprinkle it directly from the container over the dish, as hot steam from the dish can enter the container, leaving the spices moist. Instead, use a spoon to add herbs or spices to the dish.
  2. You can store spices in glass containers or ceramic jars as they are the best option. Plastic containers can be used, but they absorb spices’ colour, odour, and air can also enter them.
  3. Store spices in a dry, dark, and cool place away from sunlight to reduce exposure to heat, light, and moisture.
  4. Store spices in airtight glass jars or containers that minimise exposure to air.
  5. If you notice mould in your spice containers, throw them away immediately.

The expiry date is printed on the package if you buy spices from the market. In such a situation, try to use spices within the given time because the taste and quality of the herb or spice are preserved within the time limit. If you do not know how long the spices have been in the kitchen, check their aroma and taste. For this, take some spice on your palm and check it by crushing it.

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