I always thought that the TV chefs that ground their own spices and espoused the benefits of using freshly grown herbs from their “kitchen garden” and acted like we should too were being a bit pretentious. I mean I live in Northern Minnesota and have three kids and multiple careers. Don’t I have better things to do?! But it turns out good spices really can make the dish! In fact, adding good quality spices is one of the simplest ways you can transform a forgettable dish into something memorable.
There is also good reason to not only be wary of the spices we buy at the grocery store but pay a little more for the “good stuff” (or grow your own).
Products on the shelves of your average grocery chain my have been there for a year or more, and may have even sat in a warehouse up to a year before that. Since the average shelf life of ground spices maxes out around six months, chances are you’re buying stale spices. Most of these spices are of poor quality and may even contain nasty contaminants.
So what can you do?
- Purchase whole spices and grind them yourself to retain maximum potency and ensure a fuller flavor. Whole spices will stay fresher, longer. You know what you are getting with whole spices. Ground spices may have other ingredients such as salt, rice or flour mixed in and FDA regulations do not require suppliers to list these add-ins as ingredients. Also, ground spices are not required to be free of contaminants.
- Grow your own herbs.The best solution for sourcing dried herbs is to grow your own! Or buy from a friend or family member who has a garden. Hang bundles of fresh herbs upside down to dry.
- Buy in smaller quantities so that your herbs and spices are used up regularly and you receive the full benefit of their flavor and aroma.
Check out this blog for even more great information about sourcing, storing and cooking with spices!