What are Spices?
Spices are obtained from all other parts of plants, except leaves. These include barks, roots, seeds or fruits which are used to add flavor, aroma and enhance taste during cooking.
From the myriad of spices known all over the world, here are 7 common ground spices and their shelf life.
Obtained from inner barks and branches of Cinnamomum, this aromatic spice is highly popular not only for culinary purposes, but for medicinal and beauty uses as well.
Cinnamon is mostly in sticks or ground form. For culinary use, add cinnamon in pastry (cakes, bread and buns), desserts, hot beverages, savory dishes, breakfast cereals as well as marinating different types of meat.
As a home remedy, use cinnamon for relieving flu, digestive issues, wound dressing and other illnesses. Make a simple flu reliever at home – combine cinnamon, honey, ginger, garlic and lemon juice.
This mixture helps clear up nostrils and the respiratory tract. In beauty, add cinnamon in facial masks for exfoliating your skin a skin.
Shelf life of ground cinnamon
Ground food items lose potency faster compared to whole items. As such, avoid stocking up too many packets or bottles of ground spices at a go.
When purchasing ground cinnamon, be cognizant of the packaged date as well as best by dates.
Store ground cinnamon in a cool, dry, dark area away from direct sunlight, heat and moisture. Use airtight bags or bottles, replace any damaged storage bags or bottles to maintain optimal quality.
Properly stored ground cinnamon keeps well for up to 4 years from its packaged date.
Ginger is one of the most commonly used spices globally. The root (rhizome) of ginger plant is what is normally used, either fresh or dried.
Ginger imparts a zesty flavor in beverages (tea), marinades, stir-fries, baked products, desserts and savory dishes.
Shelf life of ground ginger
Ground ginger is best stored in the pantry, away from heat, sunlight or moisture.
Ensure you store in a dry, cool section of the pantry.
Use airtight storage items that are not damaged in any way.
Well stored ground ginger lasts up to 3 years.
3. Ground Peppercorns
Peppercorns are some of the most readily available spices around the world.
They are popular in many cuisines, but mostly originate in Asia, most notably India. There are different types of peppercorns – black, white, green, red and pink. Their differences mostly stems from maturity levels.
Peppercorns are valuable in culinary arts due to the nutty, salty, pungent, hot flavor they impart on dishes.
Shelf life of ground pepper
Well stored ground pepper keeps well for 3 years.
Store ground pepper in a dry, dark and airy spot.
Use airtight storage items to prevent penetration of unwanted residues.
This red aromatic spice is made from a variety of sweet bell peppers. The spice is synonymous with Hungary, though bell peppers are normally associated with Mexico.
As such, you will find Hungarian paprika – can be sweet or hot as well as smoked paprika in most food stores.
Paprika is a valuable spice to stock as it contains choke full of antioxidants, thanks to components called carotenoids which impart the red hue.
Paprika is popular in meat rubs, marinades as well as a seasoning for diverse dishes.
Shelf life of paprika
Store ground paprika in the pantry, in an airy place, away from direct sunlight as well as strong smelling food items.
Expect your stocked paprika to be effective and potent up to 3 years.
5. Ground Turmeric
A well-known cousin to ginger, the turmeric you use are the roots of a flowering plant known as Curcuma longa.
These roots are synonymous with India – Indian cuisine, alternative medicinal and health practices like Ayurveda, body massage as well as beauty regimens.
Turmeric has been all the rage among food and health practitioners for many years. It is touted for its healing abilities due to the presence of curcumin, which is highly beneficial.
Turmeric imparts an earthy, warm taste in dishes. For whatever purpose you choose to use turmeric for, it is essential to know its shelf life for optimal use.
Shelf life of ground turmeric
Like other ground spices, turmeric is potent for a few years – if properly stored.
To prolong the shelf life of turmeric, avoid wet and hot conditions. Store in the pantry, away from direct sunlight.
Ground turmeric has a shelf life of 3 years after the printed date.
Don’t be fooled by the name allspice – it’s not a blend of many spices. Rather, this unique condiment is a native of Jamaica. It is obtained from unripe berries of Pimenta dioica tree.
Other common names for allspice include Jamaican pepper or myrtle pepper.
Interestingly, allspice has a taste similar to a mixture of nutmeg, clove and cinnamon. In fact, a simple allspice substitute entails a combination of the three spices.
Use allspice in your meat dishes – as a rub, brining liquids and sweet desserts like apple pie. In Jamaican cuisine, allspice is included in jerk recipes for a woody, warm flavor.
Shelf life of allspice
Maximize the shelf life of ground allspice by effective storage. Use airtight bags or bottles.
Store away from direct light, foods with strong smell, warmth and moisture.
Well stored ground allspice will last well for up to 4 years.
7. Ground Cumin
Cumin is another popular spice used in Middle East, Asia and Mediterranean cuisines.
Use cumin either whole, ground or dried. Moreover, cumin is one of the ingredients in curry powder.
Impart earthy aroma into your dishes by using cumin in meat rubs, marinades as well as a seasoning.
Shelf life of ground cumin
Well stored ground cumin can serve you for 3 years. Exercise caution during storage.
Use the pantry or spice cabinet, while ensuring that you avoid heat, moisture and light.
3 Simple Storage Tips for Spices
For optimal shelf life, here are 3 simple storage tips for the 7 common ground spices:
- Close the lids tightly after each use. This prevents entry of moisture.
- Purchase what you need. Do a rough estimate of your spice usage to guide you, hence minimizing wastage.
- Store away from direct heat, sunlight or moisture.
Tell-tale Signs of Ineffective Ground Spices
- Loss of aroma indicates loss of potency. Replace spices which lack their natural aroma, since the main aim of adding spices to food is to impart aroma.
- Formation of solid chunks or clumps. Clumping is common in any powdered food items such as flour or ground spice. It normally happens when the food items have been stored for too long.
- Discoloration. A clear sign of ineffective spice is change in color. Replace such spices immediately.
- Presence of insects such as weevils. This also happens in food items that have stayed for too long. Weevils find their way when storage bags or containers have not been tightly sealed.
This is not an exhaustive list, but you are sure to find one or two of your usual go-to spices among them. The listed 7 common ground spices and their shelf life give an outlook on how best to store ground spices to maximize their potency.
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