Definitions of herbs and spices vary somewhat but can be identified as follows:
Herbs are the aromatic leaves of plants are leaves of low-growing shrubs. Examples are parsley, chives, marjoram, thyme, basil, caraway, dill, oregano, rosemary, savory, sage and celery leaves. These can be used fresh or dried. Dried forms may be whole, crushed, or ground. Many herbs can be grown in the United States in or out of doors.
Spices come from the bark (cinnamon), root (ginger, onion, garlic), buds (cloves, saffron), seeds (yellow mustard, poppy, sesame), berry (black pepper), or the fruit (allspice, paprika) of tropical plants and trees.
Many dehydrated vegetable seasonings are available. These include onion, garlic, sweet peppers, mint, mixed vegetables, and freeze-dried chives and shallots.
Condiments are usually a combination of herbs and spices blended in a liquid form. Examples are prepared mustard, catsup, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco sauce, and many of the steak sauces and specialty vinegars. Many of these contain sodium.
Seasoning blends are mixtures of spices and herbs. Check spice companies for exact mixt ures. Some examples of seasoning blends are:
Whole herbs and spices last much longer than crushed or ground forms. Many consumers prefer to buy the whole form and crush or grind as needed for greater freshness. Herbs and spices can be crushed with a mortar and pestle, by using a rolling pin with spices between two cloths, or by using the back of a spoon in a cup.
Check ground or crushed herbs and spices for freshness at least once a year. If no aroma is detected after crushing, the seasoning needs to be replaced. Mustard seed and poppy seed aromas will be difficult to detect. Buying the smaller size instead of the economy size container will save money if the large package is not used while it is still fresh. ****See tip section****
Store away from moisture. Dampness causes caking and a loss of quality.
Store in tightly covered, air tight container.
Use clean, dry spoons for measuring.
Store in a cool place.
Do not store in a window or in sunlight, or near heat sources such as the cooking areas or the dishwasher.
In hot climates, store spices such as paprika, red pepper, and chili powder in the refrigerator to maintain quality.
Storage Life of Herbs and Spices:
Seasoning Storage Time
Whole 2-5 years
Ground Spices 6 months-2 years
Leafy Herbs 3 months-2 years
Dehydrated Vegetables 6 months