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Happy Herbal New Year! I have a confession to make to the Editor in Chief, K.C. Compton. KC—I, too, have spices that were gifted to me or purchased by me that I haven't used yet! They include saffron!
Must be something about those magic threads that sends terror through us both!
Herbs and spices I've purchased from vacations long ago.
Photo by Nancy Heraud
The spices on the left were purchased in the Antilles by friends. They include two types of curry, one called Columbo after the capital of Sri Lanka. Colombo powder is a French West Indies curry powder—a mixture of cumin, coriander, brown mustard, Malabar black pepper, cloves, fenugreek and turmeric. The package also contained cinnamon, saffron, pepper, ginger and vanilla. They have remained intact for a number of years. Haven't a clue how many! I found a Chicken Columbo with Purple Jasmine Rice recipe from Martha Stewart that I'm going to try with my Columbo powder.
I purchased the small box on the right in 2006 at El Gato Negro in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
I visited El Gato Negro in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Photo by Nancy Heraud
The shop is very old fashioned, like a soda fountain in the United States around the turn of the last century. Besides selling herbs and spices, they serve coffee, tea and sandwiches. The box has kept the spices in very good condition. It contains mustard, sweet red pepper, black pepper, curry, cumin and bouquet garni. The Herbal Husband wants to keep it as a souvenir! I guess I will just have to travel back to Buenos Aires to get another box some day!
We started by taking everything out of the cabinet and seeing what we had. We had a lot of old herbs and spices.
If you aren't reusing herbs and spices within a year, rethink how much you buy.
Photo by Nancy Heraud
We actually had some tins and jars that were under $1! They must be from the 70s! Well, we recycled the nonsmelling and bad smelling herbs and spices and put new labels on some of the Herbal Husband's purchases from Peru. It still looks like a lot, but we got some newer herbs and spices into the cabinet that were on the kitchen counter. The big difference is that I have made lists of what is on each shelf so we will know what we have, hopefully!
Some of my favorite herb mixes come from The Village Herb Shop in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, The Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, and Frawley's Fine Herbery in Midland, Michigan. One of my favorite books about making your own herb mixes is from Jim Long called Great Herb Mixes You Can Make.
We are really fortunate to have a Penzey's spice store here in Pittsburgh. I really like them because they have small sizes of herbs and spices that you can try and you don't have to spend a fortune to try something new. This information is from Penzey's informative catalog. "Buy no more than a one year's supply of herbs or ground spices, and a one-two year supply of whole spices. When in doubt about a spice, just smell it. If it smells strong and spicy, use it. If not, toss it. Do not store your spices near a heat source: on top of the stove, dishwasher, refrigerator or microwave or near the sink or a heating vent. The best way to avoid light is to put the spices inside a cupboard or a drawer. If an open spice rack is being used, make sure to place it out of direct sunlight. If you like to store your spices in the refrigerator or freezer, keep small quantities out in the kitchen and larger backup supplies in the refrigerator or freezer." I would also suggest dating your herbs and spices when you bring them home from the store especially those big containers. If you aren't using them within a year, rethink how much you need and possibly buy less. McCormick has an expiration date on the bottom of their jars. It doesn't seem to stop me from keeping one or two that may still be good!
So here is a new resolution: I resolve to use more of my new herbs and spices and to share my recipes with you. I hope that my resolution has given you a reason to buy new herbs and spices. Treat yourself. I always love my herbal retail experiences!
If you have herb questions, please feel free to leave me a comment or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.