I am the poster child for what not to do when it comes to keeping your hard-grown (or hard-bought) spices fresh. I chronically leave them open, out on my sunny countertop, and the cupboard I keep them in is directly above my stovetop, and some I keep on a small shelf EVEN CLOSER to my stovetop. I am really shitty at spice storage. Oh, and it’s all thrown together with absolutely no organization. And I have stuff that’s been here since before my fiancé moved in…maybe four years old?
The good news is that no herb or spice truly “goes bad,” they simply fade away. The parsley I have had for four years (but don’t really ever use) is a sad pale ghost of what fresh parsley looks and smells like. Whole spices like cloves or sticks of cinnamon last eons longer than ground ones. Smell it and give it a taste, if it smells like nothing and tastes like air, it might be time to replace it.
Sunlight and air are the enemy of the spice. Keeping them in a cool, dark place will extend their shelf life as well. A cupboard not directly over the stove (exactly like where I keep mine!) is wisest. If moisture somehow gets into your spices, this is probably the one and only time your spice can “go bad” because it’s rotting. Nice job! This is why you’re not supposed to pour your spices directly into cooking food, you risk steam and whatever else getting into your spice container… I do it anyway. Because I’m shitty with spice storage.
When I toss out a spice, I hold onto the container and wash it out well. Then I’ll either use it to store homegrown spices in or if I buy bulk I’ll keep a small portion in it so I’m not toting a giant container around when I cook. Because the one thing I love more than buying in bulk is recycling containers. NO, I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM.
The Mrs. Fields page has an excellent list of things to do to keep your spice-y ass flowing. (I will be implementing all of these today because my spice situation is a hot mess)
Eat up and season responsibly!