How to store herbs and spices

Baked cod with rosemary ​We explain how best to store and use your herbs and spices, and how to swap fresh herbs for dried - plus, learn whether spices have health benefits.

Spices

  • Once opened, whole spices can be kept for up to four years in an airtight container. Ground spices last for six months to two years stored in the same way.
  • Fresh ginger and turmeric last around two weeks when kept in a perforated bag in the fridge.
  • Spice racks can be a lovely addition to a kitchen, but spices last longer stored in a cool dark place, such as a cupboard or pantry area.
  • Where possible, buy whole spices and grind them yourself using a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder.

Herbs

  • Dried or fresh? Fresh herbs are best added near the end of cooking, eg in a salad or basil on a pizza, whereas dried herbs may be more convenient for day-to-day use.
  • Generally, use one-and-a-half times the amount of fresh herbs as dried; the flavour of dried herbs is more intense.
  • Dried leafy herbs usually last between one and three years when stored in an airtight container.
  • Fresh herbs can be stored in bunches, in a jar, with the stems submerged in water. Enclose the jar in a sealable plastic bag and change the water often. They should last around a week this way. Alternatively, rinse herbs in water, wrap in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag in the fridge.
  • Supermarkets sell herb plants, or you could try growing your own from seed. Simply snip off as much as you need. Keep them on your windowsill or in a sheltered spot outside the kitchen door and they should last weeks or months – possibly even years in the case of perennials like thyme, mint and rosemary.

Do spices have health benefits?

Grilling salmon filletsSome people claim that cloves fight pain, cinnamon balances blood sugars, turmeric is anti-inflammatory and chilli increases metabolism.

However, there is no firm scientific evidence to support these beliefs; most studies showing health benefits involved larger amounts of a spice than are usually eaten.

Herbs and spices can provide a source of iron, though. A teaspoon or two of dried herbs, thyme for example, can provide around 15 per cent of a woman’s daily iron requirement, while a teaspoon of garam masala provides seven per cent.

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