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Buying, Using And Storing Herbs: 4 Rules To Follow

Herbs and spices have a prominent position on my Anti-Inflammatory Diet Pyramid because these culinary staples offer not only flavor enhancement to foods, but some are also healthful compounds that can both lower disease risk and alleviate symptoms of existing health concerns.

When it comes to herbs and spices (herbs are typically the leafy, green portions of a plant, while spices are derived from other parts including seeds, berries, fruits, bark and roots), knowing how to buy and store them can help keep them fresher, longer. Use these tips: 

  1. Fresh is best when it comes to flavor. Growing your own herbs is not only cost effective, but offers up freshness to every meal. Even if you have no room for a vegetable garden, a few pots in a sunny window can produce a handful of herbs for you to use. If you simply can't grow them, take advantage of the fresh herbs that are now widely available in the produce section of most supermarkets and natural food stores.
  2. Dried herbs often suffer from muted flavors because the essential oils have volatized away. Two ways to encourage the flavor to return - crush with your fingers or a mortar and pestle just before cooking to release the oils that remain. You can also briefly sauté them with olive oil on low heat.
  3. If you do use dried herbs and spices, store them in tightly covered containers away from light, heat and moisture. Don't sprinkle from a container into a steaming pot - the steam will enter the container and degrade the spice over time. Instead, shake into your palm, away from the steam, before adding to the dish.
  4. Generally speaking, dried, ground herbs and spices are typically good for up to six months.