My stash of herbs and spices torments me with its perpetual disorder. How about yours? Although I’ve struggled with a messy spice shelf for years, the problem has suddenly taken on a life of its own. With all the experimenting I’ve been doing lately, my collection has exploded from about 25 herbs and spices to more than 50 varieties. Help!
Fortunately, while I may not be an organizational genius, I am a researching kind of person, and that has helped me uncover some excellent ideas, even if they aren’t mine. If you’re curious about what I learned, read on.
Before I get started, though, do you know the difference between an herb and a spice? If not, don’t worry. People use the terms interchangeably all the time, but from now on, you’ll be the smarty-pants who says, “Oh, I don’t mean to be impertinent, but basil cannot accurately be described as a ‘spice.’ ‘Herb’ would be a more accurate descriptor.”
Then again, if you say that out loud, you could lose your friends. So just keep it to yourself.
Spices come from the seeds, bark, roots, flowers, or fruit of a plant. Examples include cinnamon (bark), mustard seeds, cardamom, ginger (root), cumin (seed), and coriander (seed).
Herbs, on the other hand, come from the leaves of non-woody plants. Think of basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and cilantro as examples. You can use herbs fresh or dried.
Interestingly, a single plant can sometimes provide both a spice and an herb. Coriander, for example, is the seed of cilantro.
Now you know.
Next, when it comes to storing dried herbs and spices, a few rules apply:
1. Avoid heat. This means that keeping them in a cabinet over or right next to your stove is ill-advised. Try finding a place for them just a couple of feet away.
2. Avoid light. In other words, don’t store them on your countertop or on the wall in your kitchen.
3. Avoid moisture. Again, stay away from the stove and its excessive steam. You should also never shake your seasonings directly from the bottle into a cooking dish. Doing so will expose that herb or spice to a tremendous amount of moisture, which could promote mold growth. Instead, shake it into your palm (away from the stove) before adding it to the pot.
4. Avoid plastic. Plastic is too porous and will allow moisture to seep in and mold to grow.
Personally, I’ve been breaking most of these rules. I keep my herbs and spices in a cabinet next to the stove, and many of them are in plastic zippy bags. That means I strike out on moisture, heat, and plastic. Oops.
No longer! I have been searching for a good solution to my clutter, and I have decided on a magnetic system. Although there are many versions out there, this one appeals to me because it is fully customizable and reasonably priced. You can choose from several different container styles and sizes. Plus, it seems to be a Mom-and-Pop business, and I like supporting those. Once my little magnetic tins arrive, I’ll transfer everything, then install them alphabetically on one of my pantry’s walls. Suddenly, I will be able to see all 50+ in a single glance. Oh, happy day!
What about you? Do you have a better idea? How does your system work?
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