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Spring Cleaning Spices

Spring Cleaning Spices

It’s Spring! Throw open your windows, change your duvet, beat those rugs (if you are 1930s housemaid, that is), and - above all - check on the state of your spice cupboard. If you store your spices correctly, then they can last for a significant period of time; and keeping a stash of whole spices which you grind when needed will help. Spices don’t actually go rancid and won’t make you ill, but they do lose their flavour. That’s because the essential oils that give spices their unique flavours break down over time, so they won’t add the same punch of flavour to your cooking that they once did. If you find that you have to double up on quantity or add extra salt to get the usual effect, then it’s time to let go and move on.

Other than the Best Buy date, there are two sure-fire ways to know if your spices have anything left to offer: colour and smell.

Colour: Spices are famous for their vibrant colours and have been used throughout history for makeup and paint pigment. In terms of cooking, once a spice has faded from a deep hue to a hospital wall pastel, it is usually a sign that your dish will be equally colourless. This is particularly noticeable with a spice like green cardamom, whose vivid green becomes a pale sage if left standing for too long.

Smell: As mentioned above the essential oils in spices are the key to their power, so if you can’t smell them then you are unlikely to be able to taste them either. There are some exceptions to this rule; mustard and onion seed both require heat to bring out their unique qualities, without it they have barely any scent or taste.

If you have checked your spices and are planning to throw away those that no longer look or smell as they should, don’t dispose of the containers that they were in! Rafi's is still heavily involved in the #plasticfreefriday campaign: so if you bring in your empty spice jars, tins, or pots, then we will be happy to sell you the exact quantity that you require. Of course, if you want to upgrade to a Spicebox of your very own, then who are we to stop you?!