Learning about the best sources and purchasing a quality product is paramount when learning to cook well with spices. Would you prefer to make a fruit salad with moldy fruit? Or use rancid butter on freshly baked bread? Of course not. Similarly, you should aim for the best quality spices and herbs for many reasons mentioned below.
Let’s focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly facts about buying spices.
Rules for Buying Spices
There are several rules on how you should buy spices. If you looking for mixed spice for your dish and don’t know how to choose one, then you are in the right place. In this article, we will share our purchasing tips that will help you in stocking your pantries with the best quality products.
Stay Far Away From Typical Grocery Store Spices
Products on the shelves of an average grocery store may have been sitting there for a year or more and before that, they probably sat in the warehouse for months before that. Since the average shelf life of ground spices is around 7 to 8 months, chances are you are buying stale spices.
Also, there is a high chance that the spices are made with low-quality materials and contain nasty contaminants.
Purchase Whole Spices
The best way to maximize the potency of spices is by buying them whole and grinding them yourself. Whole spices stay fresher for a long period of time. Since the shelf life of ground spices is low, chances are spices in your pantry are already past their prime.
When you buy ground spices, you are not fully aware of all the ingredients used to make it, whereas, when you purchase whole spices, you know exactly what you are getting.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the FDA regulations do not require companies to list these add-in ingredients.
Buy The Best Possible Spices You Can Afford
There is a reason why cheap spicesare cheap. As per the health regulation, it is not possible to grow, harvest, and process crops that are totally free from natural defects.
What are these defects? Well, there are quite a few of them such as mold, dead insects, rat hairs, strings, wire, and many other foreign matters. Now, you must be thinking, how much of these foreign matters is in your ground spices? It is shocking, but almost 20% of these foreign matters are present in your ground spices, which is considered acceptable
So How To Buy Authentic Spices?
Ethnic markets often have good quality whole spices at an affordable rate. They are selling spices that are used regularly and often re-stock much faster compared to an average grocery store where spices spent more time sitting on a shelf than your kitchen. Yes, it is possible that some ethnic shops can sell poor quality spices, but you can always talk to the staff. Plus, you can smell the spices before you buy them. The safest option is to buy a small number of spices and try them at home to see if you like them or not.
Buy from a local merchant. These spices shops usually guarantee good quality and freshness. The best part is, you can chat with the staff about how to use these products into your cooking to get the most out of the spices.
If you fail to find a local merchant, you can also consider purchasing spices online from a reliable producer of whole spices. There are many options on the internet, which makes it easy to choose.
Avoid gourmet shops that sell regular spices at a high price. If you have ever visited a local ethnic market or a specialty spice merchant, you will be able to identify the frauds with your eyes and nose. Most spices are incredibly pungent, and they should never smell musty. So, look for a local merchant to find the best quality of spices.
Buy Small Amounts Of Spices At A Time
People often make this mistake, they buy spices in bulk. When spices are not used after 6-7 months, they go stale and lose their potency. Unless you are a very a chef or a very active cook and have heavy-hand when it comes to spices.
Remember, when you buy good quality spices, don’t need to use as much for cooking because they are more potent than standard spices that are sold at a grocery store.
Final Thought: When You Can, Grow Your Own
The best solution for getting dried herbs is to grow your own or buy from someone who has their own garden. Hang bundles of fresh herbs upside down and leave them to dry. Fill the mason jar with their fragrant leaves. If stored properly these herbs can last all winter.