1. Whole spices and herbs maintain their freshness longer than ground ones.
2. Keep spices and herbs away from heat, moisture, and direct sunlight. Avoid storing spices and herbs over the stove or near a window.
3. Spices and herbs will keep for a long time if they are stored in airtight bottles. The shelf life of properly stored spices and herbs is approximately 4 years for whole spices, 2-3 years for ground spices and 1-3 years for leafy herbs, depending on the herb.
4. They don't spoil, but spices and herbs do lose their strength. Old and weak seasonings will not deliver the taste that they should.
5. There are three checks to use when verifying freshness: look, smell, and taste.
A visual check for color fading is a good indicator of flavor loss. Taste and smell your spices and herbs: if they don't taste or smell like much, they need to be replaced.
6. Don't sprinkle spices and herbs directly from the bottle over a steaming pot. Steam introduced into the bottle will hasten the loss of flavor and aroma. Steam will also result in caking of contents.
7. Make sure your measuring spoon is completely dry when you dip it into the bottle. Moisture introduced into the bottle will also result in caking and flavor loss.
8. Members of the red pepper family, including paprika and chili powder, will retain their color and remain fresher when stored in the refrigerator.
9. Replace bottle lids tightly immediately after use.
10. An inexpensive coffee grinder makes a great spice grinder for whole seeds, cloves, and cinnamon sticks--and it's faster than a mortar and pestle. Fresh-ground spices are especially pungent and flavorful.