Spices and herbs are the things that give the greatest nuances in flavor to foods, and without spices and herbs it would be a dull kitchen indeed. A kitchen spice, generally speaking, is a dried seed, bark, or root. The best-known spices include peppercorns, coriander seeds, ginger root, and the bark of the cinnamon tree.
Herbs include thyme, bay leaf, parsley, tarragon, and dill. All herbs are best when they are fresh, but dried herbs will, and in the vast majority of cases must, do. Two of the most essential herbs are thyme and bay leaf, the “foundation” herbs of French cookery.
Dried spices and dried herbs age. Consequently, most of them should not be kept on the spice shelf for more than a year or so. Generally speaking, the only way to tell the age of a spice is by its color. A spice like paprika or cayenne pepper is bright red when it is freshest. Later it takes on a dull and brownish look. Green herbs are generally a brilliant green when freshly dried and then they too take on a dullish cast.
Both herbs and spices should be kept in tightly sealed glass jars. They should also be kept away from direct sunlight and heat. Do not keep them over the stove.
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