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The Cookus Cupboard: Herbs and Spices

Sponsored by PCC Natural Markets, the largest consumer-owned natural foods cooperative in the United States. Nine locations in the Puget Sound area.

To get the full aromatic flavor for the herbs and spices they need to be as fresh as possible.  Fresh herbs release their essential oils when they are chopped or rubbed.  The tender green plants not only add flavor but the nutrients that other green vegetables have.  Most fresh herbs need to be added at the end of cooking time or used raw. 

Spices are usually the dried barks, buds and seeds of plants.  Buy them whole and grind them in a small electric coffee grinder before adding to food.  The flavor will be about three times as intense as pre-ground spices. Spices respond to heat and fat and is good to toast or sauté them to increase their potency. 

Buying spices in bulk is economical and less wasteful.  Often we don't get through a whole jar before it has lost its flavor.  Buying small amounts of the spices not used as much and larger amounts of the spices always grabbed is smart.

Fresh stuff:


Chop and add to soups, salads, salsas.  Use to marinate fish and meat.  Fish Tacos scream for cilantro.


Gotta keep the vampires away.  Plus it's required for Orange Glazed Salmon Kebobs, Carribean Lime Halibut, Hummus, endless...


Fresh leafy green herbs add antioxidants like vitamin a and c and folic acid to any dish.  Also - FLAVOR! Use leftover to make Parsley Pumpkin Seed Garnish


Keep colds and flus at bay by keeping your circulation hopping.  Grate some on your microplaner to make Teriyaki Sauce, Coconut Peanut Sauce, Sesame Chile Dressing, Homemade Curry Paste, Learn how to peel it.

Dry herbs and spices:

Bay leaves

Add to beans while cooking; also soups.  Adds strong herby flavor and aids in digestion.

Chili powder Principal for  the characteristic flavor of Southwest and Mexican cuisine.  Can be sweet, smoky or hot - get what you like! Three Sisters Stew - yes.


Nice in steel cut oats, oatmeal, cookies and pies.  Cinnamon and apples are happy together.  See Brown Sugar Apple Pie


A sweet spice that is one of the base spices for Indian and Thai curry dishes.


As Jane says, it's the multi-cultural spice.  Essential for Mexican flavor (make me some Chicken in Mole Sauce) as well as Indian and Thai curry.


Grate the whole nut for maximum flavor.  Baked goods like Pumpkin Pecan Muffins  or the surprising Ben's Friday Pancakes perk up with nutmeg.


Grows like a weed so if you have outdoor space, plant it.  This herb gives the characteristic Italian flavor to dishes.

Sea Salt

We have a whole video about this with brand names and everything.  Watch it!


This will dye your hands and clothes yellow.  It is also the third essential spice for curry dishes (cumin and coriander are the other two).  Noted for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Whole black pepper

Grind whole peppercorns for the real deal.  Try not to spill them.  Then again, Prince Charming may be waiting to sweep them up...


If you  buy herbs and spices dried or pre-ground be sure to date the package.  Throw them out and replace them after 6-12 months as they will have little flavor left.  Whole spices will keep for well over a year.  Store all dry herbs and spices away from heat and light in sealed containers.

Store fresh herbs by nipping off the ends and slipping the bunch in a jar of water.  Cover loosely with a plastic bag and store in the refrigerator.  Will keep this way for 7-10 days.


Sarah Kingston
Great breakdown of the essentials! I also always keep cardamom seeds, and sometimes pods. Cardamom is a wonderful addition to curries, and were there's curry, there's rice, so the next morning, I love to make rice pudding flavored with a little cardamom and cinnamon. It's very fragrant.
December 3, 2009, 5:51 am

Jess Stahle
I love the tip for storing fresh herbs! My favorite spice is really a spice mix. I love a good red curry paste. I love the ease of chopping up whatever veg is in the fridge, mixing up coconut milk and the curry paste with some tamari and brown sugar and then kicking back. So good!
December 3, 2009, 12:07 pm

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