Just as you register your puppy with the county and your kindergartener with the school district, now you can register your beloved bottles of dried spices and herbs online with Spice Islands Trading Company. The idea is that the company will notify you by e-mail when each particular bottle is nearing its expiration date.
Just as you register your puppy with the county and your kindergartener with the school district, now you can register your beloved bottles of dried spices and herbs online with Spice Islands Trading Company. The idea is that the company will notify you by e-mail when each particular bottle is nearing its expiration date. “All too often someone buys a spice for a special recipe, uses it once, puts it in the spice cabinet and ultimately forgets about it,” said Spice Islands’ brand manager Steve Gordon in a news release. “The Register Your Spice program changes all of that. It takes the guesswork out of knowing if the spices are still flavorful and encourages cooks to experiment with the spices that they already own.” In this brave new digital world, food manufacturers are searching desperately for ways to distinguish their products from those of competitors and build a relationship with consumers. This promotion (www.spiceislands.com) accomplishes both. It’s a novel idea, and it only works with Spice Islands spices. To register, cooks must submit the production code number on the bottle. McCormick, another purveyor of spices, has a “spice check challenge” on its Web site (www.mccormick.com). Enter the code on the bottom of a McCormick spice bottle and it will tell you immediately when the expiration date is. There’s no need to register. By the way, if you still have a tin of McCormick spices other than black pepper, the company wants you to know it’s at least 15 years old. R.I.P. The shelf life of dried spices and herbs varies by product and grind. According to McCormick, seasoning blends last one to two years. Dried herbs are good for one to three years. Ground spices are fresh for two to three years. Whole spices last two to three years. Extracts retain their flavor four years, except pure vanilla, which lasts indefinitely. Your grandmother assessed the freshness of dried spices and herbs by using her senses, and you can, too. Look for a vibrant color. If it has faded, chances are the flavor has, too. Smell the seasoning after you crush a little in your hand. If the aroma is weak, it has gone from Posh Spice to Scary Spice. Store seasonings away from heat, moisture and direct sunlight. Paprika, chili powder and other members of the red pepper family retain their color and shelf life longer when stored in the fridge. I have spices in my cabinet that I’m sure are 6 or 7 years old. The color and aroma are pretty strong, so I still use them. Register your spices online if you want, but it seems like a lot of work to me. I applaud people who find time in their busy schedules to do any kind of cooking. If the seasoning is a little weak, your family — especially your grandmother — will understand. Kathryn Rem can be reached at email@example.com.