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All things Spicy – Including Unusual Uses for Spices

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We often forget that spices are good for more than enhancing flavour of our favourite dishes. Historically, spices have been used in perfumes, aromatherapy, natural remedies, embalming and even weapons (think pepper spray).

Spices, spice seeds, and herbs are employed to impart flavour and aroma to foods. In the small quantities used to prepare culinary dishes, they have little nutritional value, but they stimulate the appetite, add enjoyment of food, and enhance flavours.

So, while your spices won’t necessarily go bad or become inedible, they do lose their potency after some time.

Can Spices go Bad?

It’s rare, if not impossible, for a spice to go “bad.” The biggest threat of time is that it causes spices to lose potency and flavour.

The longer spices exist, the less flavourful they are. Once you buy spices, they will lose flavour (whether or not they’re ground). You shouldn’t keep ground spices for more than three months and whole spices for more than eight to ten.

Properly stored, ground turmeric will generally stay at best quality for about 3 to 4 years. No, commercially packaged ground turmeric does not spoil, but it will start to lose potency over time and not flavour food as intended – the storage time shown is for best quality only.

Commercially packaged ground paprika does not spoil, but it will start to lose potency over time and not flavour food as intended – the storage time shown is for best quality only.

Both ground cumin and cumin seed can last a good 3-4 years in your kitchen cupboard.

Ground cinnamon that’s three years old will not carry as much flavour as cinnamon that’s only three months old.

Dried ground herbs like basil, parsley, and oregano last for 2-3 years. If they are dried and stored in their natural, whole form (e.g., basil or bay leaves), then they should last a little longer, about 3-4 years. Most seeds like anise seeds have a shelf life of 4 years.

Unusual Use of Spices

You already know the value of spices for giving the dishes you love that perfect savoury or sweet taste, but you may not know that many of the spices found in your spice rack are good for more than just seasoning foods.

In fact, they’re good for many things that have nothing to do with food. We’ve rounded up a few unusual uses for the spices in your kitchen.

Unusual Use of Spices

Stop Garden Invaders with Cayenne. If aphids are ruining your roses, mix a teaspoon of cayenne with a dash of liquid dish soap in a plastic spray bottle, and fill the rest with water. Just shake and lightly mist plant leaves and the surrounding soil. Unwanted visitors will get the message.

Repel Cockroaches with Bay Leaves. The leaves of the bay laurel tree are prized for the flavour they add to stews and rice dishes, but they have a hidden talent for getting rid of cockroaches at home. Bay leaves won’t kill the creepy crawlers, but they will send them running in the opposite direction—out of your house. Place dried bay leaves where cockroaches hide—in dark corners, the backs of cabinets, and any cracks you find in baseboards and floorboards—and you’ll be one step closer to a pest-free home.

Glue with Garlic. Sure, everyone knows garlic is good for keeping vampires at bay, but did you know fresh garlic juice has adhesive properties as well? It won’t bond heavy objects, but it works well on small things, such as items made of fragile glass or delicate crystal. Squeeze the juice from a raw garlic bulb and use it as you would glue to mend the broken pieces of a cherished figurine.

Drive Away Mice with Mint. A fragrant sprig of mint adds flavourful flair to pesto, but did you know that it’s also an affordable mouse repellent? Mice can’t stand mint—in fact, they’ll do anything to avoid it. Place dried mint or peppermint oil in foundation gaps and anywhere else you suspect mice may be able to enter your home. Sprinkle it in the corners of garages and storage sheds to keep mice from setting up shop where they’re not wanted.

So, when we get back to using spices in the normal way – in our food – we also should be careful when our family and friends don’t share our palate. Some people like it hot and spicy and others simply don’t.

Quick Ways to Tone Down a Dish That’s Too Spicy

Once we get back to using our spices for cooking, we also should be careful when our family and friends don’t share our palate. Some people like it hot and spicy and others simply don’t.

  • Add more ingredients to dilute the spiciness. The easiest way to tone down a dish that’s too spicy is to add more ingredients to lessen the proportion of the spicy element. …
  • Add dairy. Plain Yoghurt is great.
  • Add acid. A squeeze of lemon juice of some vinegar?
  • Add a sweetener.  How about some honey?
  • Serve with bland, starchy foods. Well, we know all about rice, breads and potatoes!

At Household Plastic we stock a variety of spice containers, from single bottles to larger trays to keep spices fresh and convenient.

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