The Herb and Spice Graveyard

My wife decided that she wanted to make potato salad for Memorial Day.  While she was out picking up an order at Target, she texted me and said she thought dill would make a nice addition this time and asked me to check if we had any.  I told her I thought so, but went to the cabinet to check and found our trusty bottle of dill waiting there for us.  I love the smell of dill so before I texted her back, I stopped and opened the bottle to take a whiff and discovered it smelled like….. nothing!  Was my nose broken?

I looked at it more closely and discovered that the vibrant green color had faded to something similar in color to week old cut grass clippings.  I then dared to flip the bottle over and that’s when the horror began to unfold – I discovered our dill had died.  Not recently either – TEN years ago!!  I texted Lori back with the news and said you’d better bring home a new one.  I also said how the heck (I might have used a word other than heck actually) do we have dill that expired ten years ago??  She texted back that she’d get a new one and that she couldn’t stop laughing!

Come what may, I decided it was time to see what other dark secrets were lurking in our spice rack.  Let’s take a moment to remember the dill and some of our other lost herb and spice friends.

Dear friend dill weed, you put us in quite a pickle.  Once a wave of flavor, now you’d barely make a ripple.  Our fault entirely for going full throttle when we should have paused and read the date on your bottle.  We finally did so a decade too late, but don’t feel too bad – we still think you’re great!

Here lie the coarse ground black pepper twins, now departed. One of you mostly used, the other barely started. We thought you were so great that we purchased you twice, but clearly our lives couldn’t handle that much spice! 2012 took one of you and 16 the other, next time we’ll finish one before we buy another.

Meet cream of tartar, neither herb nor spice. You make snickerdoodles chewy and meringue look nice. 2012 brought your end with some sighs, we didn’t even notice though it was right before our eyes.

Crushed red pepper you are so hot and spicy, but in 2010 you turned a bit icy.   We don’t use you often, but that’s no excuse.  We should have known you were beyond your date of best use!

Herbes de Provence what an awesome blend, but I should have retired you in 2012 my old friend.  That’s what the date on your bottle did say, but you’re so darned delicious that I’ll replace you one day!

Chinese five spice powder, you taste so fine.  I read about you in a cooking magazine and then I made you mine.  There was no date on your bottle, but away you had to go because I brought you home to my bachelor pad which I gave up long ago!

Basil you’re an interesting one – not my favorite when you’re dry, but when fresh I’ll use a ton.  Still I have no excuse and it was plain to see that in 2011 I should have set you free.

I’ve definitely had a lot of fun writing epitaphs for our expired herbs and spices, but let’s get serious for a minute.  Let this post serve as a cautionary tale or a simple reminder – your choice – to go and check the expiration dates on your herbs and spices.  While I’m not aware of any harm that might come to you from using them, they will definitely bring harm to the food you are cooking by providing a dreadful lack of flavor. 

The expiration dates on the containers are there for a reason and we should pay attention to them.  Clearly, I have failed in this area with my oldest one being 11 years expired!  Some we don’t use as often as others and I use a lot of fresh herbs from my Aerogarden which means I use the dry ones less frequently, but that’s really no excuse not to check the dates from time to time.

Funny how Lori’s simple question about dill instantly inspired a whole blog entry idea for me.  You know what is even funnier?  The day after Memorial Day we were enjoying the rest of the potato salad with dinner and suddenly it occurred to me, she never did put the dill in! Maybe next year…

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