Here I am in my very first grown-up kitchen, making a not very grown-up face at the photographer (check out those eyebrows!) Location: Berkeley, California. Circa: many, many eyebrow waxings ago!). Well, I recently needed a dried herb I rarely use: summer savory. I happen to have two five-year-old spice carousels that I love and they came with spices and herbs, but summer savory was not one of them. However, the top shelf of my spice cabinet holds an abundance of rarely touched jars and tin cans, so I climbed up there and voila! I found a little tin of savory, several decades old, from the Berkeley Co-op.
I’ve read that you’re supposed to replace your spices and herbs after six months because they lose potency. Six months or forty years–what’s the difference? I sniffed and tasted the savory, and I have to admit that it tasted like dust, so out it went. (I wish now that I’d kept the tin. A collector’s item). The savory started me wondering about the spices and herbs from my aging carousels. I use them all the time. Of course, my favorites have been replaced often (Italian herbs, basil, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, chives, rosemary, dill, etc) but the ones I use infrequently (not a big tarragon fan) have been there a while. I tasted it and it still tastes enough like tarragon for me to keep it around another few years. Who really replaces their seasonings all that often? Do you? I think this “every six months” thing was made up by the spice companies. But I guess forty years was pushing my luck.
As a “safe food neurotic”, I love the StillTasty website. It tells you how long you can keep food and it lists everything. (Summer savory: one-three years.) I’d always heard you could keep Worcestershire sauce forever, but it’s only three years, according to this site. Two years if open. I’ve had a false sense of security about that stuff for a long time!
How about you? What’s the oldest food item in your kitchen? I promise not to tell.