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Flavouring the World, the FAQ about SPICES Ver. 1.1


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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Archive-name: food/spices
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Version: 1.1
URL: http://csgwww.uwaterloo.ca/~dmg/faqs/spices/index.html
Last-modified: Jun 25, 1997.

-----BEGIN PGP SIGNED MESSAGE-----


    Frequently Asked Questions about Spices Ver. 1.1 (Jun 25, 1997.)

   Changes since last version

   Last additions:

     * Patricia Rain address and email updated.

Contents

     * 1 Introduction
     * 2 Spices
          + 2.1 What are spices
          + 2.2 Why are spices so tasty?
          + 2.3 What is the difference between essential oils and
            oleoresins?
          + 2.4 Names of Spices
          + 2.5 What are some uses of spices (excluding the kitchen)
     * 3 Pepper
          + 3.1 What is black pepper?
          + 3.2 Where is pepper native from?
          + 3.3 Where the name pepper comes from
          + 3.4 What is green pepper?
          + 3.5 What is white pepper?
          + 3.6 What is pink pepper?
          + 3.7 Are there any differences between white and black
            pepper?
          + 3.8 Storage
     * 4 Cinnamon
          + 4.1 Where does Cinnamon come from?
     * 5 Vanilla
          + 5.1 Where does Vanilla come from?
          + 5.2 What is Vanillin?
          + 5.3 Products
               o 5.3.1 What is Vanilla Extract?
               o 5.3.2 How do I differentiate between real and unreal
                 vanilla extract?
               o 5.3.3 What is vanilla flavouring?
               o 5.3.4 What is vanilla tincture?
               o 5.3.5 What is concentrated vanilla extract and
                 concentrated vanilla flavouring?
               o 5.3.6 What is Vanilla Oleoresin?
               o 5.3.7 What is Vanilla Powder?
               o 5.3.8 What is Vanilla-Vanillin Extract Flavouring
                 and Powder?
               o 5.3.9 What is Perfumery Vanilla Tincture?
               o 5.3.10 What is Vanilla Absolute?
          + 5.4 Major types of Vanilla
               o 5.4.1 What are vanilla splits?
               o 5.4.2 What are vanilla cuts?
               o 5.4.3 What is Mexican Vanilla?
               o 5.4.4 What is Bourbon vanilla?
               o 5.4.5 What is Indonesian vanilla?
               o 5.4.6 What is South American or West Indian Vanilla?
               o 5.4.7 What is Tahiti vanilla?
               o 5.4.8 What is Vanillons (Guadeloupe vanilla or
                 Antilles vanilla)?
               o 5.4.9 Is it safe to buy Mexican vanilla?
          + 5.5 For the do-it-yourselfer
               o 5.5.1 How do I prepare Vanilla Extract?
               o 5.5.2 How do I prepare vanilla sugar?
               o 5.5.3 How do I store my cured vanilla beans?
               o 5.5.4 How do I use vanilla in my kitchen?
          + 5.6 Further information
     * 6 Saffron
          + 6.1 What is saffron?
          + 6.2 Why is saffron so expensive?
          + 6.3 Why should I not use wooden utensils to work with
            saffron?
          + 6.4 What is Mexican saffron?
          + 6.5 How do I store saffron?
          + 6.6 Where is saffron native from?
          + 6.7 Further information
     * 7 What is coriander/cilantro/Chinese parsley?
          + 7.1 Where does the name coriander comes from?
          + 7.2 How do I store fresh cilantro?
     * 8 Other Spices
          + 8.1 Is there any substitute to coconut milk?
     * 9 Storing Spices
          + 9.1 Should I store my spices in the fridge?
          + 9.2 Bay leaves
          + 9.3 Ground spices
     * 10 Others
          + 10.1 Disclaimer
          + 10.2 List of Contributors
     * References

1 Introduction

   This FAQ describes basic facts about spices: their nature, storage,
   and use.

   This FAQ is posted montly to the following newsgroups:
   rec.food.cooking, rec.food.veg, rec.food.preserving, rec.answers, and
   news.answers.

   This FAQ is (C) Copyright 1995 Daniel M. Germán. This text, in whole
   or in part, may not be sold in any medium, including, but not limited
   to electronic, CD-ROM, or published in print, without the explicit,
   written permission of Daniel M. Germán. This FAQ can be reproduced and
   distributed electronically or in hardcopy as long as this is done for
   free and it is kept intact.

   If you have any comments about this document, please direct them to
   dmg@csg.uwaterloo.ca.

   The hypertext version of this FAQ is available at:

     http://csgwww.uwaterloo.cahttp://csgwww.uwaterloo.ca/~dmg/f
     aqs/spices/

2 Spices

2.1 What are spices

   Spices are the various strongly flavoured or aromatic substances of
   vegetable origin, commonly used as condiments or employed for other
   purposes on account of their fragance and preservation qualities
   [1].

2.2 Why are spices so tasty?

   Spices have two main components [2]:

     * Volatile oils. Also known as essential oils, they are responsible
       for the characteristic aroma of spices.
     * Oleoresins, or non volatile extracts, which are responsible for
       the typical taste and flavour.

2.3 What is the difference between essential oils and oleoresins?

   By David Soknacki, from Econ Manufacturing:

     ``Essential oils are generally produced by injecting the spice bed
     with steam, and then separating the distillate into the essential
     oil and water. On the other hand oleoresins are produced by soaking
     spices in a solvent, whether a combination of ethanol and water in
     your example for vanilla, or hexane in the case of many of our
     spices. One of the final stages in processing is to remove the
     solvent to acceptable levels (35 ethanol for vanilla, but under
     25ppm for hexane in spices). What is left are all of the flavour
     components dissolved by the solvent. Companies decide between
     essential oils and oleoresins usually depending on the flavour
     profile they require for their finished product.'' 

2.4 Names of Spices

   The following table summarizes the common and scientific names of most
   popular spices and the part of the plant they come from.

 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- ---
Common Name Scientific Name Part of the plant
- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- --
- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- --
Allspice                Pimenta dioca               Berries

Anise                   Pimpinella aisum            Seed

Annato                  Bixa orellana               Seeds

Basil                   Ocimum basilicum            Leaves

Bay                     Laurus nobilis              Leaves

Caraway                 Carum carvi                 Seeds

Cardamon                Elettaria cardamomum        Seeds

Celery                  Apium graveolens            Seeds

Cayenne                 Capsicum annuum             Podlike berries

Chia                    Salvia columbariae          Seeds

Chile Pepper            Capsiums                    Berries

Cassia                  Cinnamomum cassia           Bark

Chives                  Allium schoenoprasum        Leaves

Chocolate               Theobroma cacao             Seeds

Cinnamon                Cinnamomum zeylanicum       Bark

cloves                  Syzygium aromaticum         Flower buds

Coffee                  Coffea arabica              Seeds

Coriander               Coriandrum sativum          Seeds

Cumin                   Cuminum cyminum             Seeds

Dill                    Anethum graveolens          Leaves seeds

Fennel                  Foeniculum vulgare          Seeds

Fenugreek               Trigonella foenumgraecum
Garlic                  Allium sativum              Bulb

Ginger                  Zaingiber offinale          Rhizomes

Horseradish             Armoracia rusticana         Roots

Mace                    Myristica fragrans          Seed coverings (arils)

Marjoram                Sweet marjoram              Leaves

Mint                    Mentha species              Seeds

Nutmeg                  Myristica fragrans          Peeled seeds

Onion                   Allium cepa                 Bulbs

Oregano                 Origanum vulgare            Leaves

Paprika                 Capsicum annuum             Fruit pods

Parsley                 Petroselinum crispum        Leaves

Pepper                  Piper nigrum                Buds

Pimiento                Capsicum annuum             Fruits

Poppy seed              Papaver somniferum          Seeds

Rosemary                Rosmarinus officialis       Leaves or flowers

Safflower               Carthamus tinctorius        Flowers

Saffron                 crocus sativus              Flowers stigmas

Sage                    salvia species              Leaves

Savory                  Satureja species            Leaves

Sesame                  Sesamum indicum             Seeds

Shallot                 Allium cepa                 Bulbs

Star Anise              Illicium verum              Unripe fruits

Tarragon                Artemisia dracunculus       Leaves

Thyme                   Thymus species              Leaves

Turmeric                Curcuma domestica           Rhizomes

Vainilla                Vanilla planifolia          Seed pods

- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- --

2.5 What are some uses of spices (excluding the kitchen)

   Some examples on the use of spices:

     * Antioxygenic properties. Some spices retard the oxydation of fat.
     * Preserving action. Some spices contain essential oils that are
       toxic to microorganisms [2]:
          + Cloves contain plenty of essential oil (15 to 20%); its main
            component --eugenol, 80 to 92%-- inhibits the growth of
            microorganisms.
          + At normal growth temperatures, the mustard's essential oil is
            toxic to microorganism.
     * Antimicrobial activity. Black pepper, garlic, cinnamon, nutmeg,
       cloves, ginger, cumin, and caraway amongst others, are used in
       India for correcting and a variety of intestinal disorders
       [2].
       In a study, Subrahmanyan, et.al [3] reported the
       susceptibilities of E. coli to garlic: at a concentration of 20
       mg/ml of garlic, the number of organisms per ml. were 17, 22, and
300 after 0, 6, and 24 hrs. respectively; for the same periods, at
       a concentration of 0 mg/ml, the results were: 17, 3600, and 16800.
     * Perfumery and cosmetics.
          + Oils from cardamon, cumin, celery, chive, juniper, and nutmeg
            are used in different types of perfume [2].
          + The oil of cinnamon, dill seed, fennel seed, and nutmeg are
            used in scenting soaps, dental preparations, hair lotions,
            and others [2].

3 Pepper

   [INLINE]

3.1 What is black pepper?

   Black pepper is the whole dried immature fruit of the Piper nigrum.

3.2 Where is pepper native from?

   It is native of the Western Ghats in India, where it is still
   restricted as a wild plant. Nowadays, it can also be found growing
   wild in north Burma and the hills of Assam.

3.3 Where the name pepper comes from

   It is believed that the name comes from the Sanskrit pippali, which
   was the name of the long pepper, P. longum, which is now never seen in
   Europe.

3.4 What is green pepper?

   It is unripe, but fully developed, pepper which is artificially dried
   or preserved in ``wet'' form, e.g. brine, vinegar, citric acid.

3.5 What is white pepper?

   [INLINE]

   According to Pruthi [2], there are several methods to prepare it:

    1. Water steeping and rotting technique
          + From ripening fresh berries. It is the oldest method. Fresh
            berries are harvested when one or two berries start turning
            yellow or red. There are submerged for several days, at the
            eleventh the skin is removed by hand or mechanical methods.
            The berries --without skin-- are washed and immerse in a
            bleaching solution. After 2 days, then they are washed and
            dried.
          + From dried berries. Pepper berries are dried for 7 to 10
            days, then submerged for one or two weeks. Again they are
            washed, bleached, washed and dried.
    2. Steaming. Ripening green berries are steamed for 10 to 15 minutes,
       then a machine removes the skin. Also, the berries are treated
       with a bleaching solution, then washed and dried.
    3. Decortication technique (also known as decorticated pepper) .
       Created by decortication machines that remove the skin of the
       dried black peppercorns.

3.6 What is pink pepper?

   Pink pepper is the berry from the Schinus terebinthifolius, a South
   American tree. They are midly toxic. [4]

3.7 Are there any differences between white and black pepper?

   The only significant difference between white and black pepper is in
   starch and fiber content. The belief that white pepper is milder in
   flavour than black pepper does not seem to be confirmed by the
   scientific data [2]. However, there are some differences in
   pungency --of black and white pepper-- due to geographical origin.

3.8 Storage

   Pepper can be washed and re-dried before grinding. Store away from
   sunlight at moderate temperatures and low humidity. Only ground pepper
   needs to be stored in sealed containers.

   Pepper loses more volatile oils the finer it is ground.

4 Cinnamon

   [INLINE]

   [INLINE]

   Dried bark of Cinnamomum verum (syn. C. zeylanicm).

4.1 Where does Cinnamon come from?

   It is indigenous in Sri Lanka, which still produces the largest
   quantity and best quality. Seychelles is the second largest producer.

5 Vanilla

   [INLINE]

   Vanilla is the fully grown fruit of the orchid Vanilla fragrans
   harvested before it is fully ripe; then it is fermented and cured. The
   fruits are usually referred to as vanilla beans [5]. Vanilla
   production is regulated by ISO standard 5565.

5.1 Where does Vanilla come from?

   Vanilla is native to Mexico, Guatemala and other parts of Central
   America. At the present time, it grows also in Madagascar, the
   Seychelles, Tahiti, Réunion and other tropical areas[4]. The first
   recorded use of the spice in European literature dates back to 1520,
   when Moctezuma II offered vanilla flavoured chocolate to Hernán
   Cortés. However, the use of tlilxochitl (Nahuatl for vanilla) is
   earlier documented in the precolumbian literature.

5.2 What is Vanillin?

   Vanillin is a crystalline phenolic aldehyde C_8H_8O_3 that is the
   chief fragrant component of vanilla and is used especially in
   flavouring and in perfumery [6].

   Vanillin can now be produced synthetically, and it is much cheaper
   than natural vanilla.

5.3 Products

  5.3.1 What is Vanilla Extract?

     Vanilla extract is obtained by macerating the cured beans in a
   solution of water and alcohol. It might contain sugar or glycerine as
   sweeteners or thickeners [5].

   Conventional vanilla extracts have a minimum ethanol content of 35%,
   and contain the soluble extractives from 1 part by weight of vanilla
   beans in 10 parts by volume of hydroalcoholic solution. [5].

  5.3.2 How do I differentiate between real and unreal vanilla extract?

   ``The two best indicators of pure vanilla extract are alcohol content
   and price. The alcohol content must be at least 35%; synthetics
   usually have no alcohol or at most, about 2%. Any purchases that cost
   less than US$25.00 a quart are most likely synthetic.''[7]

  5.3.3 What is vanilla flavouring?

     It is similar to vanilla extract (see 5.3.1) but contains less
   than 35% of ethanol per volume.

  5.3.4 What is vanilla tincture?

   It is used exclusively in pharmaceutical applications. It is prepared
   by maceration from 1 part of vanilla beans by weight to 10 parts of
   hydroalcoholic solution and contains added sugar. It differs from
   vanilla extract (see 5.3.1) by having at least a 38% ethanol
   content.

  5.3.5 What is concentrated vanilla extract and concentrated vanilla
  flavouring?

   They are prepared by removing the solvent from their regular
   counterparts (see 5.3.1, 5.3.3).

  5.3.6 What is Vanilla Oleoresin?

   It is a semi-solid concentrate obtained by removing the solvent from
   the vanilla extract. A solution of isopropanol is frequently used
   instead of ethanol for the maceration. Vanilla oleoresin has lost part
   of its aroma --hence its flavour-- during the removal of the solvent.

  5.3.7 What is Vanilla Powder?

     Powdered vanilla beans. It might be pure, but normally it is
   adulterated with vanilla oleoresin, sugar, food starch, or gum acacia.

  5.3.8 What is Vanilla-Vanillin Extract Flavouring and Powder?

   A combination of synthetic vanillin and vanilla oleoresin to create
   extract and flavouring (see 5.3.1, 5.3.3, 5.3.7).

  5.3.9 What is Perfumery Vanilla Tincture?

   Similar to vanilla extract (see 5.3.1) but prepared with perfumery
   alcohol, with near 90% ethanol content. It is not intended for
   consumption.

  5.3.10 What is Vanilla Absolute?

   It is the most concentrated form of vanilla. ``It is 7-13 times
   stronger than good-quality vanilla beans but it has less well-rounded
   character'' [5].

5.4 Major types of Vanilla

  5.4.1 What are vanilla splits?

   Whole bean that burst open during fermentation, and are frosted with
   vanillin crystals [8].

  5.4.2 What are vanilla cuts?

   Beans that have been cut into pieces to accelerate the curing process.
   This category might include small beans.

  5.4.3 What is Mexican Vanilla?

   It is supplied in 5 grades (or 7 if intermediate grades are included)
   of whole beans and in the form of cuts. The top grades of Mexican
   beans are rarely ``frosted'' with a surface coating of naturally
   exuded vanillin.[5]

  5.4.4 What is Bourbon vanilla?

   ``It has a deeper `body' flavour than Mexican vanilla, but less fine
   aroma'' [5]. It is produced in Madagascar, the Comoro Islands and
   Réunion.

  5.4.5 What is Indonesian vanilla?

   The main source of Indonesian vanilla is Java. ``Java vanilla
   possesses a deep, full-bodied flavour and is frequently used for
   blending with synthetic vanillin'' [5]

  5.4.6 What is South American or West Indian Vanilla?

   More similar in properties to Bourbon than to Mexican vanilla.

  5.4.7 What is Tahiti vanilla?

   It is obtained from V. tahitensis and ``possesses a characteristic
   aromatic odour and usually has a lower vanillin content than true
   vanilla.'' [5]. It generally has less flavour than true vanilla.

  5.4.8 What is Vanillons (Guadeloupe vanilla or Antilles vanilla)?

   It is obtained from V. pompona. ``Vanillons has a low vanillin content
   and possesses a characteristic floral aroma, bearing similarities to
   Tahiti vanilla'' [5]. It has a poor flavour and it is normally
   used in perfumery.

  5.4.9 Is it safe to buy Mexican vanilla?

   Mexican vanilla has one of the finest aromas, however, most of the
   vanilla extract sold in Mexico is artificial. In México there is
   almost a complete lack of enforcement of labeling laws for vanilla.
   Furthermore, nowhere in the world you can expect to buy a liter of
   real vanilla extract for a couple of dollars. As a good example of
   this kind of problems, I have seen turmeric being sold as saffron in a
   well known supermarket. So don't be cheap: if you want good vanilla,
   pay the price of getting it from a reliable source; if you care for
   price, use artificial vanilla.

5.5 For the do-it-yourselfer

  5.5.1 How do I prepare Vanilla Extract?

   Juan San Mames shared the following recipe [9]:

     Use one vanilla bean for every 120 ml. of any clear liquor (vodka
     preferably). With a knife, split the bean open (always put your
     finger behind the knife). If the bean is hard, just break it into
     pieces. Then put the bean in the liquor.

     Close the bottle and leave it for about two weeks or until the
     vanilla bean aroma begins to come through.

     When you use the extract, if you don't want the vanilla seeds to
     show with the ingredients, use a coffee filter. You can return the
     seeds to the bottle. If you make ice cream, you may want to show
     the seeds in the finished ice cream.

   Bruce Steinberg added [10]:

     You can shake the bottle several times a week to accelerate the
     extraction. Brandy may also be used for interesting variations.

   According to US regulations, 1 l. of vanilla extract must contain a
   minimum of 100 gr. of vanilla beans (I reckon that each regular size
   complete bean must weight between 3 and 5 gr.) of no more or 25%
   moisture content. Commercial extracts also include sugar and
   glycerine, to help to ``fix'' the aroma [5].

  5.5.2 How do I prepare vanilla sugar?

   Store 1 or 2 vanilla beans on an air-tight jar of granulated sugar.
   Allow one month for the flavour to permeate. If the beans are always
   topped with sugar, the beans last for years. Use this sugar in sweet
   dishes.[4]

   Storage temperature can be raised to 15-21 Celsius without detriment
   to the flavour quality of the beans.[5]

  5.5.3 How do I store my cured vanilla beans?

   Vanilla beans should be stored in open containers at a temperature of
   about 10 C at a low humidity [11]

  5.5.4 How do I use vanilla in my kitchen?

   Use vanilla sugar to give a nice flavour to your drinks. It also
   enhances the flavour of chocolate [4].

   Almost any sweet dish will improve its flavour with a touch of vanilla
   extract.

5.6 Further information

   An excellent treatment of the topic can be found at [5].

   The ``Vanilla Cookbook'' by Patricia Rain is a complete book from a
   more practical point of view. This book is out of print and a new
   edition is being written. You can contact her to get a notice whenever
   the new edition of the book is available.

     Patricia Rain's "The Vanilla Cookbook" covers the use of vanilla
     from basic extracts through liqueurs, desserts, souffles, and
     baking of all kinds, to full-tilt savoury recipes such as
     "Seafood-Pecan Salad with Vanilla Mayonnaise", "Rice with Coconut,
     Vanilla, Dates, and Lemon" and "Fresh Tuna Grenobleoise with
     Vanilla". [10].

   The Patricia Rain's Vanilla Information Hotline is available at (408)
   476-9111 --fax (408) 476-9112-- for any vanilla questions, to request
   a basic vanilla FAQ (by fax or snail mail), or to get further info on
   ordering Tahitian and Bourbon beans, extracts.

6 Saffron

6.1 What is saffron?

   Saffron is the dried stigmas of the crocus sativus. It is of orange
   color and has a strong perfume and a bitter taste. Saffron production
   is regulated by ISO with standard 3632.

6.2 Why is saffron so expensive?

   Every plant has on average 3 flowers; each flower only 3 stigmas. It
   takes between 200,000 and 300,000 stigmas to make 1 kg. of saffron
   [4]. Pure saffron, however, has a strong flavour and a pinch is
   sufficient for most dishes.

   Avoid buying powdered saffron, it might be adulterated.

6.3 Why should I not use wooden utensils to work with saffron?

   Wood has an absorbing property. Since saffron is expensive you don't
   want to waste it.

6.4 What is Mexican saffron?

   Mexican saffron is the flower of Carthamus tinctorius L. which is an
   annual herb grown in the temperate regions of Central México. Its
   quality is quite inferior to real saffron but it has similar coloring
   properties. It is far cheaper.

6.5 How do I store saffron?

   Saffron is sensitive to light and moisture. Keep it in a dark
   container away from sunlight. It will last for years.

6.6 Where is saffron native from?

   It is believed that it is native of Asia Minor.

6.7 Further information

   Vanilla, Saffron Imports prints a pamphlet called Cooking and & with
   Saffron, they also have a WWW page ( http://www.saffron.com/ )
   with some facts about saffron, including a photospectrometry report.
   They can be reached at ``Vanilla Saffron Imports, 949 Valencia Street,
   San Francisco, CA 94110''.

7 What is coriander/cilantro/Chinese parsley?

   Coriander is the common name for coriandrum sativum (fam.
   umbelliferae). It is an annual plant similar to parsley. It has erect,
   furrowed solid, branched stems. The alternate bright green leaves are
   pinnate or bipinnate, the lower ones are broader leaflets than the
   upper ones, which are finely divided. Coriander seeds are cream to
   brown spheres of 1-1.5 mm. in diameter. In the culinary argot, it is
   common to refer to the plant as cilantro and to the seeds as
   coriander.

7.1 Where does the name coriander comes from?

   "There is uncertainty about the [source of the ]generic name,
   Coriandrum; it might be derived from the Greek word "koris" (= bug), a
   reference perhaps to the plant's smell and the apperance of the
   fruits.'' [12]

7.2 How do I store fresh cilantro?

   Different people have suggested different methods. Here is a list of
   the most common ones.

     * ``bouquet'' in the fridge. Cover loosely with plastic.
     * ``bouquet'' in the window.
     * ``airtight container'' in the fridge.
     * ``wrapping'' in damp towels, inside a plastic bag.

   Sophie Laplante (sophie@cs.uchicago.edu) performed some experiments on
   these different methods for storing cilantro. She found that the
   airtight container seemed to keep it edible[sic] for the longest time
   (3 weeks).

8 Other Spices

8.1 Is there any substitute to coconut milk?

   You can probably find coconut milk in an Asian store, either in liquid
   or powdered form. If you have no other choice, you can follow this
   recipe [13]:

     * Take a handful of shredded coconut and pack it in the bottom of a
       bowl.
     * Pour boiling (and I mean really boiling) water just to cover the
       packed coconut and let stand until the water is cool.
     * Strain the coconut shreds and press them in the bottom of the
       strainer get as much liquid as possible.

     The liquid is very close to coconut milk and will impart the flavor
     very well. 

9 Storing Spices

3 factors affect the quality of stored spices:

     * Light. Spices containing color pigments (such as capsicums,
       saffron, green cardamoms, turmeric) and chorophyll (dryed herbs)
       need protection from light. For instance, the color of capsicums
       is mostly due to carotenoids, which are photosensitive and oxidate
       in the presence of light.
     * Humidity. Since most spices are sold dry, they tend to attract
       water and mold.
     * Oxygen. The essential oil of spices oxydates in the presence of
       atmospheric oxygen, specially at high temperatures. However, most
       whole spices are protected by a pericarp and their natural
       antioxidants which they contain.

   Torricelli (cited in [2]), studied the loss of essential oil in
   the following spices: anise, cardamon, coriander, fennel, cumin, sweet
   marjoram, mace, cloves, pepper, allspice, and cinnamon. When the
   spices where kept in small paper bags (containing 1 to 5g), in the
   dark for 5 years, they lost 47% essential oil on the average. In case
   of powder spices, they lost an average of 62% and up to 90%. The same
   spices, when kept, during six years in dark glass containers, lost 24%
   of their essential oils on the average. When the containers were
   hermetic, and the spice filled the container, the loss was from 0 to
   5%, whether the spice was powdered or whole.

   So keep your spices in dark, sealed containers. Fill each container
   completely. Put them in a fresh place (some people use the fridge, see
   9.1) and away from light. And your spices will long enough
   (whatever that means to you).

9.1 Should I store my spices in the fridge?

     Some people store spices inside the fridge. The fridge keeps the
   spices in a dark, low temperature environment, hence protecting them
   from light and rapid oxidation. There is only one problem, whenever
   you open the spice container, humidity immediately condenses on the
   surface of the spice and the container, then you close the container
   and the moisture is kept captive. Humidity is a natural enemy of most
   dry spices.

   The fridge suits the bill if you do keep big containers there, from
   which you regularly fill small-daily use ones. Nonetheless, for the
   majority of the spices, it is more practical to buy small amounts of
   each spice every once in a while, which in effect, guarantees their
   freshness.

   Some people freeze small sealed envelopes, each one storing a
   ``dose''. Therefore, they don't have the condensation problem.

9.2 Bay leaves

   Bay leaves lose approximately 30% of their volatile oil and 40-60% of
   their chlorophyll during one year of storage. A good way to evaluate
   the quality of the leaf is to determine how bright its color is.

9.3 Ground spices

   Ground spices, with greater surface exposed, tend to lose their
   volatile oils. They also deteriorate faster than whole spices.

   The needs for packaging vary from spice to spice. In general, follow
   the next guidelines:

     * Use dark, air tight containers.
     * Fill the container as much as you can.
     * Avoid buying ground spices. Grind them yourself using a mortar.

10 Others

10.1 Disclaimer

   This FAQ is provided as is without any express or implied warranties.
   While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the
   information contained in this article, the maintainer assumes no
   responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from
   the use of the information contained herein.

10.2 List of Contributors

     * Hall, Andrew S. (ashall@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu), for his recipe
       to prepare coconut milk.
     * Laplante, Sophie (sophie@cs.uchicago.edu), for her research on
       cilantro storage.
     * Pforzheimer, Andy (apforz@pfood.win.net), for his corrections
       regarding vanilla extract and vanilla splits.
     * San Mames, Juan (VMPK89A@prodigy.com), for sharing his knowledge
       regarding vanilla.
     * Stafford, Maureen (stafford@csg.uwaterloo.ca), for proofreading
       the first draft (version 0.1) of this document.
     * Steinberg, Bruce (bruces.com), for his comments on how to prepare
       vanilla extract.

References

   1 Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press, 2nd ed.,
          1989.
   2 J. S. Pruthi, Spices and Condimentes. Chemistry, microbiology,
          technology. Academic Press, 1980.
   3 V. Subrahmanyan, K. Krishnamurthy, and M. Swaminathan, ``The
          effect of garlic in certain intestinal bacteria,'' Food Sci.,
          vol. 7, no. 223, 1958. as cited in [2].
   4 J. Mulherin, Spices & Natural Flavourings. Tiger, 1988.
   5 J. Purseglove, E. Brown, C. Green, and S. Robbins, Spices,
          Volume 2. Longman, 1981.
   6 Webster Dictionary. Webster, 1994.
   7 P. Rain, The Vanilla Cookbook.
   8 Pforzheimer, Andy <apforz@pfood.win.net>, ``Personal
          communication,'' Nov. 1995.
   9 San Mames, J. <VMPK89A@prodigy.com>, ``USENET Article.'' in
          rec.food.cooking, Feb. 1995.
   10 Steinberg, Bruce <bruces@sco.com>, ``USENET Article.'' in
          rec.food.cooking, Feb. 1995.
   11 J. Merory, ``40 % more flavour in improved vanilla process,''
          Food End., May 1956.
   12 S. Bunney, ed., The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs.
          Chancellor Press, 1984.
   13 Hall, Andrew S. <ashall@magnus.acs.ohiostate.edu>, ``USENET
          article.'' in rec.food.cooking, Nov. 1995.
     _________________________________________________________________

   dmg@csg.uwaterloo.ca


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-- 
Daniel M. Germán                "My friends would think I was a nut, 
       Peter Gabriel -->         turning water into wine"
dmg@csg.uwaterloo.ca
http://csgwww.uwaterloo.ca/~dmg/home.html

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