“The cardamom I use for my cinnamon rolls is not as it used to be.”

While this question is specific for cardamom chances are it applies to most of the spices on your shelf. Cloves, pepper, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, mace, chile powder–any of the spices that rely on a high content of volatile oils for their flavor (a volatile oil is an oil that contains the odor and flavor of its parent plant). And that pretty much covers all spices–it’s what makes a spice…a spice.

But let’s get more specific and figure out what you can do about it.

When was the cardamom purchased? Different spices have different shelf-lives. As a general rule-of-thumb ground spices have a shelf life of 6 months to two years. You’re probably thinking, Whoa! That’s a pretty long window of time. Yes, but that’s because there are a couple other factors involved.

Where is it stored? Heat, light, and moisture are a spice’s three main enemies. So if you’re storing the spice in a clear glass jar on an open shelf where it’s exposed to light and heat then your spice will stay fresh for about 6 months. Keep it in an opaque (i.e. ceramic), well-sealed jar in a dark, cool cupboard and you’ll be closer to the two year mark. (Incidentally, if you’re like me and enjoy looking at your spices this news will be a big bummer.)

Is it in ground or whole form? Whole spices last a lot longer. Typically 2-5 years longer! But if you’re going to use whole spices you’ll want to invest in a spice grinder. These range in price and an electric one starts at about $20. You can get a morter & pestle which is great for certain textures but it’s a lot of work to get perfect, evenly ground spices. As for a a spice mill (like a pepper mill), you’ll have to crank it a long time to get enough powder for your recipes. The electric grinder is the best choice for ease and performance. Krups makes a great little coffee grinder that’s perfect for spices. Click here to see it and learn more.
Because of the oils you’ll have to scrape some of the grounds out of it but it only takes a second. You’ll want a dedicated spice grinder (don’t use it for your coffee grounds). Click here and scroll to the bottom to check out more grinders.

The bottom line? The cardamom has probably lost its freshness. Good cardamom is expensive you may want to consider getting a grinder so you can purchase cardamom pods and then grind the seeds. It will last a whole lot longer.  And cardamom cinnamon rolls? What a delicious combination…I’ll have to try it! Send me the recipe and I’ll post it under the cardamom page!