Learn About Spices

All about Spices | Care and Keeping | Allergens

All about Spices

What are spices?

Spices are the berries, barks, buds, roots and aromatic seeds that are harvested for use in cooking, pharmaceutical and cosmetic use.

What about leaves versus flowers? The leaves of the coriander plant would be considered an “herb,” but when we use coriander seed, we say we are using a spice. Even the tiny filaments of saffron are referred to as a spice. Saffron is the stigma, which is hand-plucked from a small mauve crocus (Crocus sativus), and is native to Southeast Asia.

Where do spices come from?

Spices are grown in tropical regions around the globe, with some thriving in the cool misty mountainside and valleys. The majority of spices around the world are still harvested in the way they have been for centuries, by hand.

Flavor and Fragrance of Spices

Nature plays a pivotal role in the texture, taste, flavor and aroma of spices. Interesting and varied flavors in spices are held in volatile oils that naturally occur in the spices.

An example is vanilla, which is a green tasteless bean that grows on a tropical climbing orchid. It is only after drying and curing that an enzyme reaction takes place that brings us the vanilla flavor and fragrance. Similarly, peppercorns are harvested green, and an enzyme reaction that occurs upon drying turns them black and creates the pepper flavor we all know so well.

Care and Keeping

Because the flavors in spices and culinary herbs are held in the volatile oils, it is essential that they are stored in the correct way so that the flavors do not diminish. Spices must be packaged in high-barrier, good quality materials. This applies to all spices whether whole or ground; however the quality of the package is most critical for ground spices, as the grinding process has begun the release of flavor. That is why ground spices are often more convenient to use.

Never buy your spices in thin plastic bags, cardboard canisters or cellophane packs. These packages all allow the volatile oils and its flavor to escape.

Herbs and spices will fade in bright light, especially sunlight. If you want to display your collections in a spice rack, mount it in an area away from direct heat, moisture, steam or sunlight.

At Nirmala’s Kitchen all of our spices and spends are in our signature airtight tins.

Shelf Life

The shelf life for our whole spices is twelve to eighteen months; for our spice blends, the shelf life is twelve months from the date of purchase.



The majority of spices are still harvested in the way they have been for centuries, by hand! We take great care in sourcing and blending our spices, but making absolute guarantees is sometimes difficult. For this reason, if we are at all unsure about the chances of cross-contamination with other crops during harvesting, transportation or processing, some of our products may bear a statement pertaining to this.


Gluten (in the form of wheat starch) is not added to any of our spice blends. However, in some instances, we cannot guarantee that our products don’t contain traces of gluten, due to cross contamination during harvesting, transportation or processing. Therefore, you will see that some of our labels may bear a statement pertaining to this.