Before you chuck that jar of spice that’s been sitting in your cabinet for longer than you can remember, consider these tips. Spices that aren’t worth eating may still have some use around your house and garden.
Is it really expired?
The good news is that spices don’t spoil in such a way that will make you sick, but they can lose their flavor. Different spice sellers offer different timelines for shelf life. Spice Island gives ground spices 2 to 3 years and whole spices 3 to 4 years. However, the best way to know if the spices on your shelf are still good is by color and smell. If either has faded, it may not be worth cooking.
1. Brewed potpourri
Even if a spice doesn’t smell as strong as it once did, heat can release the last of its volatile oils, giving off a lovely aroma. Boil a pot of water on your stove and add whichever spices you want your house to smell like—cardamom, cinnamon, cloves or ginger. You can also throw in some citrus peels.
2. Spicy soap
The granular texture of ground cloves and pepper can add act as a gentle exfoliator in your next batch of homemade soap.
3. Deter animals
Spicy peppers like cayenne or chili are good for keeping critters away from bulbs, just sprinkle the spice on the bulb itself or the topsoil around it. Black pepper can also be used to fight ants, which are repelled by the smell. Keep in mind that older spices may be less potent, and you may want to pepper plants lavishly.
4. Nontoxic fungicide
Cinnamon is an organic way to fight fungus, particularly on seedlings and houseplants. It’s easy to apply as spray, just mix the cinnamon with warm water.
Many spices have deodorizing effects. Sage, thyme, oregano and clove are particularly powerful. You can put this power to work in any musty parts of your home by making spicy sachets.
6. Homemade ornaments
Another good-smelling option is to make some cookie-like ornaments, which use cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.
7. DIY paints
Deb of the mommy blog Learn with Play at Home came up with this kid’s activity. She used spices and water to create a paint pallet of autumn colors.