Cleaning the spice shelf clears way for spring decisions

February seems like a good time to take care of one of those resolutions that hasn’t yet been accomplished, and this one is to

clean out the spice shelf.

I like to grow herbs, but I am not good at using them directly from the garden. It is much easier, although less tasty, to drop in a pinch of that anonymous brown powder from a jar. But I am going to go through my stash and throw away anything out of date or never used, and then decide what to grow for the new season – with the determination to actually use it.

One herb I keep on the windowsill all winter with a fair amount of success is parsley. So why do I have a large jar and a little tin of the dried stuff on the cupboard shelf?

Out it goes.

It is easy to snip off the amount I need for a recipe, and it usually keeps growing until it is time to stick the plant back into the ground. Even though it is a biennial, a good start of parsley will renew itself each year.

Also on the sill are mint, rosemary and chives, all doing well so far, so no need to purchase any.

My bay tree is about 4 years old now and is looking healthy even though it grows slowly. Since one leaf is generally enough, I just pull one off as I need it. A sunny window all winter is all it seems to need.

So, out goes that 2013 tin of crumbling leaves.

It will be joined by tins and jars of marjoram, oregano, thyme, dill weed and red pepper that are past their “use-by” date.

I am left with cinnamon, mustard seed, poppy seed, nutmeg, celery seed, ginger, tarragon and paprika. All of these are keepers and not yet outdated.

That leaves me with the need to grow several kinds of thyme, some more mint, basil, additional rosemary and to hope the sage bush is not really as dead as it looks to be.

I have a very old tin of Colman’s English mustard with no date on it, and because it is almost empty, I will keep it around until it is used up. Just my son and I like to eat that strong stuff, rather than the pasty yellow, milder mustard.

A few miscellaneous bottles remain.

Why, oh why, did I buy artificial bacon bits at one time? Looking at the ingredients, they are made of soy beans, vegetable oil and red food coloring. Ugh! And out!

Then there is clove oil, which specifically states in tiny print it is for massage and should be kept away from the eyes. No problem. Out.

I have one large and one small tin of paprika, which I remember buying for a chicken paprikash recipe and has another year to go.

There are some un-spice items in there, too. What in the world is cream of tartar made from? I will have to look it up. It is one of those things that is called for in a lot of baking recipes, but I have never known why.

Meat tenderizer and Fruit Fresh will keep their home on the spice shelf, along with the jar of Nature’s Seasoning, which I use instead of salt. It does contain some salt, but is diluted with pepper, onion garlic, celery and parsley, and I like it.

Now, I have a clean and tidy spice shelf, and some good ideas for the herbs I will be growing in the spring.

Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State

University Master Gardener program.

Contact her at