The majority of spices are only available in a dried form either in a ground powder or in whole pieces. Dried seasonings can be purchased from your local grocery store and are found on the herb and spice isle.
Although ground ginger powder can be found among the other spices, this is one spice that tastes best when used fresh. Fresh ginger roots can be found in the produce section of the majority of grocery stores.
Nutmeg can be found in its whole form as well as a ground powder. Whole nutmeg looks like a large nut and requires the use of a nutmeg grater which can be purchased from kitchen supply stores.
If possible purchase spices other than ginger in their whole, ungrounded dry form rather than in powdered form. Use a coffee grinder, peppermill or mortar and pestle to grind small amounts of these spices as needed. Powdered spices loose their aromatic qualities much quicker than when they are stored in their whole state.
Spices can be stored for up to one year in airtight glass containers out of direct sunlight. The interior of a cool cupboard that is not near your stove, oven or other source of heat is ideal. See the article, How to Store Dried Herbs and Spices, for a variety of storage container ideas.
Herbs and spices bought from grocery stores in prepackaged bottles and containers may include unwanted ingredients such as fillers, anti-caking agents, artificial colorings, preservatives or monosodium glutamate. These are just a few more reasons to try and grow, harvest or purchase fresh spices and create the spice blends as needed.
Many common culinary spices come from the seeds of certain plants. Some of the more popular spice seeds that can be found in stores include anise, caraway, celery, coriander, dill, fennel, mustard, poppy, sesame and sunflower.
To harvest the seeds from plants that have been grown in the home garden, the plants must first be allowed to set flower. The flowers of the plants are what develop into the seeds. Cut the seed laden stems from the plant before the seeds are totally dried. Waiting too long to harvest the seed heads will cause all the seeds to fall off the plant and into the garden.
Bundle the bottom of the stems together and secure them with a rubber band or piece of string tied around the bottom. Then hang the bundle upside down in a warm, but not hot, dark room. To prevent the seeds from falling all over the place, tie a brown paper lunch bag over the seed heads. The bag will help to collect any seeds that may fall off while they finish drying on the stems.
To harvest the dried seeds that are still attached to the stems place a medium to large size bowl on your counter top. Rub or pick off the remaining seeds from the stems letting them fall into the bowl. Most of the seeds will be contaminated with chaff and other debris. Pour the contents of the bowl into a fine metal sieve then hold the sieve over the sink and tap it vigorously. The finer chaff and any incompletely formed seeds should fall through the sieve and into the sink. Larger pieces of chaff are usually very light weight and can be gently blown away by a light breeze.
Very fine seeds, such as celery and poppy, will fall through the sieve. To harvest these seeds place the sieve over a bowl to catch all the seeds. The end project should be a bowlful of cleaned seeds and a sieve full of chaff and debris. The cleaned and dried seeds can be stored in an airtight glass container out of direct sunlight and away from any heat sources.