Grocery store-bought spices were always a staple in my cabinet until I discovered Whole Spice – a California company that offers a wide selection of very fresh, all-natural herbs and spices without artificial colors, flavors or additives. Whole Spice offers more than 400 herbs, spices, seeds, blends, mixes, rubs, nuts, teas, fruits, vegetables, sugars, and seasonings in a variety of ways: whole, ground, powder, seed, granules, flakes, nibs, diced, sliced, granulated, crushed and more.
The choice selection can seem overwhelming with 48 types of chili spices, 30 varieties of sea salt, 12 types of peppercorns, and 6 types of paprika but the vast offerings are consistent with the company’s commitment to provide a wide selection to those who seek aromatic herbs and spices at their peak of flavor. Most of the staple herbs and spices – Celery Seed, Allspice, Nutmeg, and more – are offered in two varieties: whole and ground (to order in-house) although there are often different types, as in Cardamom which comes in black, green, pods or seeds.
Ronit and Shuli Madmone, co-owners of Whole Spice started their company in Napa, California because the state is the top source of fresh herbs and spices in the United States. In business since 2000, the company has expanded to include spices from around the world including Cinnamon from Saigon, Sarsaparilla from Mexico and Paprika from Hungary.
The jars can be purchased individually in the standard size 4 inch tall glass jar (which generally contains 1-3 ounces, depending on the spice) or in larger quantities (4 ounces, 1 pound, 5 pounds) or in 18 themed sets along the lines of BBQ, Herbs, Baking, Exotic Sea Salts, Curry and more. One of the most popular sets for first-time buyers is the 12 spice Herb Jar Set which includes Rosemary, Thyme, Sage Crushed, Tarragon, Oregano, Basil, Dill Weed, Savory, Italian Seasoning, Herbs de Provence, Parsley and Marjoram Leaves for $59.50.
For the baker, there is a wide variety of naturally flavored sugars including Raspberry Sugar (made with Sugar and Raspberries) and Lavender Sugar (made with organic cane juice sugar and lavender) which are delicious sprinkled on top of sugar cookie dough or Cinnamon Sugar (made with Saigon Cinnamon and Turbinado Sugar) which is fabulous sprinkled on top of a bowl of steel-cut oats.
For those who prefer a pre-made all-natural blend, consider the Spice Rub Set (6 jars including Key West Seasoning, Herbs de Provence, BBQ Spice Rub, Napa Valley Rub, Pizza Blend, and the Organic Roasted Chicken Blend) for $30 or the Grilling Fish and Seafood Spice Set ( 6 jars including Herbs de Provence, Creole Spice Rug, Lemon Herbs, Cajun Spice, Blackened, and Seafood Batter Seasoning) for $32.
Shuli who learned about spices from his parents (who grew and sold spices in Israel) says that spices are like life, “It’s about balance, not too much, not too little.” Certain spices keep longer than others with powder having a shorter shelf life, according to Shuli who also recommends keeping ground spices no more than six months because they lose their aroma and flavor with the passing of time. Generally, spices need to be kept in an air tight container and in a dark space away from heat and the sunlight because storage conditions affect the aroma and flavor of the spice. Ronit also offers an invaluable piece of advice: If using an oil, flavor the oil before adding the ingredients by adding the spice in its natural form – cinnamon stick, whole cardamon – directly to the oil, reserving the powdered spices for later.
To order from Whole Spices, go directly to the company’s website: www.wholespice.com. The spices are very competitively priced and all orders over $75 are shipped free.
Update: March, 2014: Whole Spice is offering 40% of all orders through March 30, 2014 . Use the promotion code “spice40” at check-out.