After writing about good places to buy spices Saturday, I heard from several readers with suggestions of their own.
“Don’t overlook the small, cellophane packages of herbs, peppers and spices in the Mexican section of your supermarket,” wrote Dick Hall, speaking for many who recommended the same thing. “And be flexible: Mexican saffron is a tiny fraction of the cost of saffron.”
I have bought these before in a pinch and had good luck, particularly with dried herbs and spices used in Mexican cooking. But be aware that Mexican saffron is really safflower — it’ll produce a golden color, but doesn’t have the same flavor.
Rita Schneir recommended shopping at Indian and Iranian markets, “they mostly come in plastic or cellophane bags, so we transfer them to small jars for convenience.” And Alexa Maxwell said she likes shopping at Jons markets, but “you have to cruise the whole store, since they have them spread out all over the place”.
Peter Brown says there’s a new chain called WinCo near his house in North Long Beach that has a great bulk bin area, “bigger than any other grocery or health food store I’ve ever seen. They have a section on spices and herbs, just the basics, but at really great prices. They turn them all over quickly, I’m told, so nothing gets stale.”
Sarah McKinley Ott says she favors the bins at Sprouts Markets. “They have small bulk containers of many spices and one can buy as much or as little as needed. Just scoop out what you need and place in a plastic baggie. Very affordable and perfect if you cook in small quantities and want to have fresh spices.”
And finally, Kathy LaForce, dries her own herbs. “I refuse to pay $4 plus for dried herbs when I can find fresh herbs such as tarragon, thyme, sage at my local farmers market, a large bunch for about a dollar. I wash and dry them and spread the herbs with stems on cookie sheets in my oven set to 200 degrees.
“Approximately 40 minutes later, they are dry, colorful and my house smells wonderful.”