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Where To Buy the Best Dried Herbs

Where To Buy the Best Dried Herbs

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So much for an eloquent title. But why be flowery when all you really want to know is the facts, right? With that in mind, let’s get right to answering this often-asked question: Where is the best place to buy dried herbs?

There are two ways we can go about answering this question: either the simple way or the more complex. To follow the easy road just take a peek at the following picture and identify the pile of yummy organic dried dandelion leaf that looks the most appealing. Take a guess at the company represented by the initial… and you’re all set to place your order!

If you’re a bit more purposeful and want to know all the facts… then read on.

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It’s probably no surprise that we eat a lot of dried herbs at our house. I purchase most from a local small herb shop that I simply adore and want to buy stock in (for those readers local to me, be sure to check out the Garden Herb Shop). They primarily acquire their herbs from two of the three major herb companies — Frontier and Mountain Rose. The other major marketer of dried herbs is the Bulk Herb Company.

Over the years I’ve ordered items from each of the three companies but after receiving several inquiries from readers wondering where they should buy their dried herbs I found myself wanting to make the best (read: experienced) recommendation I could.

In addition to the three leaders mentioned above I also uncovered another herbal company worth investigating: Starwest Botanicals. With four reputable companies as the foundation for my little study I placed an order for organic (no synthetic pesticides or other chemicals were used in growing) dried dandelion leaf from each company and did an amateur comparison. And ladies and gentleman… we have a winner (at least where dandelion is concerned. :-))

So, what was I looking for in determining the best company? My judgement was largely rooted in a comparison of cost and quality of the dried herbs. Evaluating cost is pretty easy. But when comparing quality I was searching for herbs that looked, tasted and smelled as similarly as possible to their fresh counterparts. Here’s what my survey of “quality” looked like:

Color: Did the dried leaves retain a color similar to those that are fresh? Since heat can change or degrade a plant’s constituents and nutrients, a faded or brown color can suggest improper drying techniques, and consequently, a less potent herb. A good rule of thumb is that drying should be done low and slow.

Smell: Herbs, like all living plants, have distinctive odors that can actually assist in determining quality.  So I took a whiff! Most quality herbs actually don’t smell too appealing because of how potent they are. Dandelion should smell nice and “green”, with a hint of bitter… not exactly honeysuckle if you know what I mean.

Taste: The simple question to consider here was does the herb taste fresh or dry and dusty? I considered the potency (how strong it tasted) which plays a great role in it’s culinary contributions.

Curious as to what I found out? Have a look-see!

Picture

Bulk Herb Store

Date Ordered: April 27
Date Received: May 2 (4 business days later)
Cost: $11.90
Cost + Shipping: $18.40
Smallest available size: 8 ounces
Cost per ounce: $2.30
Quality Value (1-4): 2


 

PictureFrontier Herbs (purchased through iHerb.com)

When I went to order dandelion directly from Frontier they were out of stock. (Who is out of dandelion in the middle of Spring?! I have a bazillion growing out my front door!) Consequently, I purchased a bag of Frontier organic dandelion from a middleman company, iHerb.com, which was cheaper all the way around than buying directly from Frontier.

iHerb.com also has a $5 discount on any first order placed.

Actual Frontier prices are listed in italics.

Date Ordered: April 27
Date Received: May 1 (3 business days later)
Cost: $15.40 / $22.00
Cost + Shipping: $19.40 / $26.75
Smallest available size: 16 ounces
Cost per ounce: $1.20 / $1.67
Quality Value (1-4): 3


 
 

Picture

Mountain Rose Herbs

Date Ordered: April 27
Date Received: May 6 (6 business days later)
Cost: $7.25
Cost + Shipping: $17.70
Smallest available size: 4 ounces
Cost per ounce: $2.21
Quality Value (1-4): 1

 

 

Picture

Starwest Botanicals

Date Ordered: April 27
Date Received: May 2 (4 business days later)
Cost: $6.00
Cost + Shipping: $13.75
Smallest available size: 4 ounces
Cost per ounce: $3.43
Quality Value (1-4): 4 (Yuck!)

 

 

So what’s the takeaway? Any plain Jane can see that the fresh living color of the dandelion from both the Bulk Herb Company and from Mountain Rose Herbs reflects desirable quality. And the aroma of the dandelion from Mountain Rose just seemed to pop with freshness. I was also very pleased with the cut and packaging from each of the companies. Dried herbs have a tendency to crumble into fine powder very easily and the package from each company arrived with very little damage to the leaves.

Keep in mind it’s always best to store your herbs in a glass jar, preferably a dark one, and away from sunlight.

The one, okay – two, cons I have with Mountain Rose Herbs concerns both the shipping costs and the shipping time. The length of time between my order being placed and arriving on my doorstep was ridiculously long in my opinion, especially considering I paid more shipping with Mountain Rose than with any other company. I’m not sure if it was a fluke or not since other orders I’ve placed with them have arrived in a more timely manner. Perhaps it warrants an email to them, though…

Anyway, at the end of the day, taking both cost and quality into account, our ultimate recommendation has to be for Mountain Rose Herbs. We love that they offer their dried herbs in smaller, economical 4 ounce amounts; that’s more than enough for the average user. If you’re big into sustainable farming, fair trade, and all-around green businesses, then Mountain Rose will blow your mind with all their practices along these lines. In fact, they have received substantial rewards for both their products and their company practices.

As you search for where to get the best bang for your buck in the herbal world, I hope this post is helpful to you! And if you have a favorite company you’d like to see represented here, be sure to let us know!

 

Ready to order ?

 

Mountain Rose Herbs. A Herbs, Health & Harmony Com

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