Worried about heavy metals in store-bought spices? Here’s how to grow your own

Although a Consumer Reports investigation found potentially harmful heavy metals in some popular store-bought spices, you don't have to give up the herbs you love to keep your family safe. We found out just how easy it is to grow your own.

As we’ve reported on News4JAX before, a Consumer Reports investigation found potentially harmful heavy metals in some popular store-bought spices. But as we found out, you don’t have to give up the herbs you love to keep your family safe.

In Consumer Reports tests, roughly a third of the store-bought spices they looked at were found to contain enough potentially dangerous heavy metals to raise health concerns when regularly consumed in typical serving sizes.

There were three more problematic store-bought herbs: basil, thyme, and oregano. The good news is that they’re among the simplest to grow.

There were three more problematic store-bought herbs: basil, thyme, and oregano. The good news is that they're among the simplest to grow. (Provided by Consumer Reports)

“If you have a sunny spot in your yard, porch or even a windowsill, you can safely grow herbs to use fresh or dry yourself,” said Consumer Reports Health Editor Sana Mujahid.

Herbs grow well in separate pots with drainage. Place a few stones in the bottom of a pot with a hole in it. If you want to assure that your herbs are free of heavy metals, you need to start with the soil.

“Buy potting soil with a seal from the Organic Materials Review Institute, to be sure it’s been assessed for heavy metals,” Mujahid said.

Carolyn Ramsey’s twins, Dante and Aria, love to help in the family’s herb garden. This year’s crop includes thyme, rosemary, and basil.

Once your herbs are grown, you can cook recipes -- like pesto -- right away, or you can save them for future use. (Provided by Consumer Reports)

“We’re gonna make pesto out of this. It’s a good thing to use cuz it’s one herb that makes so many things taste good,” said Dante.

Once your herbs are grown, you can cook recipes -- like pesto -- right away, or you can save them for future use.

  • Wash and dry the leaves thoroughly to avoid mold.
  • Dry them out by placing in a paper bag for several weeks or speed up the drying process using a toaster oven, air fryer or multi cooker set on the dehydration function.
  • Store the herbs in airtight containers where they can last a few years.

If you are unsure if the spices you have are still good, give them a sniff test. Consumer Reports says while many can last for two to four years, if you can no longer smell them, it’s probably time to throw them away.