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I used to use powdered spices (purchased from market) for all my vegetables. Lately I have started grinding the spice seeds myself to use in the vegetables.
I have noticed a remarkable "taste" difference.

I wish to know the reasons.
P.S. I am NOT referring to the smell, but to the taste.

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Smell and taste are pretty inextricably linked. That's why everything tastes like cardboard when your nose is stopped up. –  baka Oct 31 '11 at 19:33
    
@baka Thanks, see my comment below. :) –  TheIndependentAquarius Nov 2 '11 at 7:08
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Many of the chemicals in food responsible for how a it tastes are also the same ones which, as they escape into the air, give it it's smell.

These oils and aromatic compounds which give many spices their flavour break down or escape over time changeing the taste as they degrade.

Some spices stay fresh for a long time once ground, others are well worth (as you are finding) doing your self.

Many of these compounds react with the oxygen in air to become new ones, these would then potentialy taste stale. Other compounds may break down if light gets to them; especially natural light as ultraviolet breaks many chemicals down. Other chemicals just evaporate away.

All of these reactions depend on surface area... so the smaller the bits of spice the faster they lose the flavor/smell chemicals.

Very fresh powdered spices wouldn't have this issue. Also if you ground the spices yourself and then left them for a few week/months you would find much of the taste has gone from the powder.

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So, you mean to say that if the "smell" vanishes from the spice, its "taste" will also vanish? If yes, then I would want to understand the scientific reasons behind this. Thanks. –  TheIndependentAquarius Nov 2 '11 at 7:07
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Many of the chemicals in food responsible for how a food tastes are also the same ones which, as they escape into the air, give it it's smell. Many of these compounds react with the oxygen in air to become new ones, these would then potentialy taste stale. Other compounds may break down if light gets to them especially natural light as ultraviolet breaks many chemicals down. Other chemicals just evaporate away. All of these reactions depend on surface area... so the smaller the bits of spice the faster they lose the flavor/smell chemicals. –  vwiggins Nov 2 '11 at 10:38
    
vwiggins - now your answer looks "really beautiful". –  TheIndependentAquarius Dec 5 '12 at 11:29
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This is subscription based so I don't think your interest is going to push you to subscribe to something to learn about volatile compounds http://www.vcf-online.nl/VcfHome.cfm

The gist of it is that everything we eat has specific chemicals that give it the characteristics we enjoy. Dried spices and herbs have typically been ground and therefore many more cell walls have been ruptured and much more of the aromatic and volatile compounds have been allowed to escape. This is obviously worsened over time and different storage conditions can have a negative effect on this as well (i.e. why wine bottles and beer bottles are dark colored). So when your using fresh herbs or grinding your own spices your incorporating more of the volatile compounds into your dish.

I recommend, when possible to always buy spices whole and grind/roast/toast yourself per application. Not only will they taste better, but they will also keep fresh longer in air tight containers.

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