November 30, 2015

What kind of shelf life can I expect for things like rice and beans?

A question I was asked: What kind of shelf life can I expect for things like rice and beans if I package them in mylar bags with oxygen absorbers like it says on your website?
(see Long Term Food Storage Using Mylar Bags & Oxygen Absorbers)

A lot depends on the temperature where you will be storing the food. If it is a relatively cool place like a basement or shelter, you should expect 20 or more years. What are the 3 things that most affect food in storage? Light, heat and air. The mylar bags and oxy absorbers take care of the light and air part, so that leaves the temperature.

Beans, legumes and grains like wheat will pretty much store forever if stored properly. 2000 year old wheat found in the pyramids sprouted. Rice is a bit different and if you do some research you will find 20 different stories. But here are some good rules of thumb.

White rice stores longer than brown rice (but I eat brown rice not white rice, so I store brown).

Rice supposedly goes rancid after (pick one, depending on the source) 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, again with this affecting brown rice more quickly than white rice. If you have very old rice (like I have some from 1989) and you notice a rancid smell, it is the OIL in the rice grains, not the grains themselves. Just put the rice in water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and let set a couple of minutes then drain. The rancid oil part gets thrown out with that hot water. Rinse the rice, put in fresh water and cook like usual.

Dairy products have a 2-5 year shelf life supposedly. Again, if it is cool, dark and no air, it will probably go way longer than that.

I just tried some raisins and figs from 1989 (brave, huh?) Always the researcher. The ones kept in the cool and dark were fine. The figs had “sugared” a little (where the sugar in the fig crystallized on the surface of the fig a bit).

I have also seen raisins stored in clear glass jars look pretty nasty after several years (OK, pretty many years). But they were just in a kitchen pantry which was much warmer in the summer, and in the winter with the heat on, and were hit with light more. I’d say it was primarily the temperature that did them in, because they did the “sugar” thing to the extreme and looked a bit too gnarly to eat.

One of my next experiments is to pop up some popcorn I stored back in 1989, then some from around 2000 and then some current brand new popcorn. I'll let you know how that comes out :-D