Those little spice jars with the red lids
I was just in the supermarket and noticed that sesame seeds were a little over $5 a jar. The price per pound was $84.46! I thought this was a little high until I looked further. The little jar of tarragon was $292.00 per pound! Isn't that a little extreme?
Yes! The most difficult part of growing French tarragon is finding true French tarragon in the first place. The coarse Russian tarragon has a nasty aftertaste (to my mouth). I keep my French tarragon in a big 15" pot. I just divided it after 10 years. I learned that tarragon must NOT be planted in the ground in Central California. It is more invasive than horseradish!
Whole Food's bulk spices and herbs are fresh and reasonably priced for those of us who don't need them by the pound.
The problem with buying in bulk is, well, the bulk. Few non-professional cooks will use up a pound of sesame seeds before they go stale.
My trick is to buy those little packets of herbs and spices they sell in the Spanish foods aisle of the supermarket for 99 cents or so and use them to refill my existing jars. That plus growing my own for stuff that will grow locally.
Where I live in the UK a nearby shop has a herb and spice 'room' with old sweety-jars filled with herbs and spices. You go along with your own packaging and weigh out an ounce or so and pay 20p, er - 40 cents or so. You have the dual pleasure of not paying for the packaging, and getting really fresh herbs and spices which you can replenish easily and regularly. It has made a huge difference to the flavours of my cooking. Do people do this in the US as well?
You can also shop at San Francisco Herb Company http://www.sfherb.com
These are listed under Spices and Culinary Herbs:
Sesame Seeds, Black - 1 Lb $2.90
Sesame Seeds, Hulled - 1 Lb $3.70
Sesame Seeds, Natural - 1 Lb $3.55
Tarragon Leaf - 1 Lb $12.25
Tarragon Leaf - 4 oz $3.51
They must have a lot of advertising to pay for. Must be of the highest quality. On the other hand, people on these boards seem generally well satisfied with Penzey's quality.
Sesame White Mexican 1 lb. bag
Sesame Black Indian 1 lb. bag
Tarragon French 8 oz. bag 33789 17.39