from the Garden
How to Dry Herbs
Instructions for Dehydrating Herbs:
Dehydrating herbs(whether fresh from the garden, the farmer's market, or even just from the grocery store at in-season prices) for use in the off-season is one of the healthiest ways of preserving herbs. The process of dehydrating herbs is often more cost-effective than freezing, as you don't use electricity in on-going long-term storage.
The process of dehydrating herbs can be broken into a couple of simple steps:
- preparation, including pre-treating (if necessary)
- drying or dehydrating the herbs
- storing the finished dehydrated herbs
Instructions for drying basil:
Harvest your leaves before the plant flowers. (8 oz. of fresh herbs should provide you with about 1 oz of the dried herb.) Rinse with cold water and spin in a salad spinner (if you have one. If not, shake off the extra water and pat dry). Remove any discolored leaves. Arrange the basil leaves loosely on your dehydrator rack, or on a screen, allowing enough room for the air to circulate around them. If using a dehydrator, keep the temperature low (at or a little below 100 degrees (F)), or else you will destroy the herb’s oils. Dry until brittle.
You can also bunch the basil cuttings together and hang them in a well ventilated dry place to air-dry.
Store your dried basil in bottles or containers with tightly fitting lids. Keep in a dark location (such as a cabinet). Do not store in paper bags, as they will absorb the plant’s oils. Dried herbs should keep well for up to a year.
Note: Do not grind the leaves before storing. Wait until you’re ready to use them to grind them (or even just crush them with your hand).
Instructions for drying chives:
Chives can be dehydrated (you've probably seen dried chives for sale at the grocery store in the spice section). However, they can loose some of their flavor when dried. They do make a nice garnish though. If you do decide to dry them, keep your dehydrator at (or below) 100 degrees (F) so that you retain as many of the natural oils as possible. Store in air-tight containers, out of the light.
I like to powder my dried chives in the food processor. I store the powder in a shaker container, and sprinkle it liberally over my baked potatoes, potato dishes, and egg dishes.
Instructions for drying Cilantro:
While you can dehydrate cilantro leaves, the results are disappointing. The flavor all but departs from the end product.
You can dry the seeds (known as coriander) quite successfully though. Simply cut the stems just before the seeds fully brown. Place the stems upside down in a brown bag, and loosely close the bag. Place in a ventilated location until the seeds are dried. When dry, they will easily drop from the stem. Store in an airtight container.
Instructions for drying dill:
Spread the seeds or leaves out on a screen or tray to air-dry. (Using artificial heat to dehydrate will destroy the natural oils). When using in your recipes, keep in mind that dried dill leaves won't have as strong a flavor as fresh. Store the dried seeds or leaves in air tight bottles or containers. Don't use paper bags, as they'll absorb the herb's natural oils. Keep in a dark place (such as a cabinet).
Instructions for drying echinacea:
1. Wash the roots and trim off the tops.
2. Cut the roots into ¼” slices (or shred).
3. Dehydrate at 100 degrees for about 16 hours (for slices) or 12 hours for shredded roots (until brittle).
4. Store dried roots in a clean, dry, airtight container, in a cool dark location. (Light can cause discoloration)
Steep in directly hot water for tea.
Instructions for dehydrating Lemon Balm:
Bundle shoots together and hang in the shade in an airy location to dry. When dry, remove the leaves and store in an airtight container, kept out of the light (sunlight discolors most stored food).
You can also use a dehydrator to dry lemon balm, but keep the temperature on its lowest setting (make sure it's below 100 degrees (F)) to ensure that you're not destroying the herb's oils.
NOTE: Dried or frozen lemon balm leaves have a milder scent and flavor as compared to fresh.
Instructions for dehydrating Mint:
You can dry (dehydrate) fresh mint leaves. (It's a common ingredient in herbal tea mixtures.) They will be at their peak in flavor just before flowering.
Wash the mint stems in cold water (warm or hot water can remove the oils you want to retain). Pick out any dead or imperfect leaves. Drain and pat dry. Air dry by hanging in a paper bag in a warm well-ventilated area. (The paper bag catches any leaves that fall, rather than having them make a mess on the floor.). When the leaves are dry and brittle, remove them from the stems and store in an airtight container, in a location that's out of the light.
Note: if you live in a very humid area, air-drying this herb may not be an option for you, as things tend to mold quickly in such climates. Try using a dehydrator on its lowest setting (below 100 degrees (F)) instead.
Make sure the leaves are completely dry and brittle, or they may mold after you place them in storage. Do not store in paper bags or containers, as they absorb the herbs oils.
Instructions for dehydrating oregano:
Dried oregano's flavor is usually more intense than the fresh herb. To dry oregano, wash the stems, and pat dry. You can dry them by placing them in a paper bag and hanging in an airy (out of the sun) location. Once dry, remove the leaves from the stems and store the oregano leaves in an airtight container, out of the light.
You can also use a dehydrator on its lowest setting (not more than 100 degrees (F)). Keeping the temperature below 100 degrees helps protect oregano's natural oils and enzymes.
Instructions for dehydrating parsley:
If you live in a climate that is not excessively high in humidity, you can dry parsley by spreading the leaves on a screen, so that they do not overlap. Set the screen in a shady well ventilated location. When the leaves are brittle, store in an airtight container. They should keep for up to a year. Crumble them only when you’re ready to use them.
If you’re in a more humid climate, use a dehydrator to dry your parsley leaves. However, dehydrate only on the lowest setting (at or below 100 degrees (F)) or you will destroy parsley’s natural oils. The dried parsley leaves should keep for up to a year. Crumble them only when you’re ready to use them.
Instructions for dehydrating Rosemary:
You can dehydrate (dry) rosemary by placing sprigs (spaced so that air can circulate well around them) on a screen in a well-ventilated dry location. Or you can use a dehydrator on its lowest setting. Make sure that the temperature of the dehydrator is at (or below) 100 degrees (F), or else you’ll risk destroying rosemary’s natural oils. Dried rosemary stores best in bottles or containers with lids, in a dark location (such as a cabinet).
Instructions for dehydrating sage:
Dry leaves in a dry shaded area until brittle. Store in an airtight container in a dark location (like a cabinet) to prevent discoloration.
You can also dehydrate sage using a dehydrator on a low temperature. Keep the temperature at or below 100 degree (F) or you’ll risk damaging the herb’s natural oils. Store in an airtight container in a dark location (like a cabinet) to prevent discoloration.
Instructions for dehydrating thyme:
You can dry thyme by bundling bunches of thyme together and hanging them in a shaded well ventilated space to dry. When they’re dry, strip the leaves off of the branches and store in an airtight container out of the light.
You can also dehydrate thyme using your dehydrator on its lowest setting. Make sure the temperature of the dehydrator stays below 100 degrees (F) or you’ll risk destroying thyme’s natural oils.
Tips From Our Readers:
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Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.