If you want to know how to dry herbs, this article is for you!
I am fond of herbs so I planted them in my urban garden. But soon I found that I cannot consume all of these fresh herbs in one day! So I thought of drying them out first then placing them in jars. Yes, you can do that too! Herbs can be dried and they can still retain their freshness and flavour if you know the proper technique. In this blog post, I will show you how to dry herbs and keep them safe and crisp for future use!
There is something about a neatly tied bundle of herbs, hanging up to dry, that transports us to another era. A simpler time where herbs could be found hanging in every cook’s quarter and apothecary. A time in which Mr. Darcy invited us to tea and a leisurely stroll around the gardens of Pemberley (if you are unfamiliar with this reference let me introduce you to one of the greatest books of all time). I digress… Aside from the unpractical, there are two reasons I love drying my herbs: it is cheaper and I can control the quality. Let me elaborate my “How To Dry Herbs”.
Drying herbs yourself is much cheaper than buying a bottle of herbs in the store, especially if you buy organic. It doesn’t take much more time and effort than a trip to the store either. If you grow perennial herbs, you have a one time expense, and then you have a supply of fresh herbs year after year. My thyme plant, for example, comes back strong every year and produces more than enough to fill my cooking needs.
When you buy herbs at the grocery store, you don’t have control over their quality. I’d like to assume that the herbs I buy are good quality, but there can be a few problems with the typical grocery store bottled herbs. First, many dried herbs are not organic, which means that they’ve been sprayed with toxic pesticides. Of course, some herbs are organic, but they’re also quite a bit more expensive and usually have less variety than non-organic herbs.
Second, many of the dried herbs have been irradiated, which means that they have been exposed to gamma radiation to destroy any possible microbes or pathogens along with a good portion of the vitamin and nutrient content.
Third, sometimes store-bought herbs have a lot of extra twig fragments mixed in with the dried leaves. It’s not a major issue, but if I’m going to pay the premium price for organic oregano, I want to get oregano leaves and not oregano twig fragments. You end up with much better quality when it’s just you sitting at the kitchen table stripping the leaves off the stems and putting them in a bottle.
As I’ve learned over the years, timing is everything when harvesting your herbs. Harvest herbs in the mid-morning after the dew has dried from the leaves and before the essential oils have been burned off by the sun. Try to harvest herbs before flowers develop for better flavor. I have dried both with and without flowers, and it does tend to make a difference.
Washing herbs usually isn’t necessary if they are grown organically. Discard any dead, damaged, or wilted leaves.
When herbs are dried, they are safe from bacteria, mold, and yeast. Effective drying relies more on abundant dry, fresh air than on heat. A well-ventilated place is ideal. If you live in a humid area, the process may be slower, and mold can be a problem. If mold is an issue, I recommend using an indoor drying method instead.
For thousands of centuries cooks and apothecaries have dried herbs using this method and it is still one the easiest (and most fun) ways to dry herbs today. Your herbs can be hung virtually anywhere outdoors that has good air circulation. Most recently, I dried herbs by hanging them from my fence, garden gate, and off the end of an old rake head.
3. Allow seven to ten days to dry, depending on the size of the branches and humidity. The herbs are completely dry when the leaves are crisp and crumble when crushed.
Say hello to my little friend, the commercial dehydrator. This beauty has served me well during many harvest seasons and is by far how to dry herbs indoors my favorite way.
Herb harvest season typically occurs when it is 90+ degrees outside. As such, oven drying is my least preferred method, simply because it heats up my home at a time when I’m trying to cool it down. I have, however, used oven drying on occasion. I find it works best for sage, mint, rosemary, thyme and parsley leaves that have been stripped from their stalks.
My neighbor taught me how to dry herbs in the microwave. I’ve found it is a wonderful way to dry small quantities of herbs, such as those left-over from cooking.
Note: This process works for all drying methods.
Ah yes, the dreaded leaf removal. You go to remove your dried thyme leaves from the stem and it’s twig city. My sister recently asked me how I remove the small dried leaves from the stem without the twigs breaking off every which way. Here’s how.
(I came across this method at a Fresno Greek festival demonstration last year, and it works wonders!)
Leaves will retain their freshness when stored whole in an airtight glass jar. I like to use mason jars and re-purpose glass store bought spice containers. Place the container out of direct sunlight and away from heat and humidity. Don’t forget to label the contents and add the date, too.
Dried herbs should be used within one year for maximum flavor. Remember when cooking, use less dried herbs than you would fresh because they are more concentrated.
Hope you have as much fun reading this How to dry herbs and also drying your as I do! Enjoy!
Pinterest featured image form James Ransom.
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