Herbs from your garden are best when used fresh, but there are always more of them than you can use in one season. How to dry excess herbs to keep their unique aroma for as long as possible?
Before you start – here’s what you should know
Air drying works best for herbs that do not have a high moisture content, such as bay, dill, angelica, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, savory and thyme. To preserve the best flavor of these herbs, you must let them dry naturally or use a food dehydrator.
A microwave or oven set to a low temperature may seem like a convenient shortcut, but that will actually cook the herbs, reducing the oil content and flavor if you don’t do it right. Use these devices only as a last resort.
If you want to preserve herbs with juicy leaves or high moisture content, such as basil, chives, mint and tarragon, you can try drying them in a dehydrator, which is a dryer for fruits, vegetables and mushrooms.
But to preserve the best flavor, consider freezing them. This is easy to do and even faster than drying. You can successfully freeze dill, parsley and even nettle!
How to dry herbs – the best methods
There are many methods of drying herbs, below you will find only the most efficient ones.
This method used to be the way most pharmacists and cooks dried herbs. You can either hang a bunch (about an inch in diameter) of whole herbs upside down. Once all the moisture is gone, then crush the dried leaves into a container. Make sure you use a rubber band to hold the fresh herbs together, because when the herbs dry, the stems will shrink and the rubber band will give you the confidence to keep the bundle tight.
Another way to air-dry is to peel the leaves from the stems and place them to dry on a rack or tray, but not in the sun. Just make sure there is no wind that will blow the leaves away. It’s also a good idea to place the dish in a clean place that doesn’t have a lot of dust around.
How long does it take to dry herbs?
Both methods of air drying take about a week. It all depends on the natural humidity of the air where you are. The more humid the air, the longer it will take.
A simple crushing test can determine if they are ready. If you take a leaf in your hand and crush it, does it fall apart easily? If so, it means the herbs are ready for storage.
Drying herbs in the microwave
If you are really pressed for time, you can also dry herbs in the microwave. Although herbs lose flavor and quality with this method applied. On the other hand, this is the fastest method for drying them.
First, separate the leaves from the stems and wash the parts you want to keep.
When the greens are no longer wet, turn on the microwave for 30 seconds on maximum power with the herbs placed between two paper towels. Continue heating in 30-second intervals if necessary, but up to a maximum of 3 minutes!
Drying herbs in a food dehydrator
A homemade dehydrator turns out to be a great way to dry herbs, especially if your appliance has mesh inserts to keep the leaves from falling. Make sure the leaves are clean and undamaged, then arrange them in a single layer on each tray.
All you have to do is place them on its trays, and then turn the machine on to a low temperature – preferably around 35°C. Now all that’s left for you to do is to check the herbs from time to time so that they don’t dry out.
Dry on the lowest setting for about two to four hours. The hardest part is removing the herbs from the trays. It’s best to do this over a clean cloth or with a bowl, so you can keep and store the broken pieces as well.
When drying herbs in a mushroom dryer, always try to dry each type of herb separately!
Drying herbs in the oven
It is best to get a cloth on which to dry the leaves – this will prevent them from sticking to the baking tray. Silicone mats also work very well.
Set the appliance to the lowest temperature, preferably 40 degrees, and dry the herbs for several hours with the door ajar! Every now and then, however, shake the herbs. You will know the herbs are dried when the leaves crumble easily and there is no resistance from them when you try to tear them.
Keep in mind, however, that some herbs have such volatile essential oils that it is very difficult to properly dry them by home means. These include, for example, lemon balm. When dried, it often tastes simply like… hay