Wednesday, April 12, 2017

How to dry herbs

Your CSA share came, and you've got more herbs than you can use this week.  Or the parsley in the garden is out of control, and about to bolt.  What's a person to do?

Dry them!  Herbs that you dry yourself are so much better than what you get in the store.  You can tell just by comparing the colors.

Here are 3 ways to dry herbs.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Dried Herbs Setup

For all methods of drying herbs, you have to start with clean, dry-ish herbs.
Wash your herbs and dry them.  To dry them you can
  • pat dry with a towel
  • shake them off
  • let them go for a ride in the salad spinner

Dried Herbs in the Oven

Turn on your oven to the lowest setting.  I use 175 degrees.  Put a paper towel down on the bottom of a baking sheet that has edges. Put the herbs on the towel in a single layer. 

Put the baking sheet in the oven for 2 hours. Check the herbs.  You want them to feel crispy to the touch. If they aren't quite done, give them some more time.

Dried Herbs in the Microwave

Put a paper towel on a microwave safe plate. Take the leaves off the stems, and put the leaves on the paper towel.

Microwave on high for a couple of minutes. Check them frequently.  You want them to feel dry to the touch, but if they start to smoke, or if the color starts to turn dark, they will be burnt.

Dried Herbs in the Dehydrator

Take the leaves off the stems, and put the leaves on the screen for your dehydrator. They need to be in a single layer.
Put the trays into your dehydrator.  Use the herb setting, or 95 degrees. They might take 12 - 24 hours. They are done when they feel brittle.

Finishing Up Your Dried Herbs

Let the leaves cool.  This lets them release the last of the moisture. Crush the dried leaves between your hands, or you can store them without crushing them if you would like.

Seal the herbs in an herb bottle or plastic bag. You don't want to let any humidity in at this point.

And you are done! You can add herbs to all sorts of delicious foods all year long.

Comparison of Methods

I like using the oven because it does a lot at once, and you don't need to watch the herbs so carefully to make sure they don't burn. Also, the preparation is quicker, because you don't have to take off the stems. You can just rub the leaves between your hands and take the stems out at this point. The down side is that the oven uses a lot of energy and heats up the house.

I like to use the microwave when I only have a small amount to dry. The microwave seems to preserve the color better, too. The problem with the microwave is that the herbs can go from damp to burnt very quickly. Also, the microwave cannot do very much at a time.

The dehydrator is nice for large amounts. It also has a timer, so you can have it turn off after whatever amount of time you guess is correct. The dehydrator has some disadvantages, in my opinion. The biggest one is the variability of the time. Is it 12 hours or is it 24?  If the dehydrator turns off in the middle of the night, and it is really humid, the herbs can rehydrate, and you have to start again.

Why am I not hanging my herbs up to dry in the kitchen like grandma used to?
  1. If they are hanging up, they are easy to forget.
  2. It is so humid here in the summer, that I am afraid they will mold.
  3. It can be really dusty here,
  4. Bugs.  Flies.  Stinkbugs.  Enough said?  No?  I had to take a stinkbug off of one of my seed trays this morning, so I know they like the fresh greenery.   Yuck.
So dry your herbs and add flavor and nutrition to your meals all year.