I love growing my own fresh herbs. However if you’re like me you tend to plant more than can use – yes, even more. I think it’s because when we plant the seeds or plants we see them as teeny, not really knowing that they will get bigger and take over your gardens at times. So towards the end of summer you’re left with gorgeous fresh basil, oregano out the wazoo and enough parsley that you can’t give away. And if you’re like me you can’t bear the thought of letting one single leaf go to waste however you can only make so much pesto or can so many jars of pizza sauce. So what are you left to do?
Don’t let your herbs go to waste, dry them and fill up your spice jars!
First you need to decide how you want to dry them.
→ Less Tender Herbs — The more sturdy herbs such as rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and dill, thyme, summer savory and parsley are the easiest to dry using the air drying method.
→ Tender-Leaf Herbs — Basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm and the mints have a high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly. Try hanging the tender-leaf herbs or those with seeds inside paper bags to dry. Tear or punch holes in the sides of the bag. Suspend a small bunch (large amounts will mold) of herbs in a bag and close the top with a rubber band. Place where air currents will circulate through the bag. Any leaves and seeds that fall off will be caught in the bottom of the bag.
→ Gather 5-10 branches together and tie with string or a rubber band. The smaller the bundle, the easier and faster they will dry.
→ Put the bundle of herbs, stem-side up, in a paper bag (or wrap muslin, a mesh produce bag) with several holes around the bundle, and tie it at the neck.
→ Tie the end of the bag closed, being sure not to crush the herbs as you do, and poke a few holes in the bag for ventilation.
→ Hang the bag by the stem end in a warm, well-ventilated room.
→ After a week they will ready to be placed and stored in your spice jars.
→ Place herb leaves or seeds on a cookie sheet one inch deep or less.
→ Put herbs in an open oven on low heat – less than 180 degrees F – for 2-4 hours. To see if the herbs are dry, check if leaves crumble easily. Oven-dried herbs will cook a little, removing some of the potency and flavor.
The oven method actually the most labor-intensive, and the least energy-efficient method. Herbs need to be dried at about 100 degrees, but most ovens don’t go that low. They also need air circulation, and some ovens don’t have vents. You’ll need to get an oven thermometer and experiment. Try turning the oven on warm or its lowest setting for a while, then turning it off (while leaving the light on). You can also try propping the door open slightly with a wooden spoon
For this simply follow your machines instructions. Food dehydrators range in price from $30 to $400 so definitely buy what you can afford. Most that I’ve ready about that give great reviews are around the $150 range. Quality dehydrators have handy features such as timers and adjustable temperature control. Dehydrator drying is a fast and easy way to dry high quality herbs because temperature and air circulation can be controlled. Pre-heat dehydrator with the thermostat set to 95°F to 115°F. In areas with higher humidity, temperatures as high as 125°F may be needed. After rinsing under cool, running water and shaking to remove excess moisture, place the herbs in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Drying times may vary from 1 to 4 hours. Check periodically. Herbs are dry when they crumble, and stems break when bent.