How to Dry Herbs

Sep 2, 2021 | Storage and Preservation

For centuries humans have been drying herbs. Before supermarkets and refrigerators, humans had to figure out how to make some of our foods last during the off season. Drying the harvest as a means to store them year around made it so we could enjoy the flavors of our favorite foods all year long. Originally, we use to either dry or infuse them in oils and vinegars to make them last. Today we have better ways to dry, transport and maintain the freshness, that some of the more traditional means of storing are overlooked. This is really good news for the home and restaurant chiefs. Having a greater and fresher selection of herbs at their finger tips is very exciting, and can create wonderful meals. But, in order to retain most of the essential oils and flavoring from the plants, speed of harvest to drying is important. You want to properly dry from the fresh cutting and harvest, and spend little time with the bundle sitting on the counter or her basket. This is why it is it is important to know how to dry herbs.

How to Dry Herbs

Knowing how to dry herbs is the most convenient and popular methods of preserving them, and in some cases like bay leaves, it can actually enhance their flavor. After you have properly harvested the leaves or flowers, you want to brush off any loose dirt or soil with your fingers or a soft paint brush used only for this purpose. Washing the leaves and flowers are only necessary if the leaves are gritty, or you used pesticides on the plant. Washing the leaves might damage the leaves and remove some of the taste essential oils and cause bruising. Hanging the sprigs in loose small bunches from a rack in a warm room is the easiest way of drying them. Do not dry the herbs in an environment over 86 degrees F or you risk evaporating ang loosing the essential oils.

If you dry them too long, they can disintegrate into a powder when handled. This is bad, so it is important to not forget about them and over dry them.  Also, although the bundles of drying herbs looks like they would be great in the kitchen during this time, avoid doing this. All the condensation and water in the environment will cause your herbs to mold and not dry well. To prevent dust from entering the bunches you made, place a paper bag over the herbs, leaving only the bottom of the paper bag open to the air.

Within about a week depending on the environment and thickness of the leaves, the sprigs will become dry and crisp. Once this happens, they are ready to be stored. Strip the leaves keeping them as whole as possible from the stems and place the leaves in a glass air with a lid, without crushing them. Check on them the next day to make sure there is no condensation inside the container, as this is a sign the herbs did not fully finish drying yet. If they needed more time and condensation is present, remove the leaves for further drying. If this is not done, and they are stored not fully dried, the batch will mold and spoil. If you are only drying small batches of herbs, you can dry them on a rack by covering an oven shelf or wooden frame or wire rack, and placing the herbs and stalk on top of the rack in a single layer. Again, leave the racks in a warm dry place checking regularly on the progress of the herbs.

Some people might tell you to just dry the herbs in the oven under low heat. This is not advisable because it can diminish the flavor of the herbs. Strangly microwave ovens are can be used to dry the herbs. Do this by placing the herbs on a dry paper towel single layer, and cook on full power. Since all microwave ovens are different, start with one minute, then turn and do another minute on the other side.

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