Drying herbs in a microwave offers a quick and easy way to extend your herb garden bounty. This technique is well suited to most herbs; thick flowers like lavender down to thin leafy herbs such as basil.
Preserving herb flavor and color is a challenge with any preservation method: air-drying, oven or dehydrator drying or sun drying.
Using a microwave for a drying method produces the most potent dried herbs with the freshest flavor and the brightest color. And, your house will smell wonderful after microwave drying.
What’s unique about microwave drying is microwaves specifically target water as they’re heating. So a microwave just heats up the moisture in herbs. An oven, on the other hand, heats everything evenly, leaves, stems, flowers, etc.
Which herbs can you dry?
Thick leafed herbs like rosemary, thyme, savory, marjoram and oregano will do well in the microwave.
Delicate herbs like parsley, mint, tarragon, cilantro, chervil, basil and chives lose a much of their flavor when dried. But when dried, they still can be used successfully for soups, stews and braises.
Harvest from well-established plants. Wait until any new growth has hardened off, usually in mid to late summer or just prior to flowering. With the exception of lavender, harvest just before the plant is blooming. The best time of day is early morning and for optimum flavor. Cut the stems above the woody growth and avoid any dry, brown or yellowing leaves.
2. Washing Herbs
Herbs with thick stems are the easiest. Rinse well and spin out the water in a salad spinner. Delicate herbs like basil and flat leafed parsley wash and dry each leaf by hand. Place leafs on a towel to soak up any extra water.
The goal of drying is to remove all the moisture stored inside the herb. Removing the leaves provides another evaporation point and removes the mass of the stem from the drying process. This helps even out the drying process.
Once the leaves are separated from the stems, spread them on a microwave safe plate covered with 2 layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Do not use recycled paper towels, which may contain fragments of metal. These can arc and cause fires inside the microwave.
Cover the herbs with a second layer of paper towels or clean dishtowel then microwave on high power for 1 minute. Check for dryness. If not dry continue with a few 20-second bursts until completely dry. Some thick herbs, such as lavender, may take as long as 3-4 minutes. Delicate herbs may take as few as 40 seconds followed by a few 20-second bursts. Do not use extended minutes in the microwave. This runs the risk of scorching the herbs. Rather use 1-minute intervals followed by 20 second bursts to finish drying.
Microwaves differ greatly in power output and therefore in time required to completely dry herbs. It is important to check the herbs often and document how long various herbs require to be completely dry. Keep a list of dry times by herb: you will thank me later.
Dried herbs should crumble when bent. If the herbs are still pliant, continue microwaving them until completely dried.
Herbs will keep their flavor for up to a year. Store them inside an airtight glass container in a dark cabinet. Pioneer Dad uses glass-canning jars or recycled pasta sauce jars with screw tight lids.