Dry herbs from the garden and enjoy those flavors all year. Dried herbs provide the opportunity of extending the spring and summer flavors throughout the fall and winter months.
Harvest herbs for drying is just before the plants flower. Look for buds that have not yet opened. This is when herbs are at their peak of flavor usually in early spring.
Harvest in the morning, after the dew has evaporated, to minimize wilting and maximize oil and flavor content. Rinse the cuttings in cold water to remove dirt and any unwanted organic matter and gently shake the cuttings to remove excess moisture.
Discard any damaged or discolored leaves and stems.
The three most popular methods of drying herbs are:
• Tie in bundles and hang to dry
• Dry on a tray in the oven
• Dry in a dehydrator
1. Bundling herbs
Sturdy herbs such as: parsley, rosemary, sage, summer savory and thyme are the easiest to bundle and dry. Tie each herb into small bundles and hang them in a warm dark place indoors to dry. Dried herbs are best when kept out of direct sunlight. A warm garage, a garden shed or a pantry cabinet, with good airflow, are ideal.
Tender leaf herbs such as: basil, oregano, tarragon and mints have higher moisture content and will mold when not dried quickly. Tie these herbs into even smaller bundles and hang to dry. Or, hang the herb bundles in brown paper bags with ventilation holes in the sides. Place where air will circulate through the bag.
2. Oven drying herbs
If you live in an area of high humidity, oven drying may provide the best solution. Spread cuttings or individual leaves on a paper towel lined pan to dry. Individual leaves of sage or mint, can be placed up to 5 layers deep of paper towels and leaves. Set the oven at the lowest temperature possible; 95 to 115 degrees is best (do not exceed 125 degrees). Drying times will vary.
3. Drying herbs in a dehydrator
Using a dehydrator is an efficient way to preserve herbs. Dehydrators have built in fans for air circulation and easy temperature controls. Set the thermostat at 95 to 115 degrees and arrange the herbs, on a single layer, evenly across each tray. Place herbs with higher moisture content on top trays. In areas with higher humidity, the temperature may need to be 125 degrees. Drying times may take from 1 to 4 hours. Check often for dryness. Leaves will crumble when dry, stems will break not bend.
4. Storing herbs
When the herbs are dry crumble them between the fingers for coarsely textured herbs. Use a kitchen blender for a finer texture.
Store herbs in airtight glass containers and keep them in a cool dark place for better color and fragrance. Mason or Ball jars for canning work well as storage containers. Herbs will store up to a year.
5. Drying Tips
• Oven trays with wire racks are best for drying allowing air to circulate around the herbs
• Screened trays work equally well
•Some pasta sauces jars have lids with a rubber gasket, which work equally well
• Dried herbs are 3 to 4 times as strong as fresh herbs
• Substitute dried herbs for fresh in recipes, but reduce the dried amount accordingly