How to Dry Your Own Herbs at Home
Melissa J. Murphy
Whether you have an over-abundance of basil, parsley, or cilantro in the garden, or you simply can't eat all of the fresh herbs you bought at the grocery store before they go bad, drying your own herbs is a simple, straightforward process and is a great way to extend the life of your herbs by months. Although there are many ways to dry herbs, the best methods are the old-fashioned air-dry method or processing them in a dehydrator.
Air-Drying Fresh Herbs
Using the air-drying method is the easiest and most economical way to dry herbs. This method has the advantage of not requiring any special equipment, but the drawback is it is also the slowest way. In order to properly air-dry herbs, you should select herbs that have stems that can be tied together; your drying area must have good air-flow and no direct sunlight; and, the herbs should not be exposed to toxic substances in the air like cigarette smoke, hairspray, etc. These stipulations aside, air-drying herbs is a simple process:
- Wash herbs to remove any bugs, debris, and pesticide. Pat dry with paper toweling.
- Gather and tie together about four or five stems with a two or three foot length of cotton string or twine.
- Hang herbs upside down in a well-ventilated place to allow gravity to pull the natural oils down into the leaves.
- When the leaves are crispy and crumble easily, your herbs are ready to be stored in an air-tight container.
Drying Herbs in a Dehydrator
Employing the use of a dehydrator is a fast, efficient way to dry fresh herbs because it allows a steady flow of warm, dry air around the leaves and stems, causing them to dry quickly. To use your dehydrator to dry herbs, preheat to the recommended setting and lay the herbs on dehydrator tray in a single layer. Because of the variations among dehydrators, herbs can take anywhere from one to four hours to dry. You will know your herbs are sufficiently dry when they become crumbly.
Remember that the drying process concentrates the flavours of herbs and they are much stronger than fresh. For best results, be sure to keep your packaged and stored herbs out of direct sunlight. Also don't forget to label and date your stored herbs. Dried herbs will retain their flavour for about a year. If you observe your herbs losing their colour, they are probably also losing their flavour and it's time to dry a new batch.
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