If you grow herbs in your home garden or simply purchase fresh herbs at the Farmer’s Market or grocer, drying them will help preserve them for later use. There is nothing more aromatic than freshly dried herbs.
Drying herbs is very simple and does not require any special equipment. You can air-dry or heat-dry them. Heat-drying is quicker but air-drying creates a more flavorful herb. You will be able to store your dried herbs for up to two years.
When drying hearty herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, and dill, air-drying works best. Fragile herbs such as basil and parsley take a little extra care when air-drying. They tend to get moldy when air-dried, so it is really best to heat-dry them. Following are five easy steps to air dry fresh herbs:
• Step one: Harvest your garden herbs in small bunches. Shake to remove any dead leaves or insects and pinch off any dry leaves.
• Step two: Tie four to six branches together with string. Do not tie too tightly because you do not want to damage your herbs. Broken branches tend to mold very easily.
• Step three: Hang the tied branches in a warm, dry place upside down. An inside clothes line works well. You can even use clothes hangers over a rod. Hooking the tied branches over tacks on a bulletin board works but be sure you turn them every few days.
• Step four: Let your herbs dry for at least two weeks. If they crumble to the touch, they should be dry and ready to process.
• Step five: When dry, remove the herbs from their stems. If any bunches are moldy do not use them. Store your dried herbs in a zip lock bag or airtight container for future use.
This technique works well for all herbs especially fragile herbs such as basil and parsley. They tend to get moldy when using the air-dry method. Following are four easy steps to heat dry your fresh herbs.
• Step one: Preheat your oven to 150 degrees.
• Step two: Cut the leaves from their stems. Discard the stems and any moldy branches. Rinse the leaves in cold water and dry them thoroughly on paper towels.
• Step three: Line a baking sheet with a reusable baking mat. Spread herbs in a single layer and do not overlap.
• Step four: Bake the herbs for approximately 40 minutes, or until they are completely dry and crumbly. Remove them from the oven and let cool. Store your dried herbs in a zip lock bag or airtight container for future use.
Using Your Dried Herbs
When you want to use your dried herbs in your favorite recipe, crumbling them in your hands will allow the flavor and aroma to escape the dried leaves much easier. You can also grind them with a mortar and pestle.
As dried herbs age, they can lose their potency and flavor. You can compensate for this loss by adding a little extra to your recipes. Fresh herbs from the garden are great but you will be able to enjoy them much longer when you dry them at home. Enjoy!