The rich flavor of herbs can bring a boring meal alive as well provide various health benefits. In the process of drying herbs, what one actually does is retain their flavors and aroma, for longer periods, thereby making it an effective substitute in places where fresh herbs are not easily available. Whatever your purpose of using herbs may be, learning how to dry them is a good way to preserve their goodness. Here are some ways by which you can dry some for storage.
Before You Begin
Before you begin the process of drying herbs, there are certain steps that you should follow to be able to maintain their rich flavor and aroma.
- Harvest the herbs just before they flower as that is when they contain the maximum amount of essential oils. These oils are what contribute to the rich flavor and aroma of herbs.
- Harvest them during mid-morning after the dew on the leaves has been dried out.
- If the weather is very humid, or it has just rained, or it is about to rain, don't harvest them as the process will not be effective in this weather, and may cause the herbs to wilt.
- Take only the healthy parts of the plant, and pick out the dry leaves. Rinse them, get rid of the excess water by shaking it off, and lay them out on paper towels to dry temporarily.
Drying Herbs at Home
After you have completed the above-mentioned steps, you can now begin to dry the herbs at home, using various methods.
The process of air drying herbs is by far the most effective way of retaining its natural flavor. Though the process is slightly time-consuming, its results are always the best.
- Tie together, about 6 branches of the herbs you wish to dry, with a rubber band or a string. Some herbs have a higher water content than others. Tie lesser branches together in such a case.
- Take a paper bag, and perforate it with small holes. Put the bundle of herbs into the bag, upside down.
- Tie the bag and hang it upside down in a well-lit and well-ventilated room. Avoid exposing it to direct sunlight.
- The process of drying will take about a week or two. However, it is important to keep a regular check on them.
In an Oven
If you want to dry herbs quickly, then using an oven is a good option.
- Lay out the herbs on a cookie sheet, and at a temperature of 180 ºF, place them in the oven for a period of about 3-4 hours.
- While drying them in a microwave oven, lay them on a paper towel and for a period of about 3 minutes and place them in the microwave on high. However, remember to turn them over every 30 seconds to avoid burning.
- Though the process of drying herbs in the oven is quicker than other methods, the flavors of the herbs are not retained and are sometimes even altered.
In a Dehydrator
Using a dehydrator is also a quick way of drying herbs at home. Follow these steps.
- To dry them in a dehydrator, preheat the machine between 95-115 ºF.
- On a tray meant specifically for an electric dehydrator, lay out the herbs.
- Place them in the dehydrator for 1-4 hours, and keep a regular check on them to avoid burning.