Drying is the oldest and one of the simplest methods of preservation. As the summer inches away gradually, you can turn your gardening hobbies into a rewarding activity to keep your family refreshed and nourished for many months by learning how to dry your herbs. Drying has been used for millennia to keep herbs and other foods from spoiling and retaining their nutritional and medicinal properties.
Timing is essential when you want to dry your herbs. It’s important that you harvest the herbs before the flowers develop. Harvest after the dew has dried up on warm, low-humidity days that show signs of hotness. Rosemary, lavender, lemon balm, and mint do well with drying. Here are the ways of drying your herbs.
Tie branches or sprigs into small bunches. Avoid tying into large bunches as it can lead to mold or leaf discoloration. Hang the leaves downward. You can wrap the bunches with paper bags or muslin to protect them from dust and catch any seeds or leaves falling off the bunch. Plastic bags can cause mold.
Depending on the humidity and bunch sizes, hang drying can take up to 7-10 days. You know the herbs are completely dry when the leaves make a crisp sound like crushing cornflakes.
Seeds of coriander, fennel, caraway, and parsley can also be air-dried. Harvest the seeds with the stem, tie the stems together and cover the seeds with muslin or paper bag to catch falling seeds before hanging to dry.
Oven drying is ideal for herbs such as parsley, rosemary, thyme, mint, and sage. The first step is to strip the herbs from the stems, then space out the leaves on a tray covered in muslin before setting in an oven set to the lowest temperature level. Higher temperature will cause the fragrant essential oils in the herbs to evaporate. Don’t cover the door to allow the moisture to exit the oven. Leaves should take one hour to dry but ensure you turn every 30 minutes for consistent drying.
You can also dry your herbs on the rack. Arrange the leaves or sprigs individually on racks which can be made by stretching a muslin, netting, or cheesecloth on a wooden frame and tie in position. Place the tray of herbs in a warm, airy spot out away from direct sunlight, in the warming drawer of an oven, or an airing cupboard. Complete drying should take about 2-3 days but occasionally turn for even drying.
If you want to dry a small number of herbs, then microwave is a perfect drying method. Remove the leaves from the stems and dry off any moisture after rinsing.
On a paper towel, arrange a single layer of leaves and place on a plate suitable for the microwave. Then place another paper towel on the plate, turn up the microwave for about one minute. Stop immediately the herb starts giving off a burning smell. Heat at 30 seconds intervals until you get the desired dryness.
A food dehydrator is a specialized equipment that works like a microwave. All you have to do is set the thermostat of the food dehydrator to 95-115 degrees Fahrenheit and preheat before introducing the herbs you want to dry. Place the herbs in a single layer on the trays in the dehydrator after rinsing and drying off the water. Depending on the herb's moisture, drying can take up to 1-4 hours. Be sure to keep an eye on the herbs to avoid burning. When the leaves crumble, and the stems break on bending, you know its dry.