For the next week or so I will be concentrating on drying herbs because I have a ton in my garden and I know they won’t last forever. Knowing how to dry herbs allows me to preserve home-grown herbs when they no longer are producing.
Herbs are so easy to grow and when you add an herb like fresh basil to a salad or pizza and you will never forget the flavor. Like all things in the garden, there is a season ~ and then the season ends.
Where herbs are concerned, they bolt. That means they shoot out stalks, flower, and then make seeds. The best time to pick herbs is before they bolt. For me, that is right now.
Now, I like to be a little generous. So, I only cut away about 75% of this parsley plant. I want to allow the plant to come back ~ not for more parsley, instead, I am leaving a little food for the monarch larvae. The larvae will strip every last parsley leaf, come back, and do it over and over.
Trust me when I say that this will be plenty of parsley for me and Mr. Seasoned Homemaker. Once dried, it should last until I can grow more herbs next season.
Next, I pull out my trusty food dehydrator. I know that some people like to hang their herbs to dry. Do this once and you will go out and purchase a food dehydrator. I purchased mine at Walmart, but they are available at Target and Amazon. (affiliate link)
There are several high-quality dehydrators that cost over $300. That would make drying herbs a little costly. So, I stick with this inexpensive model and it does a great job ~ although it is a little noisy.
To dry herbs, I layer my herbs onto the 4 trays and stack them according to the dehydrator’s instructions.
Then, I set my dehydrator on the lowest setting (95-degrees on my model) and let it dry for 12-20 hours.
Drying time can vary quite a bit. It really depends on how much moisture is in the herbs. I usually pick my herbs early in the morning and rinse them well. Then, I towel dry them. After that, I put them in the dehydrator and turn it on. This is usually between 9am and 10am.
Before going to bed, I turn off the dehydrator and let the herbs sit overnight. In the morning, if they are all crumbly, then I separate the herbs from the stems and put them in jars.
Occasionally, they need to continue for another 2-6 hours. Keep an eye on them so they don’t get over-dried.
You can also use your oven to dehydrate. Set your oven on 90-95 degrees and place herbs on a cookie sheet. Personally, I don’t like doing this because it ties up the oven for one or two days. If you need to bake something for dinner, then you have to wait for it to cool back down before you can put your herbs back in.
After the parsley is dried, I will be drying oregano, sage, and basil. That’s what I mean when I say I’m drying herbs all week. Imagine if I was using my oven!
While nothing beats the flavor of fresh herbs, home-grown dried herbs are a good alternative until the next crop can be planted and harvested. Growing herbs is simple and even people with limited space can usually manage to grow some basil and oregano. I encourage you to try growing a few herbs and then drying the rest before they bolt. You will be surprised at how much natural flavor is preserved through the drying process. Best of all, you can be certain about quality because you’ve grown, harvested, and dried your own herbs.