Preserving and drying herbs is really simple. Although I always love using fresh herbs when ever possible, some applications such as herbal teas and herb oils work really well with dried herbs and flowers. If you are growing your own herbs, it is cheaper to dry them than to buy the store bought ones. I like to preserve as many fresh herbs, from my garden and the store, as possible to use all year round. There are many different ways to preserve and dry herbs and here we have outlined 6 of the best ways to make sure you have access to all you favourite herbs whenever you need them.
PRESERVING AND DRYING HERBS
PREPARING THE HERBS
Gently wash and pat dry the fresh herbs. Personally I find a salad spinner works very well for this. Pick out any discoloured leaves. If you have a variety of different types of herb you wish to preserve separate them into their individual plant type. Then sort the into two sections - High moisture content and Low moisture content.
HIGH MOISTURE HERBS
High moisture herbs need "Fast Drying Methods" so that they do not develop mold. The best method for drying these types of herbs is in a dehydrator, oven or microwave.
LOW MOISTURE HERBS
Herbs with low moisture can be preserved with "Slow Drying Methods" without fear of mold. So they can be preserved using the air drying methods. They can be dried with any of the fast methods listed below.
FAST DRYING METHODS
Dehydrating is my favourite way to dry herbs as its so fast and simple. Place a single layer of herbs on to the dehydrating tray. Turn the dehydrator to the manufacturer recommended temperature for herbs (approximately 95°F). The drying time will be anywhere from 1 to 4 hours depending on the moisture content and the amount of herbs you are drying.
2. OVEN DRYING
Place your herbs on to a cookie sheet or low rimmed pan. Turn the oven on to its lowest setting, with the door open. Leave the herbs in the warm oven for about 2 to 4 hours. Personally I find this method wasteful on energy and it tends to heat up the kitchen so I prefer to use the dehydrator.
Place a single layer of herbs between two piece of paper towel. Place in microwave on high for 1-2 minutes. Let the plant cool. If they are not completely dried out and brittle, heat again for 30 seconds and let cool. Repeat the 30 seconds reheat and cool until herbs are completely dry.
Most herbs need to be blanched before freezing (Basil, dill, and chives do not need to be blanched). To do this put the herbs into boiling salted water for just under a minute. Then immediately put the herbs in to ice water to stop the cooking process. Then place the herbs in to a ziplock bag or other storage contain and put in the freezer.
SLOW DRYING METHODS
5.INDOOR AIR DRYING
a) Gather a small bunch of the herb and tie there stems together, hang upside down in a dark place for 2 to 3 weeks. If you do not have a suitable dark area, place the bunch it a brown paper bag, do not let the herbs touch the side of the bag. Tear several holes in the bag for air circulation and hang to dry. By keeping the herbs out of the UV of the sun they will retain more of their colour.
b) Spread the herbs out flat on a window screen. Then suspend the screen indoors between the back of two chairs. Turn the herbs once or twice a day to get even drying. This method will take a few weeks to thoroughly dry out the herbs.
6. SALT DRYING
Place a small bunch of herbs into a jar. Fill the jar with non-iodized salt. Completely covering the herbs. Stir the salt and herb mix every few days. Repeat until the moisture has been completely drawn out of the plants. This will take approximately two weeks.
Here is a great instructional video from Mother Earth News air drying and freezing herbs.
Once fully dried you herbs should be stored in a labeled and dated air tight container. Dried herbs will last for 1 to 3 years, after this time they tend to lose their flavour. For the newly dried herbs you should check the container for the first few days for signs of moisture. If you had not completely dried out the herbs you will run the risk of mold. If you see signed of moisture repeat the drying process. If you see signs of mold do not use the herbs.