If your herb garden is giving you the gift of too many fresh herbs at once, drying them is such a wonderful option because you can enjoy them for months as you cook with them. I was a little overwhelmed the other week when I noticed that my little herb bed was overflowing and in need of a major haircut. I’ve been cooking with these tasty fresh herbs like crazy and making pesto like there’s no tomorrow, but I still couldn’t keep up and I didn’t want to let a single stem go to waste! I’ll show you how I dried 3 types of herbs in one day’s time. I used the oven drying method for my basil, oregano and parsley, which I thought worked very well. The herbs are so much more flavorful and fragrant than even the best quality store-bought organic dried herbs!
I set aside a Sunday with my little girls to dry our herbs. Here’s how it went:
- We cut our herbs from the garden and brought them inside right away. The best time to cut herbs is in the morning before the plants have been stressed by hot sun.
- We rinsed them, carefully shook as much water off into the sink as possible, very gently patted them dry with clean towels, then laid them flat on the towels until they were completely dry. Note: it’s important to not bruise the leaves while rinsing and drying, because bruising releases the oils (flavors) of the plant.
- We removed the leaves from the stems. This is such a perfect job for little hands! My girls loved helping, and their hands are the perfect size for removing tiny leaves.
- We placed the leaves in single layers on baking sheets. (I use these silicone mats on my baking sheets.)
- Each tray of herbs went into the oven (middle rack,) heated to 175 degrees F. I put 2 trays in the oven at a time.
- The key is to vent the oven door (I placed a dish towel in the door to prop it open slightly.) If the herbs truly bake, their essential oils are destroyed and the flavor deteriorates.
- The parsley and oregano trays were in the oven for 1 hour until they were dried. Basil took a bit longer, at 1 hour and 20 minutes. You’ll want to keep a very close eye on the herbs while they’re drying.
- You’ll know your herbs are completely dry when you can crumble them between your fingers.
To store dried herbs, put them in air-tight jars and keep them in a cool, dark place. They’ll last for up to a year, however, I’ve noticed that flavor starts to deteriorate after around 6 months.
Another other herb drying method I would recommend is hanging. Carefully wash and pat dry the stems of herbs, then tie them into small bundles with a maximum of 10 stems per bundle. They need to be hung in a dark, dry and warm area with good air circulation for around 3 weeks.
Are you preserving herbs from your garden this season?