Friday, November 19, 2010

Foodie Friday: Drying Herbs

Oregano
I know you might be experiencing more wintery weather right now, with freezing temperatures and such. But where I live, the trees are turning pretty colors, and I still have beets, lettuce, potatoes, spinach, squash, and plenty of herbs growing strong. I've been wanting to try drying my own herbs for a while, so I'm glad I finally started doing it!

I did a little research, and found that there are a few methods you can try when drying herbs:

  1. Hanging to dry: Bundle your herbs in small bunches (about five branches each) and secure them with string or a rubber band. Place them upside down in a brown paper bag with holes punched in the top for circulation, then secure that with a string. Hang in a warm, dry area for 2-4 weeks, checking them occasionally to see if they're dry yet.

    This works best with herbs that have a low moisture content, like dill, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. Herbs with a higher moisture content, like basil, lemon balm, mint, oregano, and tarragon may get moldy before they dry completely using this method.

  2. Oven drying: Spread the leaves or stems out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Heat the oven to about 180° F and heat them in there for 3-4 hours with the oven door open.

  3. Microwaving: A microwave can also be used to dry herbs, although it's not advised because using the microwave can diminish the oil content and flavor of your herbs. If you must use a microwave, lay the leaves or stems on a paper towel, and microwave on high 1-3 minutes, turning every 30 seconds.

  4. Electric Dehydrator: Turn the dehydrator to between 95° and 115° F, higher if you live in a humid climate. Lay leaves or stems in single laters on the trays, then heat for 1-4 hours, checking occasionally, until they are done.
Cilantro ready for bottling
With any of these methods, you'll know your herbs are dry when the leaves are crumbly and the stems break easily. I live in a wet climate, and I was also drying high moisture content herbs, so I enjoyed the convenience of using my electric dehydrator (thanks, Julie!).

I found that most of the cilantro stems were thin enough to crumble up with the leaves, so that's what I did with those. I separated out the others and put them in the compost. With the oregano, the leaves came off nicely from the stems when everything was dried, so I discarded all of the stems. I crumbled what was left, and used a funnel to fill the bottle. I was able to reuse empty glass bottles from herbs I had bought in the store, and I took off the old labels and put new ones on. (You should also date your bottles and use them all up within a year.)

Oregano, clipped fresh from the rainy garden.

It's been fun to clip herbs from my garden and process them myself until, at the end, I have nice little bottles of freshly dried herbs. I also never feel bad anymore about going to the grocery and buying a big, fresh bunch of something I don't have in my garden for a recipe (cilantro, this time). Now I know none of it will go to waste!

I was surprised to see how very green the herbs still are after drying compared to the ones I buy in the store. It makes me wonder what's done to those herbs to make them look so terrible (microwaving?) and also how long they've been sitting on the shelf! I love reaching in my cabinet for these bottles and using them in my recipes. I know exactly what went into the process that resulted in these tiny bottles of dry leaves I use to augment my cooking. I like being a big part of the process. I enjoy knowing precisely where my food comes from and how it got into those neat little bottles.
Have you ever dried your own herbs? What method did you use? What should I try next with the dehydrator? What do-it-yourself projects have you been wanting to do? Please, tell me all about it!

Linked up at Vegetarian Foodie Fridays at Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, Friday Food at Momtrends, Food on Fridays at Ann Kroeker, and Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home.

7 comments:

  1. I love drying my own herbs. I have some mint on the go right now but I am just letting it hang in a dark dry spot. Sometimes I use my food dehydrator though. I just hang them when I'm feeling too lazy to do otherwise. Which is how I am feeling these days! :P

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  2. I confess, I did some of this last week when my mom was here helping out with Daniel. =)

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  3. My husband has dried herbs from our garden, either with the food dehydrator or just on a rack with a fan blowing on it (during the summertime). Mostly oregano and thyme (chives was a big failure). We've also chopped or mashed up herbs (mostly basil) with olive oil and frozen them in cubes -- that works well too!

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  4. That's a great idea, Kristin! I wouldn't have thought to freeze basil with olive oil like that but it would be perfect for making pesto later. I'm going to have to try that next time I have extra fresh basil!

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  5. you're welcome! :)

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