Culinary Techniques With Herbs: How to Air Dry Your Own Herbs
Culinary Basics - How to Air Dry Herbs
Whether you have fresh herbs from your garden or you are purchasing herbs from the local farmer’s markets or grocery stores, you can dry your own herbs and keep them for at least a year.
There are of course simpler methods to drying herbs – you can purchase a commercial dehydrator and dry herbs very easily and in large batches.
Or you can also dry them the old fashioned way – by air drying. Air drying leaves more of the herb oils behind and thus enhances the inherent flavor of the herbs.
You can also dry herbs in the oven.
WHAT HERBS WORK BEST FOR AIR DRYING?
Air-drying herbs will work for any herbs, though chives are best frozen.
Several herbs such as basil, tarragon and mint do not dry as quickly because they have more moisture in them. (These herbs are excellent candidates for oven drying!)
The ‘best’ herbs for air drying include sage, thyme, oregano, rosemary and marjoram but I have had huge success with even the moister herbs - but we live in a dry climate.
The important factor for drying herbs by the air method is to remember to hang them high and make sure they are in an airy place that has good circulation of air.
- Cut herbs about mid morning when leaves are dry
- Harvest with stems as long as you can get them
- Shake them gently to knock off any insects or dirt
- Rinse herbs in cool water and place on towels or paper towels. Let the herbs lay on the towels and pat gently to dry
- I put my herbs in a salad spinner and spin gently to get more water off
- Leave herbs exposed to air for a few hours to allow more moisture to evaporate
- Turn the herbs upside down and hold by stem
- Remove some of the leaves near the base of the upside down stem to give you a good ‘stalk’ to tie the herbs together
- Tie together 5-6 stalks of herbs dependent on the size of herbs and their moisture. You want air to circulate all around the herbs for the best drying
- Take a paper bag and put holes in it - cut small holes with scissors or poke holes with a pencil or nail
- Enclose the herbs in the paper bag, scrunch the paper bag closed and tie with string or kitchen twine
- Don’t over-stuff the bags with herbs as it reduces circulation.
- Fewer branches are better for higher moisture herbs per bag
- Hang in a high, airy place – the herbs should be dried in 2-3 weeks
DRIED HERB TIPS
- 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs
- Chives don’t dry well and should just be washed, dried and frozen for future use
- Store in airtight containers or zip-lock freezer bags
- Dried herbs do best when kept away from the light – such as a darkened cupboard
- Add dried herbs the last 5-10 minutes of cooking to get the most flavor from them
- Crushing or grinding herbs reduces the flavor. They retain more flavor by keeping the leaves whole when dried
- Sage actually becomes more flavorful the longer it is stored!
SUMMING IT UP
If you enjoy cooking, there is nothing like having your own fresh herbs to help create your healthy recipes. With just a little effort, you can have enough herbs to last a whole year before the next summer season of planting and harvesting more.
Part of culinary basics is knowing what herbs go with what foods, also knowing how to use fresh herbs versus dried herbs.
Growing your own urges you to try new recipes and be creative. Because I had so much dried mint (you can only drink so much of it in tea), I found a delightful summer salad to use it in.
Use your imagination and you'd be surprised how much fun it is to grow and harvest your very own herbs!
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