A Real "Cool" Way to Dry Herbs
Posted: August 18, 2011
By Dennis Mawhinney, Master Gardener
There are many ways to dry herbs including air-drying, oven drying, dehydrator drying, and microwave drying. With all of these methods for drying herbs there was always the problem of loss of flavor.
In a fortunate accident, I discovered the perfect way to dry herbs. I purchased fresh mushrooms and I transferred them from the plastic store container into a paper lunch bag. Some didn’t get used and were “lost” in the refrigerator. When I found them I discovered that they were perfectly dried.
Eureka! Could this method be adapted to dry my wonderful herbs? After months of experimenting, I am glad to report that the answer is YES. Here is the process.
All you need is:
a clean brown paper lunch bag
a paper clip
and........a frost-free refrigerator/freezer
Pick herbs before 10 am so that the intense afternoon sun does not evaporate the natural oils in the leaves. Make sure that herbs are clean (wash and then dry with untreated paper towels). For large leafed herbs (basil, sage, etc.) remove the leaves from the stem, for small leaves (parsley, thyme, stc.) dry stem and all. Place no more than 20-30 large leaves or 10-15 stems in each bag. Fold the top down and place a paper clip to keep the bag closed. Write name of herb and date on the bag. Then simply place the bag into your refrigerator.
It should take approximately 2 weeks to dry. To help the process along, whenever you get something from the refrigerator, shake the bag to separate herbs. When the herbs are crisp dried (you can tell from the sound of the bag and by touch); take the bag out of the refrigerator and keep it at room temperature for approximately one week to insure that it is totally dry. Then place the dried herbs into a glass container (preferably brown glass), label and date. Store in a dark, cool place and the flavor will last for several years.
This process works extremely well for herbs that otherwise lose flavor or scent and color, such as, basil, tarragon, the fruit flavored sages, lemon or lime balm, parsley, rose petals, and scented geraniums.
Chives and rosemary will do better by using this method but placing them in a frost-free freezer instead. In the freezer, the process will take 2 months rather than two weeks, but flavor and color retention are excellent. Cut chives into small pieces and rosemary can be done with stems and leaves.
Another benefit of this process is that you can use the fresh stems and flowers to make herbal vinegar so that no part of the herb is wasted.
Even if an herb air-dries well - this process will further enhance the flavor retention. Try it with your favorite herb first and after you see the wonderful results, I’m sure you will dry all your herbs this way.