Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Drying herbs for idiots

ParsleyMy herb plants are getting totally overgrown and are encroaching on my other plants. So, I took matters into my own hands and bushwacked them back.

I didn't want to just huck the clippings onto the compost bin, so I decided to try to dry the herbs that are annual. Things like rosemary, sage and other plants are perennial around here, so I don't worry too much about not having them year round. Particularly the rosemary. It's almost viral it grows so big and gets out of control so easily.

I wish I had taken the time to dry some oregano before I chopped the hell out of it and transplanted it elsewhere earlier in the year. Same thing with the marjoram (which I ended up killing). Oh well, next time I'll know better.

So, what did I end up drying? A ton of Italian flat leaf parsley and some sage just for sport (even though it sticks around in winter). The sage is handy to have on hand inside since sometimes when it's dark, pouring rain and cold out I don't like to poke around in the yard when I'm making dinner trying to scout out decent herbs.

Dried parsley in an oregano jarThere are a couple different ways of drying herbs. You can put them in the traditional dehydrator and go that route. I was afraid they'd stick like crazy (like my strawberries) and didn't feel like spending hours scraping little paper thin leaves off the grates. You can also freeze them dry and store them at room temperature. Allegedly. I'm still not convinced that freezing works without molding up.

Lastly, you can dry them in the microwave, which is the method I chose. Basically you place your herbs (I washed and then dried them between kitchen towels) on a paper towel and then nuke them in the microwave until they are dry and crispy. For my microwave it took about 2.5 minutes for the parsley. The sage took closer to 4 minutes since they are so thick.

Once they are crispy dry, crush them with your hands and then store them in small jars. I had some old spice jars that fit the bill, so I loaded them up using a small funnel. The color is phenomenally more vibrant and the herbs have a much more fragrant smell than anything you can buy from the store.

Now I can save the summer bounty of my herbs and have them available to season my foods in the dead of winter. And it's so damn easy you have no excuse to not try it yourself. By the way, drying your herbs is also useful for when you buy too many herbs and want to keep them out of the compost.

27 comments:

Latigo Liz said...

One more tip I gleaned from some boks. Don’t crush your herbs until right before using them. You’ll get better scent and flavor as the essential oils aren’t released until then. Not ideal for saving space, but makes a difference in the cooking I have noticed.

Also, you can use your oven to dry, too. Just set for under 200°F and check frequently.

ruchi aka arduous said...

Thanks for the tip. I think I'm going to buy some herbs because I can put a couple post on my windowsill so this will come in handy soon! (Unless I kill the plants which is very likely.)

Piedro Molinero said...

This is a very useful tip for drying herbs. I really think everybody will be able to do this. I use to grow the most used herbs in containers in the kitchen, but this will be a help for those I still grow outside.

Kristi said...

I go the even more low-tech way of rubber banding a few sprigs together and hanging them with an opened paper clip from the pot rack in the kitchen. In a couple weeks to a month, they're nice, crispy, and ready for the jars. It also gives the creepy crawlies a chance to move out.

Thanks for the reminder. Rosemary isn't reliably hardy here in a cold winter, so I need to clip some now or risk losing the lot. And the bay is threatening to block the doors to the shed!

Hot Belly Mama - taking it all back said...

abosolutely genious! I cannot wait to have the opportunity to dry my own herbs. I am so glad I found your blog, looking forward to more!

Billie said...

We have a nice cherry tomato plant on our balcony that is taking it sweet time to green up the last tomatoes... and it is still sprouting tomatoes.

Can we move it indoors to harvest the last tomatoes after the first frost?

Cave-Woman said...

For a few of my herbs, I chop them up, put them in ice cube trays, fill with water, and then freeze.

When I'm ready to make soups, I just put a few ice cubs in the pot and voila! Tasty Soup.

Maeve said...

I dry herbs by gathering several springs, cut end up, leafy tip down, tying them together around that cut stem area with some thread, and hanging the whole thing in my downstairs darkish room to air dry. I live in Montana, we have a pretty dry climate. This might not work as well if you have loads of humidity.

But fussing about with individual leaves is a pain. It's way easier to dry them on the stems, and then strip the stems into a dish, and then transfer to little bottles or jars, either whole-leaf or crushed.

I do not dry in a dehydrator or microwave or oven, because I'm concerned the heat will cook them a bit, as well as drive off the essential oils. I get much better flavor with the 'hang to dry in a dim room' method.

:)

Nature Deva said...

I usually always dry my herbs by tying up small bunches and hanging them dry then crush and store in a jar but since I've bought an amazing temp-controlled dehydrator, I've just been putting them on the available trays whenever I have it going for drying other produce. Since I've been drying at no higher than 105 degrees for all the produce this summer, they come out amazingly well and took no longer than a day (or less when I remembered to check on them earlier). They don't stick to the tray at all and I've been drying lots of different kinds of culinary herbs. They come out very vibrant in color and aroma and are still "alive" since dried at low temps. Many culinary herbs have medicinal value, too so you wouldn't want to kill that off.

I did the ice cube method for all of my chives - just chop to half inch or less, fill half way in the tray, fill the rest with water and freeze then pop them out and store in a ziplock in freezer. I'm sure you could do this with whatever herbs you want to cook with that you don't want in the dry form.

kimberly said...

oooh, that's a good idea. i can't try it though :( (no freezer or microwave here)

LisaZ said...

Herbs don't stick to your dehydrator! They totally dry out and are not sticky like fruit.

agreenfire said...

thanks for the great timing on this post. I was just thinking about what to do with my parsley. I am going to dry half, and try the ice cube trick for half.

Mindful Momma said...

I'm so jealous about the rosemary. It's definitly not a perennial here in Minnesota. And I couldn't keep a rosemary plant alive inside to save my life...believe me I've tried! If anyone has any tips on that one, I'd love to know!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Yes, I should have pointed out that air drying does probably preserve more of the flavor and nutrients rather than irradiating them in the microwave.

But, if you are short on time and/or patience, the microwave method is the way to go... Dry herbs in 5 minutes or less!

Anonymous said...

I just let my herbs air dry, strung up by stems tips down. Right now I think I have more than enough to cover myself for winter and still be able to put some in jars for gifts....we're working on apple butter now....

Robj98168 said...

This is the first year I have bothered to dry herbs. I use the dehydrator- and boy when I do it the whole house smells great. My aunt takes big bundles of herbs and hangs them in the window. Of course she is a Martha Stewart wannabe.

Kathleen McDade said...

Sweet! I have some oregano threatening to take over my backyard.

Sharlene said...

If you put parchment down before dehydrating you can avoid the stick factor for fruit

Matriarchy said...

I pick the leaves off my herbs, spread them on a clean tray in a single-ish layer, and just set them out of the way to dry. After a day or two, I add them to the jar of whichever herb it is.

I have whole and chopped parsley - the shopped stays bright green and is good for garnish. Dried sage, lemon balm, mint, chopped garlic chives, tarragon, etc. Basil I only have in pesto form.

I put out mint leaves and chopped parsley on Saturday morning, and they were ready to store by Sunday night.

Anonymous said...

I find flipping the fruit over in mid dry in the dehydrator helps to reduce the stick factor. I have also been known to lightly rub a little oil on the racks

pink dogwood said...

This is a great tip crunchy - wish I had known this a few weeks ago when I used to get bunch of herbs from my CSA. I will save some oregano from my garden.

MissAnna said...

Turns out cilantro will catch on fire after 3 minutes or so in the microwave...I might try air drying next time :-)

Mel Mazz said...

Love to read what you have been doing with various food crops; would you consier posting some pictures of your garden? I am always interested in urban garden layouts, and have been working on reworking my Chicago garden to incorporate more food crops and natives. Always love to see what others are doing. (and I know, no garden is ever "ready" for pictures, but still would love to see and would never judge!)

Cynthia said...

Thanks for this post, it's just in time. I was wondering what to do to keep my herbs through the winter as it's a bit too humid to air dry here. Tried your microwave tip with thyme, oregano, and savory. It worked like a charm (although the batch of rosemary got a bit scorched...ick)

scifichick said...

I dried some herbs this summer too! I got way too much from CSA, and they were ending up wilted. Now I just dry them. I wash them, chop them, and then spread on a cookie sheet that I leave on a counter, next to a window. It dries in just a couple of days. I stir them from time to time to make sure that they dry evenly. Very easy to do!

Condo Blues said...

I dry my herbs in paper wine bags (when we forget to bring the reusable wine bag carrier into Trader Joes, oops.) I put the leaves into the paper bags and shake them every so often to loosen up the leaves. It takes approx. a week to dry.

Anonymous said...

Crunchy I have learned alot from reading your blog, as I live in WA state as well, Chehalis, WA to be exact, and am in teh same U.S.D.A. Zone, have learned lots from the mistakes you talk about ie what grew well, ehat didnt do so well, transplanting, what works, & dont work. sorry for the grammer never been good at grammer, been better putting thoughts into verbal communication than words. Are you interested in a seed swap for Heirloom, or other OPEN POLINATED (OP) varieties. I have mailed and am one the ones going to help organize the US seed swap for DOWN--to--EARTH when they get ready to do it. Would you be interested in a side seed swap, or possibly any of your readers that are in WA state. I have lots of OP, mostly Heirloom seeds but never can experiment enough, or have enough choices to plant. My garden is aprox. 900Square Feet this year, twice the size as last year, and I hope to get to 1800Square feet for next year, may have to have two locations to do that as I'm running outta room in the location, but I have 4.5 Acres here and over 3 are unused, so plenty of room to expand as needed. Let me know, My E-mail is, since I work usually 90+ Hours in a 5 day work week, dont have much free time for teh computer, akalnoski@yahoo DOT com I would highly covet some of them purple, or blue potatoes. I have pretty much every heirloom seed, or OP varaiety that can be ordered from BURPEE, Gurneys, & have some from Seed Savers Exchange as well, and more on the way from other sources as we speak. Let me know what you have to swap, we can work sumthing out if interested.
ANTHONY

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