Summertime brings a bounty and you don’t want to let any of it go to waste, but if I tried to utilize every bit of the herbs that are in my little garden right now, I’d be cooking around the clock! Drying your herbs is a great way to preserve them so that the wonderful, homegrown flavor can be enjoyed in many dishes throughout the year.
Buying herbs in the grocery can be expensive, but it you keep up with it, you can snip fresh herbs all summer, dry them out all along the way and you won’t need to make a store purchase. Plus, there’s a lot of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment when you harvest what you’ve grown and use it. Meals just seem to taste a little better. Not everyone has a farm or the space/land for a full blown garden-I certainly don’t. But no matter where you live or how small of a space you might have, you can squeeze in an herb plant or two. It just needs a little nurturing and sunlight and you’ll reap the rewards.
I’ve air dried herbs in the past and that works perfectly well, but my neighbor Regina gave me a food dehydrator so I can dry them in a fraction of the time and I don’t have to wonder if I tied up the stems well, if it’s going to rain or if I have enough room in my closet for all that basil to dry out! My dehydrator is from Kitchen Living and it’s pretty simple and basic.
It holds 5 trays, the warming element is in the bottom and the lid rotates to allow different settings for letting moisture and heat escape. It works just great and it came with a pretty thorough instruction book with drying times and recipes. There are plenty other models out there with timers, adjustable thermostats, digital readouts, etc. with prices ranging from $50-$350. It just depends on your budget and what features you’re looking for.
The process of drying oregano, thyme, basil, parsley, etc. is super easy. Gather up your herbs, rinse them off, shake off the excess water and lay them in the trays.
The herbs are dry and ready for storage when the leaves crumble, the stems snap in half and they’ve cooled completely.
Now about storage. If you look in your spice cabinet, you probably have a variety of containers like me. In the future, I’m going to only buy glass bottles so that I can reuse them with my dried herbs. I like glass because it’s recyclable and it doesn’t retain odors. I also prefer the separate screw top lids as opposed to the lids with the built in flip shaker. The seam could break due to usage and then I’m left without a proper lid.
I found some great little spice bottles that fit the bill at Bed Bath and Beyond for just 99 cents! To store, remove as much of the stem as you can, pop them into a food processor and give them a quick pulse.
I’ll keep some of the crumbled herbs in the shaker containers for quick use and store the remaining uncrushed dried leaves in a glass jar, refilling the shaker containers as needed.
A food dehydrator can also be used to dry fruit, veggies, meats, flowers, etc, so it’s really a useful, money saving appliance if you put it to work. Fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs are only fresh for so long and dehydrating saves the food, saves you money in the long run and lets you enjoy your summer garden all year long.