Dehydrated Home Grown Herbs
I just finished dehydrating the first round of fresh herbs from our garden. Every year I get more than enough to last me for the year. There is so much satisfaction when I cook and use my own home grown dehydrated herbs. I grow the herbs I use the most like parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, basil, bay leaf, dill, oregano, chives and lemon thyme.
To prepare my herbs, I rinse them and gently pat them dry. I have an Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator that I dehydrate them in and I just love it! I started with a small inexpensive round 4-5 tray dehydrator. It was perfect to start out with so I could figure out if I wanted to continue drying the herbs and other food. The only problem with the small round dehydrator was I had to keep rotating the trays and it didn’t hold a lot at one time. It only had one set temperature where as my Excalibur has a thermostat and I don’t have to rotate the trays. The small one worked perfectly and had just as good of results as I get with my large Excalibur. Try a cheap small dehydrator first before you invest in a bigger, more expensive one.
You DO NOT need a dehydrator to dry herbs. Depending on what type of herb it is, you can air dry them or even dry them in the oven. Start by picking your herbs in the morning right after the dew dries off of them. Rinse them and gently pat them dry. They say not to crush your herbs once they are dried because it keeps the flavor of the herbs better. However, I always crush mine and store them in a sealed jar. I don’t want to mess around with crushing them every time I want to use them and they take up much less room crushed, but the choice is yours.
According to HGTV.com, the best herbs to dry in the oven are the low moisture herbs like rosemary, oregano, dill, thyme and marjoram. Place the herbs on a cookie sheet spreading them out as thin as you can trying not to let them touch. Place them in the oven at the lowest setting, ours is 170 degrees. Never dry at 180 degrees or higher or you will bake them. Leave the oven door open, like when you broil, as the herbs need circulation to dry and not bake. Keep them in the oven for 2-4 hours or until the herbs are completely dry and they are crumbly.
HGTV.com states that herbs with a higher moisture content like basil, mint and chives are better dried in a dehydrator. Some dehydrators only have one setting to dry. My Excalibur has a thermostat that tells me what temperature to dehydrate each type of food. Read the manual on your dehydrator to see what setting it calls for. Like in the oven, place your herbs so they are not touching.
HGTV.com said that natural air drying is another method of drying your herbs. Gather about 8 branches of the herb and tie them together with a string at the base of the stem. Take a paper bag and poke holes in it. Place your herbs in the bag stem side up and tie the end of the bag closed. Hang the bag, stem side up, in a warm ventilated room. They will be dry in a week or more.
So whatever method you choose to dry your herbs, they will be fresher than any jar of herbs you will buy in the grocery store. Compare your freshly dried herbs with the ones from the store and you will be amazed at the difference in color and taste!