Herbs remind us of the spicy aroma that emanates from our kitchens on seasoning our food with good quality herbs. In each and every house there will be more than one herb in a dried form. As we all know, herbs can create magic in our dishes. And imagine how lucky we can be, if we are able to use them all the year round from our own garden. Yes, it sounds really amazing. To use our own yard dried herbs for the whole year, the easiest thing we can do is to harvest, dry properly and store it. There are many people who are very fond of gardening and specially in cultivating herbs. That keen interest will reward them with pure and safe herbs from their own garden. They can even store these herbs using the oldest food preserving method, that is, drying, which is a very simple and a safe method for preserving herbs.When you dry herbs, you automatically protect them from yeast, mold and bacteria, and give them a potent shelf life of six months to a year. A little air circulation will remove the moisture and, if you can store them warmly, it is an added advantage.
Usually all the herbs have a shelf life around one year. But the method for drying all the herbs is not the same. Some needs air drying while the other needs to be dried under the sun. For example the ones with less moisture content like rosemary, oregano, marjoram and dill can be easily air dried.
Herbs are very dear to us and it is because of their goodness and aroma. So, to maintain its quality, some tips need to be followed: herbs should be cropped in the morning time just after the morning mist on the leaves have dried off. There are a few simple steps to dry these herbs and we can enjoy the taste of herbs from our own garden or from the farmer’s garden for the whole year.
Choosing Proper Herbs for Drying
As we all know, there are many species of herbs. They all have different kind of leaves. Some are thick, some are long, some are oily etc and hence all cannot be dried in the same way. To maintain the quality, color and flavor, we should know to differentiate the herbs for their perfect drying method. For that, the best way is to experiment. We can check ourselves, which herbs dry easily and which takes time. The same way, some leaves get wrinkled and brown in color when dried, while some retain their shape and texture.Generally, herbs with strong leaves do not get shriveled and they keep up their own color. Examples are Sage, Rosemary, Bay Leaves And Thyme. They are easy to dry and maintain the quality, whereas some herbs like Mint, Lemon Balm, Parsley, Tarragon and Basil have tender broad leaves and hence they get crumpled easily during the drying process. They lose their color and shape because they can be easily affected by moisture or heat. So these kind of herbs should be dealt with quickly and carefully to avoid its molding and color changing.
Dry Herbs as Soon as Harvested
Herbs can be stored for long, if it is properly cared for and dried. It easily gets affected by moisture, dust and heat; hence it should be dried as soon as it is harvested. It tends to change its color, shape and flavor, if it is allowed to stay long after harvest.Before drying, herbs should be slightly washed and put on paper towels. The additional water on it should be dry, using an extra paper towel. Usually the leaves remain in their original form if it is left on its stems. Hence drying herbs, along with its stem is a good idea. Also, before drying, the damaged or discolored leaves should be removed from the bundle.
Drying in a Cloth Dryer
Herbs can also be dried using a tea towel and dish drying rack. Simply lay the leaves on tea towel and place it over the dish rack. The herbs will dry soon, as it allows good air circulation.
Drying in the Sun or Outdoors
This method is not much used by people who use the herbs for cooking purpose, because drying under the sun cause the herbs to change their color and mainly, lose their aroma and flavor. The herbs, dried by this method can be used for crafts or such other applications.Herbs should be hanged on a hanger and put under the sun and should always get good sunlight and heat. Then they should be checked regularly. They will be dry within a few days.
As the name suggests, it helps in dehydrating the herbs. It is one of the best methods and easy too. It helps to produce a good quality dried herb with original color and flavor. The dehydrator should be pre-heated around 95 to 115 degree Fahrenheit. Then the washed herbs should be placed on dehydrator trays. Care should be taken to spread the herbs in one layer on the tray. It may take 1 hour to 4 hours depending upon the size of the leaves. You should regularly check them. Once dried, the leaves will crumble easily and the stems will break, if bent.
Herbs for Air Drying
Air drying method is also a good method for drying herbs. It will not affect the herbs in aspects of color or flavor. It is best suited when the herbs are in huge bundles to dry. Small quantities of herbs can also be dried. The number of stems should not exceed more than twelve, in each bundle. The stems are tied together to make a bundle and hanged in some place with good air circulation and constant temperature. There should be low light and low humidity, like it is in some attic or closet. Small amount of herbs also needs the same conditions. They can be placed in a bag of paper having 3-4 holes for better air circulation. Placing it on a wired baking rack is also a good option. With this method, we can get dried herbs in 14- 15 days.
The Oven drying method is best when there is a small quantity of herbs to dry. Use a baking tray to keep the herbs in the oven it or place it on a sheet and put in the oven. The electric or the gas oven should be set at the lowest temperature. The door of the oven should be left open slightly for air circulation. Within ten hours, we can get well-dried herbs..
Dry Herbs with Microwaves
Microwave can be used for drying herbs when there is only a medium quantity. It is very difficult to dry herbs by air drying method during humid climate and for certain herbs like basil, sun drying is not suitable as it may lose its color and shape. In such situations, the microwave method is most suitable. The important thing to remember while drying in the microwave, is to regularly check the herbs and re-adjust the time and temperature of microwave according to the requirements.
Drying Using Desiccants
Desiccants are substances, used to remove the water content from its vicinity. It may damage the quality of herbs and it also can be harmful to consume hence herbs, dried by this method. Use them only is the applications for crafts or such things. It cannot be used for medicinal purpose or culinary use.
Drying by Pressing Herbs
This method is also good to dry herbs, but not for culinary use. Pressing herbs means to extract the oil and essence from the leaves, hence it can only be used for making scrapbooks, bookmarks, framed prints, crafts etc..
Certain plants that are usually dried for use are rosemary, soft gray oregano, hops, bay leaves and lavender which stay intact for many years.People, cultivating and drying herbs very often, can make a suitable wooden rack for this purpose. It should have wooden pegs fixed at certain gaps and some space to hang herbs. This whole rack can be fixed on a wall of your choice. It can be labeled, herbs, just to show the purpose of the rack. Leaves can be hanged or fixed on the pegs but at a certain space from one another. The best suitable herbs for this rack are thyme, Sage, Oregano, Marjoram, Flower Buds and Rosemary.Air drying method is the best method for drying herb seeds by placing it in paper bags. It should be stored in containers that prevent moisture. Keep the content fresh.Powdered or crushed dried herbs should be stored in airtight containers and away from light. Try to use the dried herbs within 6 months of the drying to enjoy its taste and flavor.The Freezing method can be used to preserve or dry herbs. Though it may affect the appearance of the herbs, the flavor will be intact and can be used for culinary purpose.Dried herbs can be stored in glass jars that are easily available in craft stores or restaurant supply stores. It can also be placed in jars by replacing the old batch of dried herbs that was made long before. It will be intact for six to eight months and we can enjoy the real taste of our homemade herbs..