Herbs: All you Need to Know about Drying Herbs
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Most people who have the pleasure of owning a herb garden will confirm that the most pleasurable moment in the gardening process is harvesting and consuming the herbs they have worked so hard to cultivate.
Nevertheless, this joy tends to be followed by a moment of displeasure once one realizes that they cannot consume their entire bumper harvest before some of it goes bad. What most herb gardeners fail to realize is that learning the art of drying herbs will save them both expenses of buying herbs once their harvest begins to rot with time.
For centuries, dried herbs have been used to add flavor to meals, drank as tea, used as natural remedies to cure various illnesses, and to enhance one’s general health. Owing to the fact that an individual’s dried garden herbs tend to taste better than those that are store-bought, drying one’s garden herbs should be considered the most important part of the gardening process. Once dried, herbs gain protection from yeast, bacteria, and mold, and are renowned to be the key causes of herb decay. In addition, research indicates that herbs which have been properly dried remain potent for a minimum of 6 to 12 months.
How to Dry Herbs: The Basics
Choose the herb
Category A: Herbs that tend to have stronger oils and leaves have been documented to be the simplest to dry as they easily retain their shape and color. Herbs that fall into this category include rosemary, bay leaves, sage, and thyme.
Category B: On the other hand, herbs that are characterized by tender, broad leaves tend to be harder to dry as they can quickly become moldy as they are affected by moisture without difficulty. Hence, they require quick drying. Herbs that fall in this category include parsley, lemon balm, basil, mint, and tarragon.
Harvesting and Cleaning
The herbs intended for drying require to be harvested by mid-morning in order to ensure that recently developed essential oils are not degraded by the sun. A mid-morning harvest also ensures that any excess moisture as the morning dew will have already evaporated. Wilted, dead, or old leaves should also be eliminated. Those with bruises, imperfections, and blemishes should also be discarded. Individuals wishing to dry the flower portion of a herb should cut off the flower bud close to its initial day of opening up or just before it opens.
Although herbs that have been organically grown in a person’s own garden may not require washing, it is always best to do so as it allows one to notice debris such as weeds or grass. Cleaning should be done gently using cool water, and the herbs shaken lightly to eliminate any excess moisture.
Do not waste time
Using the drying method to preserve herbs is best done immediately after harvesting. This is the key reason why drying herbs that are store-bought is discouraged. One cannot be certain of either the time of harvesting, nor the freshness of the herb at the time of purchase. Fresh herbs wilt quickly whilst also gathering dust and moisture from their surroundings. This spoils the fresh herb to make resulting dried herb to have a degraded color, appearance and flavor.
3 Basic Methods to dry Herbs
How to dry Herbs in the Microwave
Using a microwave to dry herbs is recommended to those who want to dry modest amounts of herbs. A microwave oven is particularly useful to individuals who live in humid environments owing to the fact that air-drying is extremely difficult. This method is perfect for herbs that fall under category B, that is, herbs with tender and broad leaves which are noted to lose both flavour and colour after traditional drying methods. One of the best reasons to use a microwave for herb drying is it preserves the flavour and colour.
It is recommended that one separate all leaves and place a single layer on a paper towel. Another paper towel should be placed on top of the leaves and placed in the microwave. One should then set the microwave on high for a period of 1 minute. Although this is the recommended setting, it is important to note that one should monitor the herbs closely because microwave drying is a delicate balancing process.
Should one smell the herbs burning, the microwave should be stopped and the herbs given a total of 30 seconds before restarting the microwave. This process should be repeated until the herbs are completely dry.
TIP: It is advisable to avoid using paper products that contain any recycled material as they may contain particles of metal which may ignite in the microwave.
How to Dry Herbs for Tea
Those who wish to dry herbs for tea should pick a spot that is airy, dry, and out of direct sunlight owing to the fact that air drying is the most preferable method of drying herbs for tea. Air-drying is the simplest method because all it requires is for one to bind a bunch of their preferred herbs together and hang them upside down. One can also choose to lay the herbs on a clean absorbent paper and left to dry in an airy, dry, and dimly lit area. One has to wait for 2-3 weeks to ensure that the herbs are completely dry.
How to Dry Herbs in the Oven
Using an oven to dry herbs is best for those who wish to dry a larger quantity of herbs as it has more space. Oven drying requires one to maintain an internal temperature of between 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, for the process to be successful, one requires trays made with stainless steel screening or wooden slats. The oven door should remain slightly open to allow for air circulation in order to let out the released moisture.
The oven timer should be set to ring every half hour and the trays rotated within the oven to ensure even drying. This process should be repeated until the herbs no longer retain any moisture, which is approximately between two and four hours.
All in all, dried herbs are full of great properties that ensure general well-being and health. Drying your own herbs helps one save the extra expenses of buying store-bought products which may not be as high in terms of quality.