There’s nothing like infusing and embellishing home-cooked meals with fresh herbs right from your garden. But what about when your plants outpace your cooking? It’s time to dry them for year-round use!
Before all those pretty plants shrivel away, you can store, or even freeze, your fresh herbs. There are also a few techniques you can use to dry them just in time for cold-weather stews and soups. Below are five easy ways to dry your fresh herbs at home, so you can save money and use your home-harvested bundles all year.
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The short answer is yes; you can dry just about any herb. However, all herbs vary, and some will need a little more TLC before working through the drying process.
For example, high moisture herbs like basil, lemon balm, parsley, cilantro, oregano, and mint do best when dried faster. Low moisture herbs like bay, fennel, dill, thyme, and rosemary can all be dried using longer methods like air drying. You can air dry high moisture herbs if no other option is available, but keep a very close eye on them as the higher moisture content makes them more likely to mold before they dry completely.
All herbs are best harvested after the dew (in the morning) before the flowers open and should be washed under cool running water, then dried before getting started. Also, be sure to discard any damaged or wilted leaves.
One of the oldest and simplest methods to preserve culinary herbs is by air-drying them. Oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme all take well to air-drying, but you can try this method with most herbs that don’t have high moisture content.
Collect a few stalks, bunch them together using twine or a rubber band. Hang the bunches of herbs upside down in a well-ventilated area of your home that gets great sunlight. It will take up to ten days to dry them thoroughly, but in the meantime, you’ll have organic and natural decorations for your home.
Otherwise, dry the herbs by plucking individual leaves or thin sprigs and leaving them on a rack or tray. You can start by stretching out a long piece of cheesecloth to cover the tray or sheet pan, then place the individual leaves or dainty sprigs over the cloth.
Store the pan in an area that won’t catch a breeze and out of direct sunlight. You’ll want to turn the leaves every day to ensure even drying.
Oregano, basil, mint, tarragon, and lemon balm are all high moisture herbs, which means they should be dried rather quickly; otherwise, they’ll mold. A dehydrator system is an excellent option because it removes moisture at such a low temperature with constant airflow.
Place the sprigs or individual leaves in a single layer to allow plenty of airflow. You might also want to consider using an extra mesh screen to place over your herbs to prevent them from blowing around and falling to the bottom.
Set your dehydrator to the lowest possible setting or anywhere between 95 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit and check on them often. Set your dehydrator to four hours, and check every hour until they crumble apart in your hand.
Some deluxe air fryers offer a dehydrator function that you can set, which is a great option for dehydrating herbs as it blows very light air at a low temperature. Your best option is to leave most stems and leaves intact, so you don’t have tiny herbs flying everywhere.
Preheat your air fryer to the lowest temperature after selecting the dehydrator function, and add your washed and dried stems and sprigs to the air fryer. Cover the herbs with a trivet to avoid them from flying around during the air dehydrating process.
Set your dehydrator to four hours, and check every hour until they crumble apart in your hand.
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Oven drying is a great way to dry lots of herbs at once. Sometimes, the oven will start to cook the herbs a bit, so they will likely lose a bit of potency. For that reason, you might need to add extra herbs when cooking if you plan to dry using this method.
Place your washed and dried herb leaves and sprigs on a cookie sheet. Set your oven to the lowest setting, usually around 170 degrees Fahrenheit or the “warm” setting. Drying the herbs should take a few hours and will be ready once they pass the crumble test.
Microwaving herbs is a quick and convenient way to dry herbs. Wash and dry your herbs (as always) and remove the leaves from bulky stems. Little sprigs with thin stems are okay.
Place a paper towel onto a microwave-safe plate, and lay the herbs on top of the paper towel. Microwave for about 30 seconds, then check your herbs and turn each leaf over.
Microwave for another 30 seconds to check that your herbs are not burning, and turn each leaf over. Continue the process for about two minutes or until the leaves crumble in your hand.
No matter which method you use, you’ll know your herbs are dry and ready to store with a quick crumble session. Please take a few leaves in your hand and squish them between your palm and fingers. If it crumbles into many tiny pieces easily, it’s ready to store.
Either use empty store-bought spice bottles or grab yourself a new set of empty quality jars with caps and labels. The set by Aozita comes with a collapsible funnel, so you can easily fill, store and label accordingly. Organize your drawer, pantry, or cabinet space with chic glass bottles filled with harvested dry herbs.
Don’t let all your hard work and flavorful herbs go to waste! These methods can help you store and use them year-round.