How to dry herbs
Properly dried herbs may last for up to six months or longer in your pantry, unlike fresh herbs that should be used soon after they’re harvested. Having dried herbs on hand means never having to skip the basil in your sauce or forego thyme in your soup. The processed herbs bring the same level of flavor to your dishes, and when used in cooking, the dried herbs stand up to the heat better than fresh herbs.
Herbs may be dried using paper bags, screens or your microwave. The drying process for paper bags and screens requires a space where the herbs won’t be disturbed for several days. You need airtight containers made of acrylic or glass to store the herbs.
Fill your sink with water and gently swish the herbs to remove any dirt or dust. Place the herbs on a clean, dry towel, laying them out in a single layer with as much space around the stems and sprigs as possible. The herbs need to air dry before processing. Pat the herbs with a paper towel to remove as much water as possible and allow the herbs to dry for one to two hours.
Lay the herbs out flat on screens. Position the sprigs and stems in a single layer to optimize the air flow around the herbs. Though the stems dry as well, it’s the leaves that require the exposure.
The screens may be the same kind of screening used in windows and doors, but they must be clean and dry before using them. They must also sit above the surface of the table or counter on which they are placed. A simple way to achieve this is to frame the screening using inexpensive wood and then add feet at each corner. Use small blocks of wood for the feet and attach them using a strong adhesive.
Place the screens on a table or other flat surface out of direct sunlight and away from any heat sources. Turn the herbs every two days to ensure even drying. When the color begins to fade slightly and the leaves feel papery to the touch, the herbs are ready for storage.
Bundle the herbs using string. Hold a small bundle of herbs together at the cut end so the herbs are upside down. Tie the bundle together approximately one inch down from the cut tips, securing the stems together. Place each bundle into a paper bag so the tied ends are on top.
If you intend to hang the paper bags, make a few small holes in each side of the bags and tie off the openings. Hang the bags from hooks so as to allow air flow around each bag.
You may also opt to leave the tops of the bags open and place them on a table or counter. You don’t need to make the holes in the bags for this method and the bags can sit close together.
Check the bundles every two to three days for readiness. When the herbs are dry, they’re ready for storage.
Microwaving herbs is a quick-time method for drying. Though it’s fast and easy you may sacrifice some flavor. Dried herbs still retain their natural oils, just in a dried state. Microwaving may remove someof the oils.
Place your prepared herbs on a microwave safe towel in a single layer. Place another paper towel on top and put the herbs in the microwave. Set the microwave on high for two minutes and check the herbs. If they aren’t dried, turn the herbs and microwave again for 30 seconds. Continue the process until the herbs are dried. Microwave small amounts of herbs at a time. Allow them to cool completely before storing.