Drying herbs have long been a way to preserve an ingredient and widen the window of time you have to use them before they go bad. Today, you can walk into a grocery store and have a variety of spices at your fingertips. People were using dried herbs long before grocery stores were a thing, though. You can create your own dried herbs at home, too! There are a few different ways (which we’ll cover here) so no matter what your kitchen situation, you can make dried herbs that take your cooking game to the next level.
Many common dried herbs are available at your local store, but there are actually a few good reasons to dry your own herbs — the chief one being control. When you buy herbs from the grocery store, you’re dealing with whatever they give you. This is usually fine, but you can’t guarantee that the herbs are still as fresh as they could be. Remember, even dried herbs eventually lose their flavor, and it’s not always easy to tell the age of a store-bought container. When you dry your own herbs, you can ensure they’re dried at the optimal point of freshness and quality (generally before the plant has flowered). The more flavor and quality an herb has when it’s fresh, the more it’ll have when it’s been dried.
Buying a bundle or even a potted plant of fresh herbs at the grocery store can be incredibly cost-efficient.
That’s not the only reason to dry herbs at home, however. Cost can also be a factor. You can sometimes save a bit of money by drying the herbs at home instead of buying them. Buying a bundle or even a potted plant of fresh herbs at the grocery store can be incredibly cost-efficient. Once dried, you may even end up with more than in the container from the store. If you want to take these cost-effective measures even further, start your own little herb garden! Even a windowsill garden should be large enough to grow some of your favorite herbs. This way, you only need to buy the seeds or a potted plant. Once you’ve planted it, you’ll have a reliable source of herbs.
No matter what drying method you go with, you’ll want to follow a few guidelines when clipping the herbs. First, it’s best to clip them mid-morning to very early afternoon. This timeframe allows the morning dew to evaporate off the leaves before the afternoon sun causes some of the leaves to wilt. This gives you the driest leaves with the most flavor. When harvesting the herbs, it’s also important to not cut back too much. You’ll want to leave a few inches of stem if you’re cutting a branch or at least a third of the blade if you’re clipping leaves. This way, you’re not stunting the plant from growing further. You should also wash your herbs and gently pat them dry so you don’t bruise them or lose some of the flavor in the plant.
Simply tie a bunch of the herbs together at the stems with string or even a rubber band and hang them in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area.
Once your herbs are ready, it’s time to choose a drying method. The traditional way of drying herbs is to hang them in bunches. Simply tie a bunch of the herbs together at the stems with string or even a rubber band and hang them in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area. Make sure to check on them regularly since they’ll shrink a bit as they dry and may need to have the string tightened. Some people prefer to put their bunches of herbs in a paper bag with holes. Some believe this helps the herb dry more quickly and completely, but this step is optional. It’s important to note that air-drying may take about a week.
Two other methods require kitchen equipment. The less common tool some might not have is a dehydrator. This tool may come with instructions on how to dry herbs with it, but usually you can dry them at the lowest setting available for anywhere between two to four hours. The other method involves a microwave, and is probably the fastest method. You’ll remove the leaves from the stems, place them between two paper towels, and microwave them for about a minute. If they aren’t died enough to your liking, continue to microwave them for 30-second intervals until you’re satisfied.
Oven-drying is quick and effective, especially for herbs with larger leaves like sage.
Finally, you can oven-dry herbs. This is quick and effective, especially for herbs with larger leaves like sage. First, remove the leaves from the stems and place them on a silicon-mat-covered cookie sheet. Make sure the herbs aren’t overlapping. Next, set your oven to a sub-180°F heat or the lowest setting you can. Put the sheet in the oven with the door open a bit to allow moisture to escape. Check the herbs after 30 minutes and if they’re still not dry, turn the leaves and put them back in the oven for an additional 30 minutes.
No matter which method you choose, once the herbs are dried, you should store them in an airtight container. There, they’ll be good for about a year.
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Drying herbs is a great way to have flavor options at your disposal without needing to run out to the store or worry too much about spoilage. By drying them yourself, you can save money while ensuring they’re top-quality ingredients for your cooking. Considering how simple it can be to make dried herbs at home, you should give it a try!