Preserving Nature's Best
Drying your own herbs is sweet and simple
Want to taste the goodness of homegrown herbs all year long? You can by drying a little bit of nature's best.
“Drying or freezing a year-round supply of fresh garden herbs is easier than you think,” says gardener Kate Rossetto of Kate's Garden.
Air-drying is the easiest and least expensive preservation method. As moisture slowly and naturally evaporates, fragrant oils remain. You can use a dehydrator if you are drying large quantities, but Kate warns against microwaves. Air-drying is best suited for sage, thyme, summer savory, dill, bay leaves, oregano, rosemary and marjoram.
Kate starts with the freshest herbs available. She strips a couple of inches of leaves from lower stems, ties the herbs in small bundles with string, yarn or rubber bands and hangs the bundles in a dark, well ventilated room until dried. A simple clothes hanger works great or you can improvise. Remove the dried herbs from their stems and store in labelled glass or metal containers.
To dry parsley and mint, Kate suggests air drying with a running fan or a dehydrator and working with smaller batches. As these herbs are moister, mold can quickly set in.
To release the full flavor of dried herbs, use a mortar and pestle to grind the leaves before adding them to your food, either as directed by your recipe or during the last half-hour of cooking. Crushing dried herbs with your hands is even easier. If, by chance, you have herbs left at the beginning of the next season, toss them in to your compost and begin anew with fresh herbs.
Kate preserves basil, tarragon, chives, and lemon balm, by chopping or tearing the herbs into small pieces. She scatters the herbs into ice cube trays and covers them with olive oil or water. Once frozen, she stores the cubes in zip lock bags to use as needed. This method retains flavor and color. Herbs preserved in oil can be added to pesto, flavored butters and oil-based sauces like mayonnaise or salad dressings.