Tuesday, December 27, 2016

How To Dry Herbs

If you are looking for a low-tech way to dry your fresh herbs that is accessible to everyone keep reading.

The author of the article I read, Jo Ann Gardner, has devoted many years to refining her art of drying herbs, and maintains a wide range of home-dried herbs.

She often meets gardeners who have harvested and dried their favorite herbs only to end up with nothing but a bunch of dry straw! (Wow! I didn't realize she was spying on me!)
She says the secret to success is to treat herbs individually, based on their needs and to dry them as quickly as possible after they have been harvested.

She divides her herbs in two basic groups:

The first group being plants such as mint (apple mint being the exception) that dry quickly and can be dried by the traditional bunching method.

The second group are plants like parsley and basil that do not do well with the bunching method and do better by being chopped and then laid on screens or trays to dry.

She also mentions that some herbs don't dry well at all (ex chervil and salad burner) and she only use fresh or puts in vinegar.

Today, we will cover the herbs that need to be dried on screens or trays.

She suggest that when you harvest them, eliminate as much of the stem and stalk as you can. These type of herbs require careful handling because they will yellow or turn brown unless you dry them quickly.

Here is a list of herbs - The part of the plant you need to harvest - and what it can be used for:

Apple Mint - Leafy stems - Tea
Basil - Leafy stems - Cooking
Chamomile - Fresh open flowers - Tea
Chive flowers - Florets - Herb mixes & Crafts
Chive leaves - Use early-season leaves, cut up fine - Cooking
Elderberry - Fresh flowers - Tea
Oregano - Leaves - Cooking
Parsley, curled, flat & Italian - cut-up the leafy stems - Cooking
Rosemary - Leaves - Cooking
Roses - Small whole flowers or petals - crafts, jellies and vinegar
Thyme - leaves with as few stems as possible - Cooking

Methods For Drying Include:
Drying outdoors allowing the sun to do all the work.
Drying indoors
Oven Drying
Stove Top Dryers
Electric Dryers
Solar Dryers

I'm just learning this myself, so lets go with what I already have on hand. An oven.

The Rodale Food Center staff recommends setting the oven to 145, but since most ovens have their lowest setting as 200 (mine included) Set your oven to the warm setting.
If you can not get the temp to stay at or below 145 (use a thermometer) you may have to consider other drying methods. I will be posting other methods at a future date.

Place the oven racks no closer than 6 inches from the top or 6 inches from the bottom.

Set some cheesecloth directly on the oven rack, then put your herbs on this. You can use regular baking sheets but it is not recommended because they do not expose the food
food to the drying heat on all the sides.

If your oven is not vented you can leave the oven door sight ajar using a hot mat or a folded towel.

When dry, crumble or put through a colander and store.

** The oven may be a convenient place to dry your food, however, it is not the most economical means of drying large batches as keeping the door ajar for several hours at a time can also use up a lot of energy and heat a house when it's already hot outside.
But for small or occasional batches , ovens are more reliable than drying out doors and certainly cheaper than going out and buying a food dryer.

Tips For Success:
Try to harvest plants at their peak, for the best flavor.
Foliage should be picked when the plant is beginning to form their buds, this is when the leaves will have their highest concentration of essential oils.
When harvesting German Chamomile for tea, harvest these as soon as the flowers open.

This post is a summary of an article I read in Capper's Farmer magazine, Fall 2014 issue written by Jo Ann Gardner, information obtained from the book Stocking UP III pages 136-137 It is also my personal perspectives/experiences.

Image is the courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The following is a sponsored post/ad

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