No offense to the sturdy, sensible cabbages and root vegetables of winter, or the first delicate shoots of asparagus that signal spring’s arrival, but harvest time is unquestionably the best time of year if you’re a foodie.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in picking apples, canning tomatoes, and figuring out what to do with all of that zucchini and forget about preserving the abundance of fresh herbs!
Herbs are very expensive when you buy them in the store, so if you have a garden, why not grow your favorites? Then follow this guide, which explains how to dehydrate herbs. You’ll be able to appreciate your garden’s bounty all year long.
Should You Dehydrate Herbs or Freeze Them?
First, should you dehydrate your herbs or freeze them? Herbs don’t take up a lot of freezer space, so unlike the decision of whether to freeze or can tomatoes, it might seem like a tossup. However, gardening and cooking experts say that the choice you make is dependent on which herb you’re talking about!
Lighter, brighter herbs that are often used as a way to finish or garnish a dish, should be frozen. Parsley, cilantro, mint, basil, and chives fall into this category.
If you grow mostly hardier herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, or oregano, drying is the way to go. Not sure which category your herbs fall into? Freeze a small portion for a few days, then use it in a dish to see how it works. Then you can dehydrate or freeze the remainder accordingly.
How To Dehydrate Herbs
The first step, of course, is harvesting your herbs. It’s best to do so in the morning, but wait until any dew has evaporated.
Bring your herbs inside and rinse them in cool water. Give them a gentle shake to remove excess moisture, then lay them on a clean kitchen towel. Letting them air dry for a little while will reduce the amount of work your dehydrator needs to do. However, don’t spin them in a salad spinner or wring them between towels. That can lead to bruising.
You’ll also want to remove any leaves that have spots, bruises, or other damage. Remove long stems, as well. You can leave shorter stems in place, as they’re easy to remove after dehydrating.
Place your herbs in the dehydrator in a single layer. Make sure that there’s plenty of room for the air to circulate around the herbs. Depending on the type of dehydrator you have, this may require removing some of the trays.
Dehydrate herbs on the lowest possible temperature, to retain as much of their flavor as you can. Shoot for 95 F to 115 F. If it’s particularly humid, you might go with a slightly higher temp, say 125 F.
Your herbs will take a few hours to dry. Once the leaves are brittle and crush easily, remove them from the dehydrator and package in jars or plastic bags.
Dehydrating herbs is an incredibly simple way to savor the fresh garden flavor for months. It’s also an economical way to jazz up even ordinary dishes. Now that you know how to dehydrate herbs, you can start imagining all the delicious dishes you will make with them throughout the year!
What are your favorite herbs to cook with? What do you like to store your herbs and spices in? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!