Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Thursday

January 17, 2013

Drying herbs at home safe, easy

Many people plant gardens not just for the fun but also to grow and preserve their own food. For those lucky enough to plant them, a regular gift from the garden are dried herbs. Drying is, in fact, the oldest method of food preservation. Drying also happens to be one of the easiest and safest methods of preserving food for later use.

There are four techniques for drying. They are using a food dehydrator, air drying, oven drying, and microwave drying. Michigan, with its high humidity, normally requires that herbs be dried using a mechanical means.

To dry herbs, you need to expose the flowers, leaves or seeds to warm, dry air. Sun drying is not recommended for herbs because the sun causes the herbs to lose color and flavor.

Harvesting herbs should be done early in the day just after the morning dew has dried but before the mid-day sun. For the herbs, select leaves from plants that are not in flower. The best flavor comes from plants that are in bud stage but have not flowered yet. Do not allow the leaves to lie in the sun after picking because they will wilt and lose flavor. Rinse the herbs thoroughly in cool water and gently shake the herbs to remove the excess water. Do not use bruised, soiled, or imperfect leaves and stems. These will have less than desirable flavor.

Food Dehydrator

The best technique for drying herbs is a food dehydrator. It is the fastest, easiest way to produce high-quality dried herbs. Pre-heat the food dehydrator thermostat between 95 degrees Fahrenheit and 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the herbs have been rinsed place in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. The times for drying may vary from one to four hours. They will need to be checked regularly. The herbs are dry when the leaves crumble easily and the stems break when bent.

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