In June, I wrote a post about a method of drying herbs that we were shown while visiting Robbie Wooding’s farm. Here at home, unfortunately, I don’t have any rafters from which to hang herbs, so I’ve often resorted to using a cheap-o dehydrator to dry my herbs. But when my dehydrator saw fit to give up the ghost last month, I decided to opt for a non-electric option.
Pictured above is my brand-spankin’-new passive dehydrator, all loaded up with cayenne peppers, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary. I love it. Granted, it cost more than I like spending on anything (ie. it cost money, any amount—I prefer free), but we’ve got grand plans of using this as our trial model and then building some more ourselves. This one is nice though. I has a hook on the top so I can hang it out on my clothesline in the sun for maximum drying (the netting zips up to keep bugs out of your goodies) and then bring it in and hang it in the kitchen at night. I can also use it for sprouting seeds, beans, nuts, etc. How cool is that?
The only downside of a passive or solar dehydrator is a reliance on the weather, but since you have to rely on the weather to gather herbs for drying anyway, this doesn’t seem like a major inconvenience to me.
It is generally recommended that one harvest aerial parts of herbs (leaves, flowers, stems, etc.—anything that grows above the ground) mid to late morning on a sunny dry day once the morning dew has lifted and there is no residual moisture on the plant. Once you’ve harvested your herb, you need to go through it, picking out any hitch-hiking bugs, any chewed on or discolored leaves, basically removing any undesirable bits. Then, you need dry heat, shade, and air flow. This can be accomplished using an electric, passive, or solar dehydrator (you can build your own!), or you can string small bundles—small enough that the air can still flow throughout—and hang them somewhere dry and warm, like the rafters of an attic or a garage, so long as there aren’t any fumes in your garage like there are in mine. Another technique if you don’t get a lot of dry heat is to put the herbs on old window screens and prop them up in your car with the windows up. Keep an eye on the herbs for doneness, and if drying outdoors, be sure to bring the drying racks or dehydrator in at night to keep off the dew.
Once the herbs are fully dried, they should be “crispy” but still retain most of their natural color if they were kept out of sun and were dried quickly enough. Store them in glass jars in a cool, dark, dry place, being sure to label them with the name of the herb and the month/year they were put up.
What are your favorite drying or dehydrating tricks and tips?