What are the best ways to dry herbs properly? Our guide explains step by step how — and how long — you dry herbs in the air, in the oven, in the automatic dehydrator or in the microwave.
The number of herbal lovers is growing, because the cultivation of garden herbs in the bed, on the balcony and terrace and even on the windowsill is quite simple and uncomplicated. Herbs grow abundantly and have a wonderful fragrance. But it is not uncommon for plants to literally grow over your head. Especially those who planted mint can sing a song about it.
Fresh garden herbs can often not be used after harvesting. By using the best ways to dry herbs properly, you can create a supply for the cold season. In this article we explain how herbs are dried and what needs to be considered so that they do not lose their aroma.
Drying herbs – what are the advantages?
In summer, the herbs can simply be cut off and added fresh to the dishes. Some of them are not hardy. Marjoram or basil, for example, is annual and should be disposed of in the fall.
Thanks to the drying process, it is not necessary to do without an aromatic food seasoning even in winter. Thyme, rosemary or sage are perennial. In winter, however, these herbs also slow down and only sprout again in spring.
Herbs should not be cut in winter. The cuts make the plants vulnerable to frost damage. In general, drying herbs is a way to always have the right seasoning at hand. In addition, medicinal herbs can also be processed into tea. So that the herbs do not lose their aromas, a few things should be taken into account when drying.
What herbs can you dry?
Not every herb is automatically suitable for drying. While some herbs taste even more aromatic when dried, others are not made for drying. These plants can still be preserved by freezing or pickling, but would completely lose their aroma substances if they were dried.
The following overview lists various herbs that are very good, less good or not suitable for drying at all.
|very suitable for drying||well suited for drying||not suitable for drying|
Herbs from the Mediterranean can be dried almost without restrictions. Marjoram and oregano are among the plants, the aroma of which is further improved by drying. Lavender can also be easily dried, retains its aroma and can then be filled into small fragrance bags , which serve to calm you down and promote sleep.
Woodruff or chamomile are very suitable for drying. Some other herbs can be dried, but have more moisture that is difficult to escape. If an airy and dry place is found for dill, basil, parsley or chives, it is not necessary to do without drying with these herbs either.
»Tip: After drying, you should quickly shred the herbs and store them tightly closed so that no more flavorings can escape.
Some herbs should not be dried, because the flavors evaporate very quickly after harvesting and flavors and fragrances are completely lost during drying. Sorrel, cress, lovage or borage can be preserved by freezing. I will go into how to make delicious herb cubes later.
To get the most aromatic herbs possible, the right time to harvest should be found. Most herbs are most aromatic before flowering . The energy that is put into the formation of the flowers means that fewer ingredients are formed and the aroma is ultimately lost.
»Tip: Chives, basil, oregano or dill should be harvested before flowering.
The harvest will preferably take place on a cloudy but dry day, which follows some sunny days. It is harvested in the late morning. When the morning dew has dried, the herbs have the most flavorings. In contrast, the aroma is lowest in the evening and at night. Use clean, sharp pruning shears for harvesting. The shoots should not be injured unnecessarily. The herbs are cut just above the ground.
»Tip: If you shake the herbs well after harvesting, dirt will loosen and insects will not be transported into the house.
Dry herbs – the preparation
Herbs that are intended to dry should not be washed if possible. This causes the plant parts to lose their aroma and also delays drying. So it should be left as possible when shaken off. If it cannot be avoided to clean heavily soiled herbs, wrap the herbs in kitchen paper before drying. The kitchen paper absorbs excess liquid.
»Tip: Shred the plants as little as possible during drying. The crushing damages the cell structure and escapes essential oils.
Dry herbs – 4 options
Now the herbs are ready for drying, I recommend these 4 options:
- Herbs dry in the air
- Herbs dry in the oven
- Herbs dry in the dehydrator
- Herbs dry in the microwave
❶ Air dry herbs
Drying the herbs in the air has proven its worth and is one of the easiest and best ways to dry herbs properly. It is an inexpensive and gentle option. Although it takes some time to prepare the plants accordingly, you can assume that all the valuable ingredients will be preserved in the best possible way.
Prepare the following materials for air drying:
- Storage containers
Air drying – step by step
- Harvest herbs
- Bundle herbs
- Hang herbs to dry
- Monitor drying
- Chop herbs
- Fill herbs into jars / containers
The individual shoots are hung up in bundles to dry. For this, tie six to seven shoots together with rubber or a cord. The bundles are placed upside down in a shady and airy location.
After about five days you can do the test. Once the herbs have become crumbly and feel like parchment, the drying is finished. So that the aroma is not lost, you should not waste any time and the leaves from their stems rebound. The storage takes place in easily closable glasses.
»Tip: If stored dark and cool, dried herbs retain their ingredients and flavors for up to six months.
The following are very suitable for hanging drying:
❷ Herbs dry in the oven
Herbs can be dried in the oven relatively quickly as one of the best ways to dry herbs properly, but with less taste. The plants are roughly chopped up and spread out on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
»Tip: The herbs should not be too close together. If there is enough space between the plants, drying will be faster.
The lowest available temperature must be set on the oven. In no case may there be more than 50 degrees. To ensure that moisture can be exchanged, the oven door must be kept slightly open (clamp the wooden handle into the door).
After about half the drying time, the temperature can be increased slightly. In total, you have to plan about three hours for drying in the oven.
❸ Herbs dry in the automatic dehydrator
If you have a dehydrator, in order to supply yourself with apple slices or banana chips on a regular basis, you can also use it as one of the best ways to dry herbs properly. Automatic dehydrators work in a low temperature range of 30 to 70 degrees. This also ensures gentle drying here.
Temperature control is an advantage. Start at the lowest level and go up slightly after an hour of drying. Again, 50 degrees should not be exceeded.
❹ Herbs dry in the microwave
There is a microwave in almost every household. However, the devices are only suitable to a limited extent for drying herbs. The microwave can best be used as one of the best ways to dry herbs properly for plants that lose their aroma less quickly. These include marjoram, thyme or oregano.
Place the herbs on the plate of the microwave and cover them with kitchen paper. A low wattage of less than 300 should be used. Drying is as gentle as possible if several cycles of around 40 seconds are completed. Switch off the microwave after 40 seconds and turn the herbs.
Dry the herb seeds properly
If you want to dry caraway or anise, you have to do something different. It is harvested early in the morning when the plants are still covered with dew. The seeds are spread out on a mat and dried in the sun.
After sufficient sun exposure, the seeds loosen easily and can be collected and stored in suitable containers.
Herbs that are not suitable for drying can be preserved by freezing them. The harvested branches can be stored whole or crushed in freezer bags. The herbs do not need to be thawed before use.
If you prefer to portion your herbs, you can easily make herb ice cubes yourself. If necessary, chives, parsley, sage, lovage or oregano are cut into small pieces and filled in ice cube makers. Then it is infused with water or olive oil.
The herb cubes go into the freezer and can be removed individually if necessary. The cubes set with water refine soups or sauces . The oily herb cubes are particularly suitable for roasting. Herb ice cubes are not a good choice for salads. Here it is better to resort to the supply of dried herbs.