Drying Herbs for Personal Use
Herbs and spice are often used to enhance a dish or type of food and add to its flavor and aroma. Some herbs and spices are also used for medicinal purposes and remedies. Some of these herbs are also stored for future use .Ways of storing and preserving these herbs are drying or freezing.
Drying herbs is probably easiest way of preserving herbs. This is done by simply exposing the leaves, flowers or seeds to warm, dry air and leaving it until the moisture in it is gone. The herbs should be dried in a well-ventilated but shady area. Drying herbs using the sun, an oven and a dehydrator is not recommended because the herbs usually lose their flavor and color.
Harvesting the Herbs for Drying
The optimum time to gather herbs for harvesting is just before the flowers first open. This stage is when the buds are just about to burst. It is best to harvest the herbs early in the morning after the dew has evaporated. This will minimize wilting when drying herbs. Avoid bruising the leaves as this will release the flavors even before they are dried.
The gathered or harvested herbs should not be exposed to the sun for a long period of time or be left unattended after harvesting. Rinse the harvested herbs in cool water and shake tem gently in order to remove excess water. It is best not to use bruised or imperfect leaves and stems for drying.
Hardy Herbs for Drying
Herbs like sage, thyme, summer savory and parsley are the easiest to use for drying herbs. They are usually tied into small posies and hug on a string to be air-dried. Drying herbs in the open air outdoors is good, but if you prefer the above mentioned herbs to have better color and flavor retention drying herbs should be done under shade and preferably indoors.
Basil, tarragon, lemon balm and mints are herbs with high moisture content and may mold easily if not dried immediately. The best method for drying herbs like these is to hang them in paper bags to dry. Put holes in the bags and suspend a small bunch of the herbs in the bag. You may close the top of the bag if you want.
Another method for drying herbs like mint, sage or bay leaf is to dry each leaf separately. Remove leaves from the stems and lay the leaves on a paper towel. The leaves must not touch each other. Cover the leaves with another towel and another layer of herbs. You may dry herbs this way up to five layers at a time. Put the towels with the herbs in a cool oven. You do not have to turn on the heat of the oven since the light is enough for drying herbs this way. The herbs will dry flat dry flat and maintain coloring.
When the herb leaves are crispy and crumple easily, they may now be packed for storage. Leaves may be whole or crumpled as you store them. You may remove husks from the seeds before placing them in airtight containers and storing in a cool, dry, dark area.