Last summer I dried my herbs (basil, parsley, and oregano) using homemade drying racks (basically cheap screen nailed between a frame of wood). This year it must have been more humid, because no matter what I did the herbs didn’t seem to be drying as well. After throwing out a ton of leaves in frustration, I cracked and invested in a small dehydrator. Best….move….ever.
There are so many things that I have already used my dehydrator for, but the herbs were my first test. It is incredibly fast and easy.
First, harvest your herbs. Strip as much of the stems off as possible so that you are left with just the leaves. I find for some it’s easier to do by just plucking with your fingers (specifically the oregano and the basil), others are easier to snip with a small pair of kitchen shears (parsley).
I haven’t had an issue with drying these three together. I’m sure some herbs are better off being dried separately. My dehydrator has five racks (including the base). First tip – the herbs are going to shrink up and become tiny and fall through the holes in your dehydrator trays. You can invest in screens to put over them, but since I’m cheap I just take the extra time and deal with the result. If that is your path – don’t put one tray of basil, then one tray of parsley, etc…put one third of every tray as basil, one third of every tray as parsley, etc. Then stack them so that the same herbs are over top of each other. That way when they fall through, they don’t get all mixed together. (yes, this happened the first time I did this, and I learned that sorting herbs out after they dry is not the most fun thing you can do!).
Spread the leaves evenly so that they can get plenty of air.
My dehydrator is on the inexpensive end of the line, so it does not have any temperature or time settings. I let the herbs dry for one hour and they come out perfect.
Now, if you haven’t invested in the screens, the fun of trying to get the herbs off of the trays without making a mess begins. Again – not hard to do – just time consuming. If you’re impatient, buy the screens 🙂 Take one kind of herb and put all of the leaves into a small metal strainer (the fine mesh type, not like a spaghetti strainer). Using your hand, push the leaves through the strainer onto a cheap paper plate (the flimsy kind that you can easily fold in half). There may be a few small pieces of stem or leaves that didn’t dry correctly that won’t go through the strainer, just discard them. The leftovers should be minimal.
Then…just fold the paper plate in half and funnel your dried herbs into whatever storage container you plan to use! I like glass spice jars but plastic containers will work just as well, you just need something that will seal.
If you did more than one type of herb, then repeat the process for each until they are all “strained” and put in their containers.
They taste incredibly fresh and smell great!