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Some Sage Advice About Drying Herbs!

Some Sage Advice About Drying Herbs!

Over the past few weeks I have been recipe testing for the High Desert Food & Farm Alliance, a local organization that supports farmers and encourages healthy eating. The recipes are vegetarian soups, which I love, so it's been fun to try some new ideas. Even better, the soups have been delicious and are so healthy!

What makes these soups so tasty? I think it is the herbs. Even though I do make a lot of soups I don't use many herbs, so when I first reviewed the recipes I was worried. Dried thyme, dried sage, dried rosemary, dried dill? I didn't have them in my pantry, so I would need to buy them. Dried herbs are not cheap, and it doesn't seem very frugal to buy a big jar of herbs and then perhaps never use them again.

Luckily, I did have these herbs growing in the garden. Perhaps drying them myself was worthwhile?

I did some research and found there are four common ways to dry herbs:

  1. Air drying
  2. In a dehydrator
  3. In the oven or oven warming drawer
  4. In the microwave

Since I needed the herbs right away for a recipe, air drying was not an option as it takes 1 - 2 weeks. The dehydrator option was also out because of the simple fact that I do not own one, plus buying one for this experiment is definitely not displaying frugalitude!

However, I have an oven, an oven warming drawer and a microwave so off I went to try #3 and #4!

 

What you need

Fresh herbs. I used dill, thyme, sage and rosemary, but most herbs can be dried.

 

What to do

Pick the herbs, making sure that to choose healthy-looking leaves.  Then wash them and dry or air-dry them. 

In the oven or oven warming drawer

  • Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the herbs on the paper.
  • Put the baking sheet in an oven preheated to 180°F/82°C. I also experimented with putting a sheet of herbs in the warming drawer of my oven and set it to medium/high which for my brand of oven is 180°F/82°C.
  • Check the herbs after about 20 - 30 minutes to see if they are dry and crispy. If not, check back at 15-minute intervals.
  • Once the herbs are dry, remove them from the stalks and crush.

In the microwave

 Herbs dried in microwave

Herbs dried in microwave

  • Put the herbs on a microwave-safe plate which is covered with a couple of sheets of paper towels. 
  • Cover the herbs with another sheet of paper towel.
  • Microwave as follows:
    • 40 seconds for more delicate, moist herbs, like dill, basil or parsley.
    • 60 seconds for herbs like rosemary, thyme, savory, marjoram, and oregano
  • Check if they are dried, if not microwave them for another 20 seconds and check again. Keep microwaving in 20 second blasts until they are dried out.
  • Once the herbs are dry, remove them from the stalks and crush.

 

How much time?

It took about 10 minutes to wash the herbs and make sure they were fully dry. 

As for the actual drying process:

  • In the oven or oven warming drawer: 30 minutes
  • In the microwave: Less than 2 minutes

 

Cost?

I already had dill, thyme and sage growing in my garden so the cost for these herbs was $0. However, I had to buy fresh rosemary which came to $1.99. Drying herbs does reduce their volume so by the time I had dried the rosemary I had 0.125 oz.

Buying dried rosemary costs $4.99 for 0.35 oz. 

An equivalent amount of homemade dried rosemary comes to $5.57. 

 

Is it worth it?

Based on the effort involved, the cost and the large quantity of herbs you need to get a decent amount of dried herbs, I gave this a 3-pig rating.

If you do not have fresh herbs to hand, then I would recommend buying dried herbs. 

However, if you have herbs growing in your garden or on your kitchen windowsill, then drying them when you need them for a specific recipe may be worth it.

If you do dry your herbs, then I highly recommend the microwave method for two main reasons:

  • It is very quick and easy
  • The dried herbs have a stronger flavor than the ones dried in the oven or oven warming drawer.

 

Anything else I should know?

If you don't have herbs growing in the garden and you buy fresh herbs, then drying them is a great way to use up any leftovers.

If you don't want to dry the herbs, then you can freeze them fresh. Chop them up and freeze them in ice cube trays - I would recommend a teaspoon of herbs per ice cube to make it easier to reuse them.

If you want to replace fresh herbs with dried herbs in recipe then the ratio is 1 teaspoon of dried herbs to 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs. 

Lastly, dried herbs should be used up within about a year, but less is better!

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