Nothing beats the taste of freshly picked herbs and spices in your food. The satisfaction of walking out to the herb garden and “shopping” for what’d be good with dinner is just amazing. But chances are you’ll have left over herbs at the end of the season that you haven’t used. Even if you don’t, good news – you can grow more!
One excellent option of preserving herbs from your garden is drying them. There are many different methods of drying spices and herbs including hanging, leaving herbs to dry on a screen, or in an oven/air dryer.
Oven drying herbs is one of our favorite techniques that always keeps herbs fresh and delicious, while significantly increasing their shelf life. This technique is effective on a wide variety of herbs. Whether you’re looking to preserve chives, basil, parsley, cilantro, sage, or most other herbs, give this a try and you’ll see that they are far more fragrant and flavorful than any pricey herbs you’d buy from a grocery store.
Oven Drying Process
Step 1 – Harvest Herbs
First, cut the herbs you want to dry from the garden and bring them inside. The ideal time to cut herbs is when they’re crisp in the morning, rather than after they’ve endured the sun’s heat for the day.
Step 2 – Wash and Dry
Gently rinse your herbs under cool water. Then carefully pat them with a towel and set them out to dry off. Be cautious not to bend, bruise, or rip the herbs during this step, as it will cause the herbs to release oils and therefore some of their flavor.
Step 3 – Remove Leaves
After your herbs are all dried off, separate the leaves from their stems.
Step 4 – Prepare for the Oven
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Lay the leaves flat, in a single layer on a baking sheet. Be careful not to overlap or clump the leaves together, to ensure that they will dry evenly.
Step 5 – Drying Time
Place the baking trays on the center oven rack. If you’re drying multiple trays at the same time, try to fit them on the same rack. If you can’t, just switch their positions half way through drying. Be sure to vent the oven by placing an oven mitt or towel in the door. This will help prevent the leaves from burning.
Some herbs may take longer to dry out than others, but expect to be drying for about an hour and a half. For example, parsley and oregano have typically taken us closer to an hour, where basil and sage take a bit longer. You can tell when they’re ready if they crunch between your fingers.
Storing Dried Herbs
After your herbs are all dried, you’ll need a place to keep them. The secret to long lasting herbs is keeping out two things – air and light.
Storing dried herbs in a dark place like a spice cabinet or pantry in airtight containers, such as mason jars, typically works just fine. You’ll be able to enjoy these herbs’ flavor in full force for about 9 months to a year, and then the flavor may start to fade. As a rule of thumb, if you can strongly smell the fragrance, the flavor will be there too.
Oven drying can be a great way to dry a lot of herbs very quickly. It’s also a great way to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your garden. Enjoy!