After all the rain we’ve had, my herbs have grown absolutely HUGE and could do with cutting back. Last week I received an email asking me how best to dry lavender… and I thought – aha, time for a blog on drying herbs!
Cutting back overgrown herbs, leaves you with masses of fragrant and tasty cuttings that are far too good to be thrown away. Drying them is a brilliant way to add flavour to your cooking outside the herb growing season and save money.
Living plants contain large amounts of water – as much as seven eighths of their weight in many cases – and his has to be removed before they can be stored.
Tie bunches of leaves and flowers loosely together in bundles and hang in a clean, airy, place out of direct sun until brittle enough to break easily between your fingers. A good tip is to hold a bunch together with an elastic band rather than string, then it shrinks as the stalks dry out and stops them dropping on the floor. They usually take about a week to dry if the weather is warm enough.
However… given the summer we are ‘enjoying’ in the UK this year, you may need to use an airing cupboard, shaded greenhouse, warm attic or dry ventilated shed.
Herbs can also be dried in a domestic oven or dehydrator, but you need to keep the temperature at no more than 32ºC/90ºF for the first day or two, after which reduce to 25ºC/75ºF until the process is complete – between three and five days. Turn the material occasionally and complete one batch at a time – don’t be tempted to add fresh material as this will reduce the temperature and raise humidity. I personally prefer the hanging in bunches method AND it looks lovely in the house!
Bunching several herbs together for bouquet garnis is easier before drying then after.
Handy tip: Culinary herbs cut up small and packed in measured amounts with water in ice-cube trays lose little of their flavour when frozen and are ready for almost immediate use!