Creating seasonal recipes that are inspired by my passion for local, organic foods

Monday, September 22, 2008

Drying Herbs for Idiots

ParsleyMy herb plants are getting totally overgrown and are encroaching on my other plants. So, I took matters into my own hands and bushwacked them back.

I didn't want to just huck the clippings onto the compost bin, so I decided to try to dry the herbs that are annual. Things like rosemary, sage and other plants are perennial around here, so I don't worry too much about not having them year round. Particularly the rosemary. It's almost viral it grows so big and gets out of control so easily.

I wish I had taken the time to dry some oregano before I chopped the hell out of it and transplanted it elsewhere earlier in the year. Same thing with the marjoram (which I ended up killing). Oh well, next time I'll know better.

So, what did I end up drying? A ton of Italian flat leaf parsley and some sage just for sport (even though it sticks around in winter). The sage is handy to have on hand inside since sometimes when it's dark, pouring rain and cold out I don't like to poke around in the yard when I'm making dinner trying to scout out decent herbs.

Dried parsley in an oregano jarThere are a couple different ways of drying herbs. You can put them in the traditional dehydrator and go that route. I was afraid they'd stick like crazy (like my strawberries) and didn't feel like spending hours scraping little paper thin leaves off the grates. You can also freeze them dry and store them at room temperature. Allegedly. I'm still not convinced that freezing works without molding up.

Lastly, you can dry them in the microwave, which is the method I chose. Basically you place your herbs (I washed and then dried them between kitchen towels) on a paper towel and then nuke them in the microwave until they are dry and crispy. For my microwave it took about 2.5 minutes for the parsley. The sage took closer to 4 minutes since they are so thick.

Once they are crispy dry, crush them with your hands and then store them in small jars. I had some old spice jars that fit the bill, so I loaded them up using a small funnel. The color is phenomenally more vibrant and the herbs have a much more fragrant smell than anything you can buy from the store.

Now I can save the summer bounty of my herbs and have them available to season my foods in the dead of winter. And it's so damn easy you have no excuse to not try it yourself. By the way, drying your herbs is also useful for when you buy too many herbs and want to keep them out of the compost.

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