How to Harvest & Dehydrate Home-Grown Herbs
Dehydrating your home-grown herbs is a great way to enjoy your own herbs in your kitchen year-round. Here are some helpful tips for success.
Growing your own herbs can easy, fun, and rewarding, but if you have an abundance of fresh herbs for only part of the year, preserving them for the winter season is a great way to save money and enjoy your own home-grown herbs year-round.
There are a number of ways to preserve your fresh home-grown herbs for later use, but one of the most common for modern homesteaders is dehydration. Dehydrated or dried herbs will keep for a long time, without taking up valuable freezer space. They can be used in numerous tasty dishes, from soups and stews, to sauces and roasts, and they also make great gifts for friends and family when bottled in a pretty jar!
While many herbs will dry well when placed on racks or hung in bunches by their stems in a dry, dark location, there are some drawbacks to this method. Sometimes it can be hard to find a suitable location in your home for drying lots of herbs. If the space is too humid, or doesn’t have enough air circulation, mold can result.
If you have a dehydrator, you will be able to dry your herbs much more quickly and reliably. You just need to make sure you don’t over-dry them, or they may lose flavor.
The below article from UrbanFarm.org shares some helpful tips for dehydrating your own home-grown herbs:
Harvesting Your Herbs
It’s best to pick herbs first thing in the morning when the volatile oils are at their peak. These oils add a fullness and depth of flavor to dishes prepared with herbs. Washing them off in a sink full of cool, clear water and an extra rinse under running water is usually sufficient. Herbs with larger leaves, such as bay and sage, are washed leaf by leaf. Smaller leaved varieties benefit from “swishing and squishing” to move the water through and around the leaves.
Drying Your Herbs
After washing and sorting, blot your herbs with towels or use a salad spinner. The more moisture removed from washing, the less time they will take to dry. Then, move your leaves to dehydrator trays. Large leafed herbs require more room between each leaf, about a quarter of an inch. Smaller herbs are placed on the trays as sprigs or stems, those are placed closer together, since they shrink a bit as they dry.
…Set the temperature of the dehydrator to 120 degrees. This temperature preserves the color best. As always, consult the directions for your dehydrator.
Consider the herbs dry by their “crunch factor.” Not dry enough and the herb may develop mold. Too dry and the herb will lose volatile oils, flavor and color. Smaller leaf herbs will crunch when pinched. When rolling a sprig between the fingers, much like rolling a pencil, a smaller leaf herb will come away easily from the small twig. Larger leaf herbs should be crisp.
Bottling Your Dehydrated Herbs
Cost Plus World Market has inexpensive spice jars… Spice jars can be found on-line as well. In addition to the jars, a piece of wax or parchment paper and a small plate are helpful.
After allowing the herbs to cool, crumble the smaller leaved herbs over the parchment or wax paper. The size of the crumble or crush is a personal choice. Rosemary and bay are bottled as whole leaves. Tweezers are helpful in picking out small stems and twigs. The amount and size of small stems is a personal patience level decision. Placing the spice jar on the paper plate will contain any spill that might occur. Using your fingers to pack the bottles and when a bit of herb is left, fold the parchment paper slightly and use it as a funnel.
Your dehydrated herbs have a shelf life of about one year. Always store your herbs in a cool, dark cabinet to preserve their flavors and color.
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