Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Hedgewitch's Guide to Drying Herbs

A Hedgewitch's Guide to Drying Herbs

Drying your own herbs is pretty magical in my opinion and so easy to do. There are several different methods of drying herbs depending on the space, equipment, and time you have. This complete guide will give you a basic rundown of each method. Please note that despite what some witches say, there is no difference between air drying and using a microwave. Some believe there is an energy difference, but this is false information perpetrated by bad science and misconceptions on how microwaves work. Don't let fear mongering stop you from using the best method for you and your needs.

1. Air Drying: This is probably the most popular method of drying herbs and quite simple. Take your herb cuttings (let them remain on the stem in most cases) and wash and dry them. I gently pat the herbs dry with a paper towel after I wash them. You can then hang the herbs upside down in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, place them in a paper bag, or allow them to sit out flat. I currently have rosemary drying on my kitchen counter in a fruit bowl. Rosemary dries pretty quickly and those needles will fall to the floor with the slightest bump, so I prefer the bowl method. For sage, I like to create sage bundles by wrapping them in twine. Post on my sage bundle method and DIY drying racks to follow at a later date.

2. Dehydrator: I finally broke out my dehydrator for the first time this spring to make dehydrated strawberries. Boy am I glad I did. They were the best tasting treat I've ever had, but you can use a dehydrator for more than just fruits and vegetables. A dehydrator is a great way to quickly dry herbs, but they can be expensive. Unlike air drying, you are going to need to cut the stems into smaller pieces to fit inside a dehydrator. After you have washed and dried them, trim them into smaller pieces for easy placement. Basil, sage, mint, and other large leafy herbs can be placed in the dehydrator without their stems. Simply pluck the leaves and lay them flat on the trays. Rosemary, thyme, oregano, and other small leafy herbs will need to remain on the stem. Do not overlap the herbs. You want to ensure even drying. Since each dehydrator is different, you will need to consult your manual for exact drying times and temperatures, but usually, you can have freshly dried herbs overnight.

3. Oven Drying: Since not everyone has a dehydrator, an oven is probably the next best thing. Unlike a dehydrator, you don't have to remove leafy herbs from their stems, but you can if you want to. After washing and drying, lay your herbs out on a cookie sheet. Stems can overlap but you want to make sure there is enough airflow between the stems to dry the herbs evenly. Set the oven to 180-200 degrees Fahrenheit and place your herbs in the oven for about 1-2 hours. Leave the door slightly cracked to allow airflow. You'll need to check these a little more often than the other methods to make sure you don't burn the herbs.

4. Microwave: The final method is microwave drying. The only issue with this method is you risk over-drying the herbs and possibly burning them. After the herbs have been washed and dried, place them on a paper towel with the stem intact. Microwave for 30-second intervals, flipping the over each time until they are dried. Depending on the herb, this could take between 1-3 minutes.

No matter which method you go with, always make sure your herbs are completely clean. You don't want bugs ending up in your spices! After the herbs are dry, you will need to process them. If you want a fine powder, use a clean coffee grinder or food processor. If you want to keep the leaves whole, rub your fingers over the dried stems opposite the direction the leaves are laying over a bowl. Once processed, store the herbs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight in an airtight container. I prefer glass jars, but plastic Tupperware is perfectly fine as well.

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