There are several reasons why you might want to dehydrate herbs and the reasons swing between saving money to seeking a better flavor quality by using dried herbs in your recipes. A preference for using an organic product you have dried yourself using a herb dehydrator, is also right up there for health reasons.
Drying herbs in a dehydrator is fast, as well as an excellent way to store what your garden has provided. You will always have fresh herbs, unlike the dried herbs you find in a supermarket. Moving your food herbs from your garden and into storage mode as quickly as possible will ensure their high quality.
How to Dehydrate Herbs in a Food Dehydrator
The first thing you will need to do is to give the leaves and flowers of your herbs a quick rinse, followed by gently shaking them to remove excess water. Rinsing seeds is not necessary. After rinsing, you can lay your herbs out flat so they dry in the air for a half an hour or so.
When this is done, you should set the temperature of your herb dehydrator to between 95 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. While heating, you can take the trays and place the herbs carefully in a single layer on each tray. It will take between one and four hours for the herbs to dry, depending on the herb. It is important to remember that only one type of herb should be placed on a tray in order to preserve the integrity of the flavor.
You can tell when the herbs are properly dried by checking that the leaves crumble and the stems break when you try to bend them. This method works especially well for herbs such as mint, oregano, tarragon and basil. If you do not want the stems, simply remove the leaves and place them on your trays and wait for them to reach their crumbling point.
Drying Oregano in a Dehydrator
You can proceed as above, with the addition of turning the stems of the oregano a few times while they are drying. This ensures that drying occurs evenly and gives you the best result. A tip to use when checking to see if the oregano is ready is to pinch the bottom of the stem, before pulling upwards. The leaves should easily fall off and crumble.
If you want to keep the oregano stems, but not use them for cooking (they can be woody and bitter), then use them to create an interesting aroma by adding them to an open fire or a smoker.
What To Look For In A Dehydrator
As you would expect, there are many choices of dehydrators available for you to purchase with differing price points and features. The best dehydrator for herbs is one which will get the job done quickly and is approved for home use.
Your dehydrator should fit comfortably in the location you intend to use it and have special removable trays specifically for herbs. It should also be easy to clean and have a basic thermostat so the drying temperature can be controlled.
If your budget allows a model that includes a timer, go for it, but you can easily use other timer options, such as the timer on your stove for example. If you don’t already own a food dehydrator, it’s important to remember not to buy one with features you are not likely to need.
Storing Dried Herbs
After you have finished dehydrating herbs, it is important to store them quickly so they retain their full flavor. The best way to do this is to keep them in a dry place, preferably in the dark. You should place the dried herbs in a glass bottle, or a plastic container which is airtight will also do the job. My personal preference is glass bottles. This is also a great opportunity to use a vacuum sealer.
The reason for storing herbs in a dark, dry place is to maintain and preserve the flavor of the herbs. Light and air tend to weaken the strength of the herb. Stored in this manner, your dried herbs should retain quality and flavor for approximately six months.
You can see now that dehydrating herbs is not difficult and if you already have a dehydrator, you are halfway there. Herbs you dry yourself are more flavorful than supermarket dried herbs and the organic benefits are attractive. Aside from using your dried herbs for cooking, there are a number other things you can do with them to take full advantage of your herb garden. Small bottles of dried herbs can be packaged to make a homemade gift or placed in a sachet. You could even sell them. So if you are looking for an interesting hobby, growing, dehydrating and storing dried herbs for your own use, or to sell, is one you should consider.