After seeing how easy it was to dry my herbs using a dehydrator, I decided to purchase one myself. We have some money set back to put towards purchases that would make us a more self-sufficient home, and a dehydrator is definitely one of those kind of items. (The one I used yesterday is my dad's. I borrowed his over a month ago and really need to return it to him!)
I actually found a pretty good deal on this one at amazon.com: Nesco FD-75PR 700-Watt Food Dehydrator. I figured that I would have to spend more than this for a good dehydrator, but this one got a ton of 5-star reviews so I felt pretty confident in it. I also bought two extra tray sets (a total of four trays in all) because it's more energy-friendly to dry larger batches of food than multiple small batches. So that will give me nine trays in all to work with.
Yesterday, I dried thyme, tarragon, chives, dill, and parsley. I'm also planning on drying some spearmint to have over the winter for my tea and also some basil.
Here's how you do it using a dehydrator:
1. Cut your herbs off your plants after the dew has evaporated and before the sun gets too hot. I went out around 10am and it was dry enough.
2. Rinse them in cold water if they are dirty. Then dry them as best as possible. I skipped the rinsing part except on the parsley. I don't spray my herbs and, honestly, the kids and I have a habit of picking herbs and veggies straight from the garden and eating them without washing. They're our plants, we put no chemicals on them, so I feel safe doing this. However, I did have to rinse the parsley because it did have some dirt on it so I just dried it using my salad spinner. However, you could also pat it dry with kitchen towels as well.
3. Remove as much stem as possible, drying only the leaves. Now, with the dill and tarragon (that has little tiny "leaves") I left it on the smaller stems and removed the thicker stems.
4. Lay in a single layer on your trays to allow for adequate air movement.
5. Dehydrate until nice and crunchy. I didn't time this part. Sorry. I just kept checking in on them periodically. However, they didn't take very long at all, in my opinion. Especially the dill! It dried really quickly. The chives probably took the longest, and they probably only took a couple of hours. The higher in water content, the longer they will take.
6. Once everything was dried, I removed more stem if necessary. For instance, I had to leave the tiny thyme leaves on the stems to dry, so I just ran my fingers over the stem, knocking the leaves into a bowl.
7. I read that you'll want to store your dried herbs in whole form and then crush them right before using. This helps to keep the most flavor locked in. I chose to store my herbs in canning jars (since I have a ton of jars) and used reusable air-tight lids. You could also use Rubbermaid containers or any other airtight food-safe container.
8. Label your jars. Then six months down the road, you won't forget what exactly that is there in that jar!
9. Store in your pantry.
You can also dry herbs in the oven and also just by hanging them to dry. I did end up researching how to dry herbs by hanging. Here's an awesome link with all the information you need to know if you'd like to dry your herbs by hanging.
And if you want to learn how to freeze fresh herbs, try this link at vegetablegardener.com. Here's another good link that gives a general overview of all the different ways you can dry herbs.
And while we were outside picking our herbs for drying, we also worked on weeding the big garden and my herb garden. Sergei was in charge of the big garden (which actually wasn't that bad since we've really been keeping on top of it) and the littler ones and I worked on the herb garden.
I cut back my chives plants to a couple inches above the ground. After they flowered, they got really hard and chewy - to the point you couldn't eat them. New, tender stalks began to grow but they were getting crowded out by the old, tough chives. So I cut all three plants back and the kids helped me sort out the good from the bad.
See I told you we have a habit of taste-testing. Even my niece, Allie, got in on the taste-testing...
I dried a good portion of the chives, but still had a bunch of fresh ones left over that I will use over the course of the next week. If you want to store fresh herbs in the refrigerator, it is best to put them in an airtight container that has a damp paper towel in it. This helps the herbs retain their moisture and prevents them from getting wilty.