Large herb harvest in your garden this year? Did you get a bunch of parsley, dill or basil from your CSA that you know you won’t get to before it gets too sad to eat? Maybe you went to the grocery store and bought a bunch of parsley but only needed a tablespoon. Whatever the case may be, don’t throw any away!
I like to dry out my extra herbs before they get sad and I save them for winter or gift them to friends and family. Make your plan on the day you get them or harvest them so you can dry them at their peak of freshness. For this reason I always save old herb/spice bottles for this little kitchen project. Also, clean and thoroughly dry your herbs before the “drying” process.
For hardier herbs such as lavender, thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage I like to make bunches of each individual herb and hang them upside down to dry which may take a few days to a week. I hang them on hooks under my kitchen cabinets, but you can also use large paper bags (thanks, Trader Joe’s!) to dry them and just leave them in a cool, well ventilated room.
*For soft herbs like parsley or cilantro I will pick the leaves and lay a single layer on a sheet tray with parchment and dry it out in the oven. Preheat the oven to 400*F, then lower it to the lowest oven temp, 170*F when you put the tray in the oven. Leave them in until they are dry but not taking on color (toss every 10 minutes or so and watch that they don’t start to brown). When the leaves are dried out, let them cool completely, then crush them with clean hands and use the parchment paper to slip them into the bottle or use a funnel. I do not know for certain if basil dries the same as I am a Pesto lover so there is never leftover basil! (Word on the street is that basil is indeed the same.)
The most frustrating thing about culinary school for me was when I would ask a chef how long to cook something and without fail they all say “Until it’s done”. I always keep that in mind when giving instructions!
Enjoy those herbs all year round and let me know if you have any other tips and tricks to share about drying and storing them!