Thursday, July 31, 2014

Food Preservation: Herbs


There are several methods to preserving herbs.  The most popular methods being freezing in ice cubes and drying or dehydrating.  My preferred method is dehydrating.  Dehydrating herbs is very easy.  It doesn't require any special equipment and one is not dependent on electricity or a freezer that is in good working order.  When using dried or dehydrated herbs, remember to use 1/2 the amount of fresh as the flavors are concentrated when dried.
 After cutting the herbs from the plant wash them in a sink of COLD water by swishing them around.  Allow the water to settle for a few moments which will allow any garden particles to sink to the bottom of the basin.  Remove the herbs, drain the basin and repeat the wash process.  I always wash my herbs twice & my greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc.) three times.


 After the herbs are washed, I remove the excess water by giving them a good spin in my salad spinner.  (I've been a mother and wife for more than 30 years so, I've had plenty of time to collect all sorts of nifty kitchen gadgets, like my salad spinner.)  If you don't have a salad spinner you can place the herbs in a recycled mesh onion or potato bag and while standing on the back porch give them a good shake.
After removing the excess water I remove the leaves from the stems and spread the leaves on a baking sheet.  (Growing up in  the Gulf Coast region, our climate was too humid to air dry herbs, so I learned to dry them in the oven.)  Place the baking sheet in the oven.  If you have a standing pilot on your oven, all you have to do is close the door and wait 36 - 48 hours.  If your oven is fancy with an electric oven igniter, press the bread proofing feature and turn the oven light on.  Turn the proofing feature off after 30 minutes, keeping the light on.  Your herbs will be dehydrated within 36-48 hours.

If you need to use your oven prior to the dehydrating process being completed, just temporarily remove them and when finished baking allow the oven to cool before returning the herbs.
Once the herbs are completely dry they will easily crumble between your fingers.  I like to use recycled herb containers or canning jars for storage.  I store my containers of herbs in a cabinet near the prep station in my kitchen.  Any excess dried herbs are stored the in canning jars and placed in our food storage pantry located in the cool, dark basement.

Growing and preserving your own herbs is an easy, no sweat way of reducing your grocery bill.  As mentioned in my post, Stewardship in the Kitchen: Setting a Realistic Grocery Budget , when priced by the pound, herbs are the most expensive grocery item you will purchase.  Since herbs are so easy to grow and preserve, anyone can implement this technique and save money while still eating well.  Bon Appetite!


  1. I've never dried herbs in the oven so I'm grateful for this info. I just dried some spearmint but it's hot enough this time of year that I only had to put the sprigs in a brown paper bag. :-0)

  2. Hi Georgene,

    Thanks for stopping by. Yes, I've heard of many folks placing herbs in a paper bag to dry them. Down home, we never did this or open air drying because our air is so humid the herbs, flowers, etc. actually mildew. That is why our family always used the oven warmed by the pilot and / or the light.


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