Drying herbs is a great way to extend the flavor of a bountiful crop. It works best with herbs like bay leaves, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme, and there are a couple methods you can use. The fastest way just happens to involve your microwave.
Traditionally, herbs are hung to dry. This low-tech option calls for tying clean herbs into bundles by their stems with plain kitchen twine, cotton string, or rubber bands. They're then hung upside-down to dry in a cool, preferably not-sunny, place until they are fully dried out. This can often take up to a few weeks.
Luckily, if you don't want to wait or have extra herb-drying space, it's quick and easy to dry herbs in a microwave oven instead.
Drying Herbs in the Microwave
All it takes is two very simple steps to dry herbs in the microwave:
- Make sure the herbs are squeaky clean first. Wash the herbs in cool water, swishing them around to remove any dirt or dust from the leaves. Lift the herbs out of the water and thoroughly pat them dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Remove and discard any stems.
- Lay the cleaned herb leaves in a single layer on a microwaveable plate. Microwave them in 30-second sessions, turning the leaves over between each session. Repeat until the leaves are completely dry and brittle. Typically, this will take 4 to 6 sessions (a total of 2 to 3 minutes microwaving time).
Which Herbs to Dry
When it comes to drying, not all herbs are created equal. Delicate leafy greens simply lose too much of their flavor when dried. Heartier, woodier herbs, however, can stand up to being dehydrated and still have plenty of flavors to share. These are the best herbs to dry:
Don't bother drying fragile herbs like parsley or basil. Chervil, dill, and cilantro fall into the same category. Such tender leafy herbs just turn to vaguely flavored dust when dry. Try freezing them instead in order to preserve their full flavor.
An exception to the rule is mint. Dried mint doesn't have the same vibrant flavor as it does when it's fresh. However, in some uses—salad dressings and marinades, for instance—its more mellow, more savory flavor can be quite pleasing.
How to Store Dried Herbs
Once your herbs are dry, it's important to store them properly. It is best to store dried herbs in air-tight containers, such as screw-top glass jars. You can also reuse jars that previously held other spices and herbs.
Many people like to store herbs as whole as possible, crumbling them only when it's time to add the herb to food. If you want to break them up so they fit in jars or you need to pack them tightly, that's okay, too.