The Joys of Dehydrating Herbs: Five Methods to Try
I have an old dehydrator that I love. I purchased it used, many years ago, I don’t even remember where. There is absolutely nothing fancy about it. My dehydrator uses radiant heat and does not have a way to control the temperature. I like it because it is quiet and because you can add you herbs, fruits or vegetables and walk away. This week I am dehydrating herbs like a maniac!
It started a few weeks ago when I saw this post for Rose & Bee Balm Oxymel and I thought…wait a minute…I have roses that haven’t been sprayed. I have a beautiful Bee Balm plant on my patio, I have honey, I have apple cider vinegar. I can do that!
Dehydrating is the process of removing water from your herbs or foods. Once they are dried and placed in containers away from moisture, your herbs will last for at least a year. This is my frugal way to add to my herb stash.
Luckily there are several ways to dehydrate. Find the one that is right for you.
Five Dehydrating Methods
1. You can use your oven – Place your herbs in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Set your oven temperature at 180- 200 degrees and put the cookie sheet inside. Prop the door open to let the moisture escape. Watch your herbs, stirring if needed and remove them when they are completely dry. Be careful that you do not burn them. See this Iowa State University publication for more information.
2. You can use Dehydrators. Using my simple machine, I place my herbs on the dehydrator trays and check after 30 minutes. Stir if necessary. After an hour, I stir the herbs and move the bottom stack to the top. There are simple and complex dehydrators. Luckily my simple dehydrator is all that is needed to dry delicate herbs. For now, my quiet machine works just fine!
3. You can use the sun. You need a way to protect your herbs from bugs and being blown away by the wind. Some people use the back window of their vehicle or you might want to try making this ingenious creation for bug-free outdoor drying.
4. You can let nature take its course. Air drying is another popular method used to dry herbs. You can use whole branches or stems, gather 8 to 12 stems in a bunch. Tie the ends of the stems together and hang each bunch upside down in a warm (70-80 F), dry area making sure your herbs are out of direct sunlight. The herbs should be dry in 2 to 4 weeks. When thoroughly dry, strip the leaves from the plants. This is the method I used for drying my lavender harvest this year.
5. Microwave ovens work well for dehydrating, especially when it is very humid and it would take too long for our herbs to air dry. The process is simple. Clean and dry your herbs then lay them out in a single layer on a piece of paper towel. Heat them in 30-second increments until they are completely dry. Be warned – I’ve started herbs on fire before, so watch them carefully. See this Organic Gardening article for more details.
What have I been dehydrating? Why herbs from my garden, of course…
- Raspberry leaf to use as a tasty tea.
- Many kinds of mint – peppermint, orange and spearmint to use in teas and other herbal preparations. There is so much you can do with mint!
- Pineapple sage leaves are edible and can be steeped in hot water to make an herbal tea or jam.
- Lemon Verbena for making teas and tinctures.
- Bee Balm and Rose Petals for that oxymel that I plan to make this week.
- Don’t miss 101 Dehydrator Recipes from Mom With a Prep.
If I were going to purchase a new dehydrator, this is what I would buy (because the heat blows from the top down). Plus, these are some of my favorite dehydrating books at Amazon: