Drying Herbs - by Renee Sweers, Nutrition and Health Program Specialist, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Don't let those herbs from the garden go to waste. Here are some tips to make them last for months.
Microwave drying is a quick and easy method to dry small amounts of herbs. Lay a single layer of clean, dry leaves between dry paper towels and place them in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes on high power. Drying will vary with the moisture content of the herb and the wattage of the microwave oven. Let the leaves cool. If they are not brittle, reheat for 30 seconds and retest. Repeat as needed. Thick leaved herbs may need to be air dried for several days before microwaving.
Herbs are sufficiently dry when they are brittle and crumble easily. When the leaves are dry, separate them from their stems and package the leaves in rigid containers with tight fitting lids. Glass or hard plastic are best, although heavy-duty zip-lock plastic bags can be used. To preserve full flavor, avoid crushing the leaves until you are ready to use them. Store dried herbs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, moisture, and heat. Many herbs can be keep for a year if stored properly.
Note: Drying herbs is the only food preservation that can safely be done in the microwave.
Tips for Harvesting Herbs
• Begin harvesting the herb when the plant has enough foliage to maintain growth. Up to 75% of the current season's growth can be harvested at one time.
• Harvest early in the morning, after the dew dries, but before the heat of the day.
• Harvest herbs before flowering, otherwise, leaf production declines.
• Annual herbs can be harvested until frost.
• Perennial herbs can be clipped until late August. Stop harvesting about one month before the frost date. Late pruning could encourage tender growth that cannot harden-off before winter.
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