Aromatic herbs only last a few days after harvest and then perish, while they dry they can be stored for a long time and for this reason it is very useful to learn how to make them. During the cold months most herbs stop producing leaves, drying also allows you to have the herbs available in the winter, drying allows you to enjoy the flavors of garden spices all year round.
The drying process works by depriving the herbs of most of the water they contain, thus blocking the action of the various micro-organisms that deteriorate them. It is a natural process, which requires a dry and ventilated place. The process can be accelerated by heat, but be careful: light and too high temperatures can also cause some of the aroma to be lost. If the right conditions are created, it is possible to dry the aromas without difficulty, preserving their aroma. In this article, we will look at the best methods.
Drying of the main aromatics
Methods of drying herbs
Some tips for better drying
Drying of the main aromas
Not all plants are the same: drying has a different effect on each aromatic, some retain their fragrance and color perfectly, while others lose their organoleptic qualities and turn grey. Let’s see below how the main aromas behave during the drying process.
Rosemary . Rosemary is an herb that is simply dried, it retains practically all of its aroma and also aesthetically, its needle-shaped and very robust leaves remain green. Being an evergreen plant, those who grow rosemary they can have it available year-round for fresh picking. However, drying is very useful both to give it to relatives and friends and to use it mixed with spices or in flavored salts.
thyme, then sage . These plants also have good resistance to the drying process, because for rosemary the leaves are well structured. Therefore, they can be dried with excellent results.
oregano and marjoram . Here are two more plants that dry out without difficulty, lose a little on the aesthetic side, but still retain the characteristic smell. These are some of the most used spices: in particular, oregano is fundamental in pizza, while the aroma of marjoram is characteristic of Provencal herbs. A helpful in-depth discussion can be found on the page explaining how to dry and harvest oregano.
chive . Although it loses its fresh consistency and bright color, dried chives still retain their special onion flavor and are therefore very useful in cooking, very good in fresh cheeses.
Parsley, mint, dill . The leaves of these herbs are quite delicate, so their color changes during drying, losing their bright green color. The quality of these dried spices is also much lower than that of the same herbs consumed fresh.
Basil . Basil, like all herbs, can be dried, but it loses a lot of its flavor, it’s an aroma that makes it fresher and it’s a shame if it spoils. Unfortunately the basil plant is seasonal and it is difficult to get used to its absence in winter, one solution may be to make jars of pesto to freeze.
Saffron . Saffron is a very special case, because it is a spice that is not used fresh but only dried: drying allows the components to mature and achieve their best taste. Drying the precious stigmas is an art, if you are interested in diving into it you can find an article dedicated to how to dry saffron
Methods of drying herbs
air dry . You can dry herbs perfectly naturally without using any tools. If you collect grasses by cutting twigs, they can be tied in bundles to hang upside down. If, on the other hand, only the leaves are removed, they should be placed on a grid or a well-woven net. The concept in both cases is to facilitate the passage of air which is used to evacuate the humidity which will dry the leaves. Do you know stretched fabrics? The important thing is to choose the right place for drying, ventilated and not humid. Sunlight is not optimal for drying: it reduces time but compromises quality, since some aromatic components are photosensitive and thermolabile. Ideally it should in any case be an outdoor room like a porch, if you stay inside the house you still need to air it out very often. The disadvantage of air drying is that the drying time is long and variable depending on the climate.
Dry in the oven . To dry herbs in the oven, set the temperature as low as possible: the higher the heat, the lower the quality of the spices. In the oven, the herbs are placed on a baking sheet and should be turned and checked often. Times vary widely, but are quite short, so herbs should be carefully monitored to avoid burning. The oven door should be left slightly ajar to allow steam to escape. Due to its speed, this method is suitable for those who do not have much time, but it is certainly not the best in terms of quality.
The dryer. The best way to dry herbs is without a doubt with a dryer. Since these are small sheets, the dryer should be adjusted so that the fan does not blow too hard. The times are longer than oven drying but much shorter than air drying. I feel very comfortable with Biosec Domus from Taurus (available here): it has a specific program dedicated to aromatics and thanks to its horizontal flow it is very homogeneous, so you never have to turn the leaves. A tool specially designed for drying It has the advantage of being temperature controlled, which does not cook the spices but rather helps with ventilation, speeding up time and maximizing quality.
Microwave drying. There are also those who dry the herbs in the microwave, I won’t tell you how to do it because I don’t recommend the method. If you really don’t have a dryer, use a traditional oven, with the microwave it’s true that everything is done in a few minutes but it’s a low quality system.
It is impossible to give standard drying times: the humidity of the air, the type of grass and the weather are variables that greatly modify the times. However, it is very easy to recognize when the dried herbs are ready. The discerning eye recognizes the right degree of drying at first glance, but just touch to hear if they “crunch” or crumble between the fingers to know when to stop drying and put them in the pantry. eat.
Some tips for better drying
pick up in the morning . Herbs harvested in the morning retain a higher content of essential oils and therefore smell better when dried. However, if there is dew, it is better to wait and let it evaporate naturally.
Pick before flowering . In their cultivation cycle, medicinal and aromatic plants have a time when the concentration of active principles is higher, generally the period before flowering. The plant accumulates the substances and energy that will be needed to cover the effort of making flowers and seeds. If you want to dry the best, you should choose this time for harvesting.
The flowers are still closed. In some herbs, it is possible to dry the flowering twigs, because the flowers are often edible and also fragrant, this is the case for rosemary, for example. You need to pick the flowers before they open for them to look good.
spice storage Dried aromatic herbs are perfectly preserved in glass jars with screw caps, to be stored in the pantry. Always avoid humid places and too much light.