Preserving herbs by drying is a great method of maintaining their tastes, cutting grocery costs, and having assurance of supplies even when they are out of season. Using a food dehydrator makes the process easy, clean, fun, and helps develop special sense of attachment with the equipment and herbs after storage. Whether the herbs are blossoming in the garden or have a seasonal supply from the market, you can dry them and enjoy their flavours for longer. How does one go about drying the herbs using a food dehydrator? The following is a step-by-step guide on how to dehydrate herbs without losing their taste and storing them safely.
The first step in herbs dehydration is collection and selection of the right herbs. If they were growing in the backyard garden, pick them up on the cool hours of the day before commencing the drying process. If selecting from the local grocery, identify those looking fresh, leafy and healthy.
Carefully clean the herbs using enough running water. This is an important part of the drying process because it removes dirt, small warms, molluscs, and residue chemicals on the surface. If these dry together with the herbs, they can alter the flavours and even cause allergic reactions when used in food. After rinsing, place the herbs between two paper towels to remove all water that accumulated on the surface and creases. It is at this point that the herbs will be ready to put in the food dehydrator.
Place the herbs in single layers and heat for a few hours
Place the herbs on a single layer in every rack and leaving a small space between splits for effective air circulation. For herbs such as basil, mint, sage and bay that have large leaves, it is advisable to pluck them from the stalk and place them independently on dehydrator racks. This will make the drying process faster and avoid losing the flavour.
It is important to note that though different types of herbs can be dehydrated together, it is not recommended because flavours are easily lost. Therefore, place each type of herb on the racks and complete the drying process before placing a different type of herb.
Place the racks with selected herbs on dehydrator and set the temperatures between 90°F and 115°F which is the recommended level for herbs. The dehydrator will dry and clear all the moisture from the herbs in about 2-4 hours. To know that the herbs are ready, check the point at which they shatter and break with ease. Besides, the stems will feel very fragile and break even when bent a little.
To avoid over-drying the herbs and losing flavour, consider setting the dehydrator to stop after 2-3 hours to check the status. Though some herbs will take over three hours to dry, others such as tarragon, oregano, mint and basil are very soft and might be completely dry and ready for storage in just two hours. Herbs should only be dehydrated to the level that most of the water is lost, but not to the extent of killing the enzymes that give them characteristic flavours.
Remove the herbs and immediately store in airtight jars
The dehydration process cannot be complete without using the right airtight jars for storage. Pick the whole dried leaves and place them in large jars with tight fitting lids. Besides, the herbs can be crumbled to take lesser space and then fitted in watertight jars ready for use anytime when making snacks, preparing tea, or spices.
Dehydration concentrates the flavours and enzymes such that the dry herbs are about four times more potent compared to when fresh. Therefore, this has to be factored when using the dried herbs in recipes. Only use the right quantities and compensate appropriately for this potency to achieve the enjoyable flavours you are anticipating on tea, pizzas, and other foods. Bellow is video dehydrating herbs with Nesco Food Dehydrator
Knowing how to dehydrate herbs in a food dehydrator gives flexibility, control, and assurance of constant supply both in and out-of season. The process is easy, fast, and reliable when applied carefully as outlined in the steps above. Therefore, do not watch the entire garden filled with your lovely herb or market awash with seasonal supply get over without drying enough quantities and storing them. Make sure to store the dehydrated herbs in water tight jars to last longer or even take you to the next season.