How To Dry Fresh Herbs Using A Dehydrator

Are you looking for information on how to dry fresh herbs using a dehydrator? This article is a simple and easy to follow guide for the process.

Before we discuss the steps to drying herbs, let’s take a step back and talk about what a dehydrator is and why using one makes sense.

What’s a Dehydrator and Why Use One?

A dehydrator is a device that circulates warm air to remove moisture from food. Dehydration is a great way of preserving food because while it removes the moisture, it keeps the enzymes and the nutrients mostly intact. Vegetables, fruits, and herbs are perfect for dehydration.

There are several reasons why dehydrating herbs, vegetables, and other foods is a great idea and here are a few that you should know about:

  • As mentioned earlier, dehydration is primarily a food preservation method. By having foods undergo this process, you can extend its shelf life. Some dehydrated foods can have a shelf life of two years.
  • Because you can extend the shelf life of food, you can reduce food waste. Some foods which in the past would have ended up in the trash could still be preserved by drying.
  • When you’re doing dehydration, there is only one ingredient involved, and that is the food itself. That means there are no chemicals or artificial additives and as you should know, natural is healthy.
  • Dehydrated foods can be expensive if you purchase them processed already. By doing your own dehydration, you can save a considerable amount of money, especially if you will be consuming a lot of such foods.
  • Did you know that most vegetables and fruits get their bulk from the water they contain? That’s why dehydrated foods are usually only a sixth of their original size. That means you can achieve more efficient storage with dehydrated foods.
  • It’s not just the size of dehydrated foods that is reduced, their weight is lessened too. This makes them more portable and more ideal when you have to bring food along with you. This is why dehydrated foods is a favorite among campers.
  • Dehydration as a food preservation process is very safe, and there is minimal risk of contamination. That’s because it takes away most of the moisture in the food which is needed by most bacteria to thrive.
  • Finally, dehydrating foods is a straightforward process. There is nothing complicated about it. All you have to do is to find the right setting for a particular food. And even if you don’t get it right, the temperatures involved are quite low, there is no danger of burning or even over drying the food you are processing. In other words, it would take a great deal of effort on your part to mess it up.

These are the main reasons why using a vegetable and herbs dehydrator is an excellent idea.  Now, it’s time to learn how to dehydrate herbs in the most efficient way possible.

Drying Herbs in a Dehydrator

You can process most herbs using a dehydrator, but it works best with those that have high moisture content like the following:

  • basil
  • lemon
  • balm

  • oregano
  • tarragon
  • mints

Because of the high moisture content of these herbs, they are prone to mold. Drying them will allow you to store them for longer periods. Here is a step by step guide on how you can process herbs using a dehydrator:

1. Harvesting

We’re assuming that you will be drying herbs that you have gathered and harvested yourself. While it is okay to dry herbs that you have bought, your own harvest would be fresher. So, first hit the garden if you can. If not, try to look for organic herbs at your farmer’s market.

You should gather your herbs in the morning. The ideal time is just right after the morning dew is gone. Wash the herbs in cold water and shake them gently to remove the extra moisture. Do not rub them to remove the moisture since that can bruise the leaves. Go through the leaves and remove those with deformities.

Remove the longer stems, but you can retain the smaller ones near the leaves. Removing all stems can be time-consuming, and that can damage the leaves.

2. Placing Inside the Dehydrator

Once you have sorted the leaves, you can place them on the dehydrator tray. Remember to put them as a single layer, this will help in drying the leaves more evenly. If you have a screen, you can use that to cover the leaves so none will fall inside the dehydrator.

If you are drying large leaves, then you might have to make space for it. The easiest way to do that is to remove some of the extra trays that you will not be using. That would also improve the circulation of the warm air and help in speeding up the process.

3. Use the Lowest Setting

When drying herbs, you have to remember to use the lowest setting on the device. This is important to preserve the flavor of the herbs. A suggested temperature setting is from 35  to 46 degrees Celsius. Some dehydrators do not have temperature control, if that’s the kind of dehydrator that you’re using, then choose the shortest time setting and monitor the herbs during the process.

You would know that your herbs have been dehydrated properly when the leaves crumble and the stems break off when bent.

4. Storage

The best means of storing dried herbs will be as whole leaves. That will help preserve the smell and the flavor of the leaves. The only problem is that whole leaves will take up more space than crushed ones. The only time when it is indeed better to grind herbs right after drying is when they are bound to be blended for use in teas.

Dried herbs should be stored in airtight containers and keep it in a dark, cool,  and dry space. Light and heat will make your herbs deteriorate faster, so it is not a good idea to store them in glass containers and display them in the open. Ideally, you should use dried herbs within a year. Herbs that have been stored longer than that might not have the best flavor.

These are the steps that you can follow when drying herbs in a dehydrator. Keep in mind that you should handle herbs carefully, so you don’t damage the leaves. Careful handling is more crucial to herbs as compared to other foods like vegetables and fruits.

You should also note that dried herbs are a lot more potent than fresh ones. In fact, they can be three times stronger than fresh herbs. So, if you are going to substitute dried herbs in a recipe that calls for fresh ones, you should only use a third less of the amount of herb required.

 

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