Fresh herbs make everything better, right? But, seriously, how often to you use a whole bunch of basil? If you’re like me, you buy a bundle of parsley for one recipe then forget about it until you uncover a bag of mushiness at the bottom of your crisper drawer. In my effort to waste less food, I’ve decided to stop the herb abuse and dry what I don’t use. Here are some quick guidelines adapted from the new edition of The Encyclopedia of Country Living, a 900-page guide to the modern homesteading lifestyle.
Hanging bunches: Collect the herbs into a bunch, bundle the stems with string, and hang them up with the cut end upward in a shady, airy place. Allow at least 2 weeks for drying. Hanging works well with anise, basil, marigold, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme. If you dry your herbs whole like this, crumble them or rub them through a sieve to remove the stems and midribs when you’re ready to use them.
In an oven dehydrator: Spread herbs in shallow pans at 110ºF, with the door ajar if you’re using an oven. Don’t mix different kinds of herbs. It takes an average of 8 hours for them to dry.
Storing dried herbs: Store leaves in an airtight container to help prevent flavor deterioration. The fewer times you open the lid, the better they keep their strength. And try to keep them in a cool, dark, dry place away from heat—not on a shelf over or beside your stove! The cool storage inhibits evaporation of the flavoring oil in the herb, and the darkness protects the color, which fades when exposed to light.
Cooking with dried herbs: They are at least three times as strong as fresh. So figure 1 teaspoon dried herb equals 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herb. Another way to figure it is about 1 tablespoon in a dish for four.
So, go to it! Check your fridge for languishing bunches of herbs and take a minute to hang them up if you’re not planning to use them soon.
To see more tips from The Encyclopedia of Country Living, click here.