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Buying dry herbs from the grocery store always bugged me. I love using fresh herbs when I have them but in the long winters, with no plants in sight, grocery store herbs are the easy option. Then along came the Dehydrator!
Why a Dehydrator?
During the summer months I have always grown at least a few herbs. The basics: Basil, Thyme, Oregano, maybe Sage if I felt like something different. And I had even dried some a few times by hanging them in a window with some success. But it wasn’t until I got me dehydrator that my enthusiasm really ramped up!
The dehydrator makes the whole process faster and easier. Drying in a window can take weeks, and though it’s very charming looking, I’m a busy lady! Ain’t nobody got THYME for that! (see what I did there?) Dehydrating brings that time frame down to hours instead. It also makes your house smell heavenly.
Throughout the summer I simply pick fresh herbs as I need them. (like to make Pesto!) It’s as the season draws closer to those scary Canadian first frost dates that I begin to take stock of what I’ve got, what I want to preserve, and what we will use fresh in the coming weeks. If you are lucky enough to live in a beautiful climate with tiny short, mild winters, then you don’t have to worry as much about dehydrating schedules.
Planning, Planning, Planning!
For us scheduling is crucial to preserving the most of your harvest that you can. Firstly, take stock of what you have. I like to bring in a small bunch of my favourites to keep fresh in the fridge for those last precious moments of the growing season. And then, I simply dehydrate the rest!
Perennial herbs get cut right back and anything that won’t survive the winter gets pulled up entirely. The harvesting at our house is done over several days, as both Hubby and I have jobs and can’t just be at home dehydrating til the cows come home!
So I start with the more delicate herbs such as Basil, Mint and Summer Savoury. That way, I know that if there are colder nights, I won’t lose any to chills.
Always harvest herbs in the morning just after the dew has lifted. That’s the time of the day when the oils in the plants will be at their most potent. Gently clean off your leaves and pull away any damaged or dead leaves.
Next, spread your herbs out on your dehydrator racks (Doing your best to not mix up herbs in the dehydrator to prevent flavour mixing) and set your machine for it’s herb setting. If your machine only has a High/Low switch simply set it to low. The machine I use wasn’t anything fancy, so if you’re looking for a beginner dehydrator that won’t break the bank, this is the one I have.
Your herbs are ready when they are crisp and crumble in your hands. You can now crumble them and store them in a spice or mason jar. Alternatively, you can keep them as whole as possible and only crumble them as you need them, which can help to further preserve the flavour.
As with anything, start out small! Try one or two herbs and if you love it, go nuts! I think you’ll find that once you start drying your own herbs you won’t want to buy any from the store. The flavour is unmatched and you get the added benefit of having them fresh for half the year.