Herbs are quite simply the secret to success in the kitchen. Not only do they bring a delicious taste and freshen the appearance of any dish, they also increase the nutritional value. However, growing many different herbs at the same time can be a headache, especially when space is limited. The stock of herbs in the kitchen can easily be expanded by drying some of the harvest! Read tips on real benefits of drying herbs, what dried herbs can be used for and how the drying itself is actually carried out.
The benefits of drying herbs
Drying herbs not only preserves an intense package of vitamins for the winter, but as the water evaporates it also often enhances the taste and aroma of the herb. As the water evaporates from the herb, it leaves a medium unsuitable for microbes to develop, so dried herbs can be safely stored for long periods at room temperature. Also, dried herbs weigh very little and fit inside small spaces, so even large stocks of herbs can be easily stored. This means your kitchen can easily have a versatile range of different herbs and herbal blends at the same time!
How to use dried herbs?
Dried herbs are easy to use and crushed into various spice mixtures. Try making a mixture of dried coriander, mint and oregano, for example, giving you a spice blend suitable for Middle Eastern and North African flavors. You can sprinkle the spice mix on the food, or use it when marinating meat, for example. Whole sprigs of dried rosemary, sage and thyme can be used as they come and added to a soup or casserole, with the stems simply removed before serving.
Dried herbs also bring color and a slight saltiness. The most avid home chefs might even try making herbal tea from dried mint leaves, for example! Thyme and rosemary are excellent when dried as a spice for herbal oil or vinegar.
How to dry herbs?
When a herb is young and fresh it can be cut and dried as it is, whereas old, hard or woody stems should instead be removed and only the leaves used for drying. Traditionally, herbs have been dried by hanging them upside down in a dry and airy place. However, drying is just as successful by thinly arranging the herbs on kitchen paper. Depending on the herb, drying usually takes a few days. The herbs are dry when the leaves crumble and the stems are easily snapped in pieces.
If you want to speed up the process, you can try drying the herbs in the oven. Set the oven using the fan assisted setting, and try to keep the temperature below 50 degrees. Place the herbs on top of some baking paper, and place the baking paper on the oven rack. Drying takes about a few hours. An even more effective process is by using a plant dryer. Drying of the herbs in the dryer is very fast, and the end result is evenly dried herbs with a good color and taste.