Here's how to dry the herbs you grew all summer. First check out the demonstration video on YouTube, "How to Dry Herbs," to get a picture of the steps to follow. Then you can begin with favorite herbs such as oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, dill, mint, or any type of herb you choose to dehydrate and put in a container. You also can dry flowers.
Herb flowers harvested to dry for craft purposes should be picked just before they are fully open. See, "Harvesting and Preserving Herbs for the Home Gardener." To dry herbs, the article on preserving herbs notes that drying is the traditional method of herb preservation. If the herbs are clean, do not wet them. See, "Drying Herbs - National Center for Home Food Preservation"
You don't want to leave wet herbs to rot and mold over instead of drying. Begin by rinsing dust and dirt from the foliage, shake off the excess water, and spread the herbs out to dry on paper towels or dishcloths until all surface moisture has evaporated. Remove any dead or damaged foliage.
To dry the herbs, you tie the dry, not damp stems into small bundles with twine or string and hang them upside down in a warm, dry, airy place out of the sun
Be sure to make small, loose bundles and allow for good air circulation around each bunch. The trick is herbs are not dried in sunlight like sun-dried tomatoes are. Don't let the light discolor and remove the fragrance from the herbs.
UV rays from the sun and moisture from dew and frost can discolor and severely reduce the quality of many herbs. Thus, it is best to dry herbs indoors in a large empty closet, attic, or unused corner of a room. Drying herbs look quite attractive drying in a kitchen or pantry.
Easiest herbs to dry are sage, thyme, summer savory, dill, and parsley
If none of these places are practical, herbs can be dried in a barn, shed, or (least desirable) under the cover of a porch. Sage, thyme, summer savory, dill, and parsley are easy to dry. Basil, tarragon, and mints may mold and discolor if not dried quickly.
An alternative to hanging herbs to dry in bunches is to spread the herbs out on window screens. Suspend the screens over sawhorses or the backs of chairs. Turn the leaves often to ensure even drying.
Air-drying herbs with seeds
To air dry herbs with seeds, tie the herbs in small bundles and suspend inside a paper bag with holes punched in the sides. Suspend the bag in a dark area with good air circulation. Collect the seeds when they are dry, and store in rigid light-proof containers.
Microwave drying is a quick and easy method to dry small amounts of herbs. Lay a single layer of clean, dry leaves between dry paper towels and place them in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes on high power. Drying will vary with the moisture content of the herb and the wattage of the microwave oven. Let the leaves cool. If they are not brittle, reheat for 30 seconds and retest. Repeat as needed. Thick leaved herbs may need to be air dried for several days before microwaving.
Drying herbs in your stove's oven, not a microwave
Conventional ovens can also be used to dry herbs. Spread the herbs on cookie sheets and dry at the lowest temperature setting possible. Home food dehydrators also do an excellent job of drying herbs. Follow the directions provided with the dehydrator.
Herbs are sufficiently dry when they are brittle and crumble easily. When the leaves are dry, separate them from their stems and package the leaves in rigid containers with tight fitting lids. Glass or hard plastic are best, although heavy-duty zip-lock plastic bags can be used. To preserve full flavor, avoid crushing the leaves until you are ready to use them. Store dried herbs in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, moisture, and heat. Many herbs can be keep for a year if stored properly.
Dry herbs, vegetables and fruits with children who may be more motivated to eat vegetables
Make your own sun-dried tomatoes and mix them with dehydrated berries and cherries for a unique snack instead of serving just candy treats. See, "How to Make Sun Dried Tomatoes | RealEpicurean.com."You can mix dried vegetables and fruits for unique-tasting treats, for example dehydrated cherries, blueberries, and sun-dried tomatoes in a snack.
Check out the directory of resources on drying vegetables at the end of this article. Below this you'll see a directory of sites that show you how to dry fruits and vegetables. You can also learn how to dry spices, herbs, or make cookies from raw foods at sites such as Raw Recipes. Check out the videos below on raw food cookies recipes. See, "How to Dry Fruit."
Teach them all how to make dried fruit and vegetable snacks or trail mix, dried fruit and nuts
Or for those allergic to nuts, try dried fruit and vegetables mixed with other foods that can be dehydrated or mixed with home-made granola for a trail mix without nuts. Or add sesame or sunflower seeds for those who can handle granola and seeds with dried fruit as a party snack or treat to take out the door. Here's how to show others how drying fruit can be fun as an alternative to eating candy and soda at parties.
The quickest way to dry fruits and vegetables is to cut them in very thin slices and put them on parchment paper on a cookie tray in your oven. Then heat the oven to 145 degrees F. and blanch or dip the fruit first before you put it in the oven. You close the oven door partly, propping the oven door open with a wooden spoon so steam escapes.
Then you keep the fruit in the 145 F. degree oven for four to 12 hours. After four hours, test the fruit to make sure it's pliable when cooled. Then put the fruit in an open pot or stainless steel bowl and stir the dried fruit once a day for 10 to 14 days. For instruction on this method see the article, "How to Oven Dry Fruit," by Sarra Jackson.
How do you dip fruit or blanch fruit before you even begin to dry the fruit in your oven? Or how do you dry fruit in the sun or make sun-dried tomatoes? That's why the directory below on drying fruit and vegetables will be useful when you make healthier snacks to hand out to children and families for holiday treats instead of the usual habit of handing out candy. Try a healthier snack of fruit. And if you want to make your own trail mix, add some chopped cashew nuts, roasted almonds, walnut pieces, roasted peanuts, or sunflower seeds to the dried fruit snack.
Beware of handing out nut treats to strange children who could have peanut allergies: If you're handing out snacks any event where strange children come to your home, don't add nuts. Some children are allergic to peanuts or any tree nuts. Some can't have grains.
Just hand out dried berries such as blueberries or dried nectarines and apricots or dried apple rings, dried bananas, various berries, or a mixture of naturally sweet dried fruit and cranberries or sun-dried tomatoes and carrots.
You can dehydrate (dry) berries and other fruits to hand out to children for holiday treats or snacks instead of just buying candy. It takes more time, but it's healthier and tastes just as sweet as some candies. According to the Seasonal Chef site, there are only seven steps to drying fruit such as berries, peaches, apples, and plums. See below. Also helpful is The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, by Carol W. Costenbader. The Seasonal Chef site uses the following instructions on dehydrating fruit found in the book.
Here are the seven steps to drying and storing fruit.
1. Select the Fruit
Use only blemish-free fruits that are fully ripe but not overly ripe.
2. Prepare the Fruit
Wash, pit and slice the fruit. The smaller the pieces, the quicker they will dry. But keep all pieces uniform in size so they’ll dry at the same time.
To preserve the color of the fruit, blanch the fruit in boiling water or dip the fruit slices before drying them. Here's how to blanch fruits such as apples or apricots:
Blanching (apricots, apples)
Put slices in a steamer (or a colander suspended in a pot of boiling water) for five minutes then place fruit in ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and dry on towels.
Ascorbic acid dip (all fruits)
2 tbsp ascorbic acid or 5 1-gram crushed vitamin C tabs and 1 quart water
Pectin dip (peaches, berries, cherries)
Mix 1 box of powdered pectin with 1 cup water. Boil together for 1 minute, then add ½ cup sugar and enough cold water to make 2 cups.
Honey dip (bananas, peaches, pineapples)
Mix 3 cups waters and 1 cup sugar. Heat and then add 1 cup honey. Stir well.
Juice dip (peaches, apples, bananas)
Combine 1 quart pineapple juice, 1 quart lukewarm water and ¼ cup bottled lemon juice.
a) Spread on screen for two to four days, turning slices over half way through the drying process.
b) Bring inside at night to keep dew from collecting on the fruit.
c) This method works best in climates with 100 degree heat and low humidity. Otherwise use caution, or try the oven.
a) Place fruit directly on racks or first spread 100 percent cotton sheet or cheesecloth over oven racks.
b) Preheat oven to 145 degrees, propping door open with wooden spoon to allow steam to escape.
c) Allow 4 to 12 hours to dry the fruit.
d) Food should be dry but pliable when cool. Test a few pieces to see if the batch is ready
5. Post Drying
Put food in a big dry open pot in a warm, dry, airy location. Stir once or twice a day for 10 days to two weeks.
If you want to store the dried fruit for any great length of time, it is best to pasteurize the slices to destroy any insect eggs. To do this, when drying is complete, freeze the fruit for several days at zero degrees in a deep freeze (the freezer compartment of a refrigerator won’t do), or heat in a 175 degree oven for 10-15 minutes
Store in airtight ziplock bags or glass containers kept inside paper bag to protect from light. Store in cool dry place. Since a refrigerator is cool and moist, keep the dried fruit there only in the heat of summer, but make sure the package is air tight.
What else can you use for a fruit dip to preserve fruit color naturally?
Should you use lemon juice rather than ascorbic acid? You can use lemon juice instead of ascorbic acid to keep apples from turning brown. But then you'd have to immediately refrigerate the fruit so it won't get spoiled after two hours by bacteria. Or you could use pure ascorbic acid powder. One brand of pure ascorbic acid powder is Klaire Labs (tm) Vitamin C, Ascorbic Acid Ultra Fine Powder. Only 1/4 teaspoon of the powder is equal to 1,000 mg of vitamin C as L-ascorbic acid USP.
That's the only ingredient. But be aware that plain lemon juice has the bioflavinoids in it besides ascorbic acid, which is only one part of the whole food vitamin C. So choose whatever you like. The recipe says use ascorbic acid or vitamin C tablets. If you use lemon juice instead of ascorbic acid, keep your sliced applies that you dip in the lemon juice in the refrigerator so they won't spoil, get moldy, or ferment so quickly.
Here's a directory of sites that give instruction on how to dry fruits and vegetables. For holidays, you might hand out to children dried berries, apple slices, or other dried fruit instead of candy. That way you can help to instruct families, children, and even teachers in serving healthier treats for holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, or the various winter and spring holidays coming up in the next 12 months.
How to Dry Fruits and Vegetables Resource and Recipe Directory
Making Your Own Sun Dried Tomatoes Sites
Making Your Own Sun-Dried Tomatoes Videos