*Drying Herbs 101*
29 September 2010
Drying herbs is a quick and easy way to store the taste and freshness for the long winter months. This article will lead you through the simple steps that we use each year.
The date is June 25, 2010 and tonight is the full moon so the time is correct to harvest the leafy herbs. Goofey probably but that is the method my mother used and it has become a family tradition. The idea is that the plant is at the height of its potency during this time. True or not last years mint sauce is great.
A quick trip to the garden to harvest the mint before the rain. As you can see we grow our little patch in a handy rock crevice which stops it from spreading all over the place.
About half of the patch is clear cut before the rain started again. It is enough to fill the basket and should be about the right amount for the dehydrator. The rest will be harvested later if the rain stops.
Because our mint is growing wild there are no pesticides on the plants. There is however a lot of plant damage by insects. I guess mint is a delicacy in the bug world as well. This batch of mint is going to be used for mint sauce so any hard stems and damaged leaves are discarded to the compost. The plants are trimmed carefully with the perfect leaves placed in the stainless steel bowl and the damaged parts discarded.
The perfect leaves are carefully washed in cool water and any remaining stems or bad bits removed. The leaves are allowed to drain in a strainer to remove most of the water.
After the leaves are well drained we lay them out in a single layer on old clean bath towel. Rolling the leaves up in the towel further removes any remaining moisture and dries the leaves. We generally allow about an hour for this drying process. The towel is then opened up and the leaves pushed into a single pile.
Now is the time to prepare your dehydrator. Depending on the number of trays try and divide the leaves into that many piles. That way your harvest will hopefully dry equally. Pile the leaves on each tray spreading gently.
Continue this process until all the trays are full making sure that the leaves are loosely packed and air flow is still possible.
There are many, many types of dehydrators and as you can see from this picture this is a very inexpensive one. It is equipped with a heating element which we do not use for herbs letting them simply air dry. We open all the vents on the dehydrator and place in a corner of the room where there is good air movement.
We generally check the progress after 24 hours simply to make sure the leaves are drying and are getting enough air to avoid any mildew. If all is well just forget about it and in about twenty-seven days the mint will be ready to further processing. The grinding and storage of the finished product will be covered in Part #2 of this article.
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