If you’re trying to save a few extra dollars, looking to add more flavor to your dishes, or even searching for a fun project to try, you should dry your own herbs! Home-dried herbs are so much more flavorful and fragrant, even compared to the “nicer”, more expensive herbs from the grocery store.
When I first had the idea, I imagined having to build racks, run string all through my apartment, wear an apron and bonnet, and be the epitome of a medieval kitchen maid maid , much like the picture to the right. But there are actually a few ways to go about it, one being racks that were used in earlier centuries. Alternatively, you can hang bundled herbs upside down in your closet. For these two methods it is important to leave the herbs in a cool, dry place. Though these old-fashioned techniques can be fun and leave you feeling reminiscent of the 18th century, it takes up to a few weeks to completely dry the herbs and runs the risk of growing mold.
Luckily there is a third option: using the oven. Here I have dried some fresh basil, rosemary, and lavender from the microfarm, along with some oregano. First you will want to gently wash the herbs (minus the lavender) and pat dry. Don’t be forceful with the herbs when you dry them, or else they will lose some of their flavor. Once the herbs are completely dry, pluck the leaves from the stems. For the lavender and rosemary, though, I decided leaving them on stem would be easier.
Next lay the herbs flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place on the middle rack of an oven heated to 170 degrees F. The important thing here is to keep the oven door propped slightly open (by inserting a dish towel or wooden spoon in the doorway) to allow ventilation. The herbs will dry in about 45 minutes, although large basil leaves may take about 15 minutes longer. You’ll know they are done when you can crumble them in your hands. You can store the herbs whole or broken down in an airtight container.