Herbs are grown for many different reasons: culinary, medicinal, cosmetics, and aromatherapy. In most cases, you want to preserve them to make them most useful and for easy storage and this is done by drying. Drying garden herbs can be done by many different techniques such as the following: bag drying, tray drying, air drying and the most recent, microwave drying.
Several flowering herbs also yield seeds to harvest. Simply give the flowers ample time to dry, then wrap some paper around the flower and pour the seeds into a container. The leaves can also be preserved with just a few more steps.
Isolate and lightly wash the stalk, then immerse it in water for several hours. This should eliminate any impurities that weren't removed in the initial rinse. Place them to dry on an absorbent towel.
Place the plant in a small sized paper bag. The flower will now be gone, but place this end inside with the stalks showing about an inch to two inches out the top of the bag. Place a tie on the bag around the stalks, putting it upside down. Upside down meaning from the point of view of the plant. For example, the bag should be on it's base and the stems should be facing up. The leaves will become saturated with the flavor and the aroma when the oil in the stems moves using a capillary action.
Leaves will become brittle in about a week or two if the air has been moderately dry and without excessive moisture. Do not break your dried herbs at this stage. Gently separate them and put them in an airtight jar for storage. Later, you can use these dried herbs in potpourri or crumble them for delicious seasonings.
If you decide to use a tray for drying garden herbs only keep the leaf stems and leaves. Lay them flat on a tray without overlapping. Store them in a dark, well ventilated place free of moisture. Flip the leaves and stems everyday to ensure even drying. Your herbs should be dried within a few days with this method.
If you are trying to work within a certain time frame, using the microwave is an option when drying herbs. You will want to put the herbs on either a paper plate or a paper towel first. A microwave-safe plate will not help absorption as well. Try setting the microwave at medium power for just a couple of minutes. 2-3 minutes is normally the correct timing, but depending on the type and amount of herb this could vary.
The dryness of the leaf can be easily checked by just placing it between your fingers and rubbing it gently. When the leaf easily crumbles, it is ready for use. If it is not ready, keep trying thirty seconds at a time until it reaches usability.
Warning: After a certain time, you're no longer just drying. The way microwaves work is to agitate water molecules in food, which in turn causes the water to get hot and evaporate. When there is no more moisture in the plants, you're no longer drying and might be hurting your microwave. If the power level is set too high or runs for to long, you can accidentally cook the herb. Trial and error will help you discover the right heat and time for drying garden herbs.
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