Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Drying Herbs

Front to back: French thyme, English thyme, dianthus

Yesterday I noticed my French thyme was in bud. Most herbs taste best at this stage. It would be a perfect time to harvest and dry, but I decided against it. French thyme is a slow grower compared to it's neighbor English thyme. It hadn't quite filled out its spot so I left it alone. The bully English thyme on the other hand was starting to invade the French thyme. I hacked a big section out between the two (which is hard to see in the photo but it is there) to give the French thyme some breathing and spreading room.

Since I had a handful of thyme, it was certainly time to bring out the dehydrator. But just a handful of thyme isn't enough. I often cut back my oregano in the spring since it seems to get the same disease that my tomatoes get later in the year. Right now the leaves are beautiful and disease free. So I cut some nice bunches of oregano too. Sometimes I'm careful not to dry certain herbs together because their flavors get a little mixed, but thyme and oregano together really aren't an issue. If I were drying mint I would do it separately.

I often don't wash my herbs before drying if they are clean. Today they were not in the least clean. We have caterpillar poop raining down in my back yard. It is so bad I always wear a hat outside so my hair won't be disgusting. An occasional gust of wind can blow it to the side yard. And it obviously had recently. So they were all well washed before drying.

I use a dehydrator. If I lived in my native state, Colorado, I wouldn't. The air there is dry. The air here in the Northeast is very humid. Yesterday it was drizzily. To dry something in this kind of weather a dehydrator is very useful if you don't want moldy herbs. My dehydrator is a cheapy one. I would love one of those dehydrators that you can set the temperatures. It would make life easier, but I've gotten used to drying things. If I want it cooler I keep the bottom tray empty and adjust for greater airflow. It doesn't dry very evenly either and is getting worse with age. I have to turn the trays to make sure everything dries. But it works. My 2008 leftover dried thyme and oregano were tossed and now I have some fresh in its place. I'll need some more before the end of the year, but probably just one more batch for each.


  1. I don't have a dehydrator, but reading from so many bloggers who do dry their herbs and some of their veggies. I think it's a wonderful way to preserve your food!

  2. Well can we hear a big 'duh' from me? I have one and never use it- what a waste. I've only made jerky in it...really, really good jerky!

  3. Fascinating post. I never knew herbs tasted best when they were budding (flowers budding, right?). Another reason to covet a dehydrator!

  4. I'm lucky to live where it's dry. Well, my skin isn't lucky, but my herbs are! I just rubber band the ends of stalks and hang them from the rafters on my patio. Except for parsley, which I always dry in the microwave. Last year I dried the thyme in the microwave, too. It turned out quite nice.

  5. Cool, Daphne! And your herbs look fabulously healthy. But, er, sorry about the poop. That really does sound horrid. I hope they don't completely strip your trees!!!

  6. oh good idea. i never thought to use a dehydrator for our herbs but my inlaws have one. im going to try this and see what happens.

  7. I have an old cheap-o dehydrator as well and would love a new one. But I can't justify getting a new one when this one still works. I usually hang dry my sweet basil in the house because my dehydrator seems to get too hot for it. Other herbs do fine but not that one. We're generally too humid to hang it outside but I've got an out of the way spot that works great. Now that we're moving I'm going to have to find a new spot.

  8. Have you ever dried tomatoes? I am interested in trying it this year.

  9. DP Nguyen, I do love it. I bought it to dry things for hiking trips but now I use it for the garden.

    DirtDigger, When I first got mine I made a lot of jerky in it. We hike a lot and it is great trail food. Sadly I don't make jerky anymore, but it was the best jerky.

    JessTrev, Yes just before they bloom. As soon as I see buds I start cutting. Some herbs I will keep at lest some of the buds on. My bees love thyme, oregano and sage. So I really want them to bloom at least some. The oregano last year brought Great Golden Digger wasps into my garden for the first time. I hope I get to see them again.

    Annie's Granny, I've heard of people using the microwave. I've never tried it however.

    our friend Ben, sadly the caterpillars of the winter moth do strip the trees. I'm losing lots of branches to them. I hope they all survive until the the parasitic fly that has been released in Massachusetts starts to work. It should be at least 5 more years of tree suffering before that happens.

    Josie, it works extremely well especially for those hard to dry things that like to mold before they dry.

    fullfreezer, I tend to stick the basil on top with something else on the bottom to protect it from the heat. I don't get a lot of burning that way. The hardest thing I ever had to dry in it was cabbage. My mom gave me the chore of drying a lot of things for a 2 1/2 week raft trip. We expected the ice to run out about half way though and still wanted to have some veggies. Dehydrated cabbage is really hard to do in a cheap dehydrator, but I finally figured it out.

    Dan, nope I've never dried tomatoes. I've dried salsa and tomato sauce, but never tomatoes.

  10. It's looking good Daphne, I would love to have some invasive English thyme...all my thyme grows very slowly here.


  11. Tyra, usually my thyme sort of spreads in weird directions in the garden, then the old parts die back. I really hate how it travels, but at least it grows well.

  12. I just realized something.

    I have dehydrator envy.

    I don't have a food dehydrator anymore and now I want one.

  13. Kate and Crew, I couldn't live without my dehydrator. I just recently gave it a storage spot in the kitchen. I used to have to go down to the basement and get it every time I needed it.