Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Drying Herbs From the Garden

It's that time of year again...time to start harvesting the rest of your summer vegetable plants. I fear that our first frost will be coming really soon (it is October, after all), so my project this week is to get all my remaining vegetables and herbs taken care of.

Herbs are one of my most favorite things to grow in my garden. Funny, because they also happen to take the least effort! But nothing compares to having fresh herbs to cook with, especially when they're sitting right outside on your deck or patio. I have a sunny window box right above my kitchen sink, so I bring many of my potted herbs inside for the winter. I've had parsley and rosemary plants that survive two seasons! This year, I grew mint in the garden, instead of in a pot. So it was time to harvest the last of it and bring it in.

I don't use mint very often, so I decided that drying would be the best way save it. Drying (or dehydrating) is a great way to save any herb from your garden if you don't plan on using it quickly. Herbs won't retain their quality if left in the refrigerator for more than about a week. {If you keep fresh herbs in the refrigerator, try one of my favorite products from The GoodFood Store: the Prepara Herb Savor Pod. It helps keep them fresh longer!} One of the quickest and easiest ways to dry herbs is by using a dehydrator.

I was kind of "iffy" when Mr. Patton said he wanted to invest in a dehydrator (he wanted to make homemade beef jerky) earlier this year. I didn't think it would be that useful. But now I'm very thankful that we have it! It makes the process of drying herbs very easy. {This dehydrator is also available in The GoodFood Store} It turns out that this purchase has helped us save money because extra food doesn't go to waste.

Do dehydrate mint:
  • Place mint leaves in the dehydrator in a single layer. You can leave them on their stems and remove them later, but I trimmed the leaves off mine first before putting them in the dehydrator.
  • Turn dehydrator on 100 degrees.
  • Allow 2-4 hours for leaves to dehydrate, checking every so often--they should become dry and brittle.
  • Store whole or crushed leaves in an air-tight container, in a cool, dark place. I just crumble the herbs with my fingers and store them in a standard spice jar. Like Paula Deen says, the best tool is your hands!
Dried herbs never go bad. However, they do lose some of their potency and aroma after about one year. Drying herbs is a great way to keep the fresh flavor of summer in your kitchen year-round and a great way to boost flavor in your food without adding too much salt (sodium).

Howtogardenadvice.com is a great website to use as a reference for drying herbs (as well as planting herbs, fruits and vegetables). Check it out for instructions on drying other types of herbs too!