Sunday, October 13, 2013

Drying Herbs and a Lost Summer

With the accident, I found that my summer was pretty much lost.  Despite this, my zucchini still grew, my cucumbers didn't grow, and a bunch of stuff didn't survive the heat.

Sigh.

One thing that did take off were my herbs.  With autumn here, I had to make a decision what to do with them all.  Luckily, a store around here helped me make that decision.  I got the  Nesco American Harvest FD-61 Snackmaster Encore Dehydrator and Jerky Maker for half price because the packaging was damaged, but nothing else was.

I had wanted to dry herbs using a dehydrator after doing it by various means, including hanging the herbs and letting the airflow dry them.  But a dehydrator is so much easier, quicker, and convenient.  An added bonus is that the herbs don't lose their color from drying the way that hanging them does.

For years I resisted buying a dehydrator because of the cost.  Paying $75 or more for something that basically does what air drying and a stove can do seemed extravagant.  Now that I see what the dehydrator will do, I'm sold.

One thing I must do is mark what is being dried.  Herbs look all the same when dried, so I had to taste them to tell the difference between mint and oregano.  Next time, I'll be more clever.  I dried oregano, mint, marjoram, thyme, parsley, rosemary and tarragon.  I'm going to see if the basil in my fridge is any good and dry that.

Most herbs require being dried somewhere between 12 and 24 hours, with the exception of thyme and marjoram which supposedly need only 1 to 3 hours.  According to the dehydrator, they needed to be at 105F, which the dehydrator does handily.  I pulled them out this morning and tested the herbs for doneness.  Some, like the cilantro, needed more time.  Others were dry and ready to be put up in airtight containers.  They claim they do best in cool, dark places, so I'm going to have to put them away someplace that meets that requirement.

If it all works out, I've just discovered a way to avoid buying certain herbs.  While they aren't as expensive as they used to be, it gives me a greater value when I can just dry my own.

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