Drying is a great way to preserve fresh herbs for future use. There are many techniques that can be used to dry fresh herbs, but do not be tempted to speed up the drying process by using heat. Here’s why.
If you have a highly productive herb garden, or extra left-over store bought fresh herbs, you are probably thinking about drying them to store for future use.
You might read bloggers posting about drying herbs in the oven or the microwave, but I wanted to tell you about why this is a bad idea, and explain why the best way to dry herbs is naturally in air.
Before I do that, let’s take a look at the most important property of herbs that we need to preserve during the drying process.
What makes herbs fragrant?
Herbs are used in cooking because they are fragrant and that fragrance adds flavor to the dishes they are used in.
The fragrance in fresh herbs comes from natural oils in their leaves. These oils are delicate and are released from the leaves when they are crushed or heated during the cooking process.
Heat in particular releases the flavors into the food they are cooked with. This is the main reason that we need to be very careful with how we dry and store herbs if we want to flavors to remain.
Drying herbs to preserve flavor
The primary aim when drying herbs is to preserve the flavor of the fresh leaves so it can be released later when they are used for cooking.
This means preserving the natural oils in the leaves as they dry.
Drying herbs using a heat source to speed up the drying process is a waste of time (and herbs) because during this process the natural oils will be released from the leaves rather than being preserved.
It will make your house smell nice, but it will remove all the flavor from your herbs, leaving them bland and quite useless for cooking.
So please please, if you are thinking of drying some fresh herbs, just dry them naturally in air. Do not attempt to dry them in an oven, and definitely don’t try to use an air fryer or a microwave.
Even if the herbs look great as if they have dried nicely, you can’t see that they will be missing the most important ingredient – the natural fragrant oil that gives herbs flavor.