I shook the last flakes from my oregano jar into my spaghetti sauce last night. I started to add it to my grocery list and I had one of those ‘aha’ moments. I’ve got a bunch of oregano growing outside this summer. Why not dry some to refill my spice jar?
I’ve never bothered to dry anything from my herb garden. It seems a little silly that I’ve never tried, but the thought of air-drying herbs in my house where two dogs (and all of their fur!) run rampant does not appeal to me. Add to that the high humidity of Mississippi air no matter the season and I just never tried air-drying herbs in my kitchen.
But then I thought about drying herbs in the oven. It would significantly speed up the process, keep the dog hair out of it, and it would just be easier overall. I am a bit of a workaholic, but if I can find an easier and faster way to do something, I’m all for it. It just leaves more time to do something else 🙂
Now go out and cut some herbs to dry! I use scissors when cutting herbs for cooking. It makes it easer for me to gather and hold if they’re all the same size. Cut a few handfuls for drying – that should be enough to fill a small jar.
You can wash your herbs if you want to (please do if you think there is any herbicide or pesticide on it), although mine were clean enough so I didn’t bother. I did go through and pick out any leaves that had spots or pine needles from the trees. It only took a few minutes to pick through it all and make sure what I was drying was insect and dirt-free.
Now to prepare them for the oven. I took a cookie sheet, lined it with parchment paper, and then laid the herbs out in a single layer on top of the parchment paper with enough spacing between them for air movement. Don’t stack your herbs on top of one another but don’t be afraid to put them pretty close. No worries though, this is a pretty foolproof way to dry herbs. If you stack your herbs too closely, it just means it will take a little longer to dry them and you may have to turn them over a couple of times.
Since not all ovens have the same settings, it’s better to be safe than sorry and set your oven at its lowest temperature OR just put it on warm. If you turn the temperature up too high, you will burn the leaves of your herbs. It smells pretty bad too.
My oven’s lowest temperature was 170 degrees. It took my oregano (still on the stem) about 20-25 minutes to dry in the oven. I took the cookie sheet out and flipped the herbs over once. The time it takes will depend on whether you washed yours before you put them in the oven and how green the plants are. Try setting a timer for 10 minutes and then checking the leaves. You can always take them out and let them cool before you decide if you need to stick them back in for a longer period of time.
When your herbs are dry, take them out to let them cool for a good 15 to 20 minutes before you crumble them up to be placed in a spice container. Voila! Fresh herbs from your garden that you can use all winter long. If I had only known it was this easy, I would have been doing this a long time ago.
How to Tell if Your Herbs are Dry Enough
This part is pretty simple. Your herbs should feel just like fall leaves do. You know how crinkly and crisp leaves are when you rake them up in the fall? If you pick them up and crunch them in your fingers they crackle and crumble into fine pieces. That’s how dry you want your herbs to be.
If you start to crumble your leaves and they are kind of gooey or pliant, then you haven’t dried them enough. If you store them when they aren’t fully dry, the herbs will mold and you won’t be able to use them. Just put them back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes to be sure.