As I mentioned in a recent post about drying stinging nettle I usually prefer to dry herbs the old way – hanging upside down on a rack – but with drizzling rain and a whole lot of sweet basil leaves to dry I decided to use the electric dehydrator so the drying process could be done quickly to avoid the leaves becoming mouldy.
While the earth was nice and soft from the wet weather I decided it was a good time to clean up the kitchen herb garden. Some of the herbs such as thyme, sage, rosemary and parsley were still growing well but the sweet basil was past its prime; it had grown straggly and gone to seed but there were still plenty of average quality leaves that I couldn’t bear to waste. Before the rain started I had collected the seeds to keep until I could sow them in spring.
After sorting through all the leaves, disgarding those that were of poor quality and removing insects, I managed to fill four trays for the dehydrator. It only took about four hours to completely dry them.
This is the result after crushing the dried herb from all four dehydrator trays.
To give some perspective of the yield from the four trays of fresh leaves the dried herb in the jar was photographed next to a four litre dutch oven. It’s surprising how small the result is after the amount of time it took to prepare the leaves for drying; I do think the effort was worth it though and despite what the photo shows the leaves are still fairly green and certainly make a delicious addition to the meals I’ve used them in.
Both the old way of drying herbs on a rack and using an electric dehydrator have advantages and disadvantages. Compared to using a dehyrator the preparation time is much less when drying them on a rack but the drying time takes much longer. So I guess it comes down to personal choice and the weather. For me though, I prefer to dry herbs on a rack and as herbs are usually harvested during fine weather there usually isn’t a problem with drying them this way but I have been caught with a change in the weather and have had herbs go mouldy. Also, I feel that it’s better to dry medicinal herbs on a rack because I don’t like the idea of electricity going through the plant material, however I don’t think it’s a problem for culinary herbs.