As garden production peaks it’s easy to become overwhelmed by an avalanche of tomatoes and other veggies ready to be turned into sauces and salsas but don’t neglect the quiet part of the garden — the herbs. Many people grow herbs only to forget about them at the crucial point when they could be preserving them. While we use herbs in smaller quantities than vegetables, drying your own can save you a great deal of money. Dill weed, dried parsley, basil, thyme and oregano can cost several dollars for a fraction of an ounce.
I have a dehydrator that I use for herbs, but it’s not necessary. Herbs air dry well; it just takes more time. You can bundle them with twine and hang upside down in a warm, dry, dark area or you can dry them spread out on old window screens. I’ve successfully used both methods in the past. I’m not crazy about using the oven for drying herbs because it gets too hot, leading to dry, but dark, herbs.
Herbs are delicate, so it’s better to dry them at a lower temperature, not above 95 degrees if you can help it. Some dehydrators have thermostats on them so you can regulate the temperature; mine isn’t that fancy, but it does cycle on and off, keeping the herbs from getting too hot. The stackable trays are easily rearranged, making it simple to move herbs around in the dehyrdator to regulate how much heat they receive. Depending on how the dehydrator works, you may notice that trays at either the top or bottom get warmer than the others, so you may want to rearrange once or twice while drying. Also, I put very delicate herbs, like chervil, on the coolest trays to help preserve their color. Herbs dry very quickly compared to fruits and vegetables, making it possible to dry a couple batches per day.
So drag out that dehydrator or dust off some old screens and go snip some herbs. Your food and your wallet will thank you.