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Drying & Preserving Herbs

If your herbs are anything like ours the good weather of late, has caused a growth spurt.  Last year a friend was kind enough to loan us his dehydrator to use.  It was a godsend, we dried a wide variety of herbs, including basil, parsley, sage, mint, chives, thyme and oregano.

Using herbs in cooking is a great way to enrich your food with flavour, nutrients and minerals.  Many of these herbs have medicinal value too, for example cancer fighting, anti-inflammatory properties.

A dehydrator isn’t a necessity, but if your going to commit to growing your own herbs for cooking and making teas then they pay for themselves.

After researching them further, we found that a great model.  It’s biggest selling point was it is free from BPA, Bisphenol A, an artificial chemical released from most plastics especially when they are heated that mimics oestrogen and has many adverse health effects especially for men.

luvele

We purchased our dehdrydrator for £50 from Amazon Seller – Luvele.

There were a number of other benefits to this model.  It’s opaque plastic reduces light penetration and therefore keeps more of the nutrients in the foods.

Although this seems counter-intuitive it dries from the top down as opposed to regular models which dry from the bottom up.   As a direct comparison with the model we borrowed its seems to dry more efficiently, taking 1.5 hours to dry 6 trays of parsley.

As we said earlier a dehydrator isn’t an absolute necessity, a simple paper bag can be used just as effectively.  Herbs are placed in the bag, sealed and then place on top of a cupboard or hung high up in the warmest room in the house.  This method produces the same results, although the drying time can be anything from days to weeks.  So if your not in a rush its a good way to go.

Another method is to wash and chop your herbs, and pack ice cube trays with the chopped herbs, hydrating them with water up to the level of the cube hole and freezing them.  Once frozen, then tip them out into a zip bag and place in the freezer and pick out cubes as you need them for cooking.  The advantage of this method is a more intense flavour and more nutrients are preserved, however on the down-side they take up precious room in the freezer.

This freezing tip is a good method for storing whole foods such as wild garlic and dandelion pesto.