Herbs add amazing flavor to dishes and if you can find a source for buying them in bulk, you can get them very reasonably priced. However, they tend to be tender, wilting and then dying quickly.
So, it’s best to brainstorm how you will use fresh herbs in dishes and then have a plan for freezing or dehydrating the remainder of the bunch for long-term storage.
I have dealt with freezing herbs, giving you a step-by-step tutorial. However, in this post, I’ll show you the best way that I have found for dehydrating herbs in just a few minutes, using your microwave.
Step 1: Wash Herbs
The easiest way to do this is to give them a good rinse in clean, fresh water and then spin them, using a salad spinner. If you don’t have a salad spinner, lay them on a clean kitchen towel and then cover with a second kitchen towel and pat dry.
Step 2: Remove the leaves from the stem
Separate the leaves from the stem. Reserve the stems for making easy homemade vegetable broth from scraps.
Step 3: Place in a single layer on a paper towel
Place the herbs in a single layer on a paper towel, making certain not to overcrowd them. Be sure you have removed all the stems that you can. The woody stems tend to overheat and may catch on fire if you try to microwave the herbs at too high of a heat.
Fold over the other half of the paper towel to cover the herbs or place a second paper towel on top to cover.
Step 4: Microwave at Medium Heat
It is important to not burn your herbs. Some botanicals are tender and fragile. They will burn and may actually catch on fire if heated at temperatures which are too high. You don’t want to cook the herbs, you want to dry them.
Find the power setting on your microwave and set the heat to medium or medium-high. You will probably be able to change the wattage using your “custom cook” or “power level” buttons. If wattage is shown on a scale from 1-10, then medium should appear as a “5” on the digital screen. If your power settings are seen on a scale from 1-5, medium will appear as a power of “2” or “3” on the screen.
After you have adjusted the wattage, place the paper towel of herbs into the microwave and heat for two minutes. After two minutes, remove the herbs, checking for dampness and rearranging them to insure maximum space between the individual leaves.
If the paper towel is really wet, you may need to replace it with a fresh, dry sheet. I, however, have not found this to be a problem as long as I am not trying to dry too many herbs at the same time.
Step 5: Dry in 30 second increments
After the initial two-minute drying period, place the herbs back into the microwave and heat in 30-second internals. Be sure that you are using the medium heat setting at all times. Check the herbs for dryness after each 30 second drying.
Most herbs are completely dried out within 3-4 minutes of total drying time (including your initial 2 minute burst of drying.)
When the herbs feel dry, allow them to cool completely and check for moisture one last time. The finished herbs should feel dry and crumbly to the touch.
Step 6: Place in decorative glass jars and label.
After your herbs are dry, place them in pretty glass jars and label for them future use. After about two days you need to check to insure that moisture is not building up on the inside of the jar. This would indicate under-drying. If this is the case, you can simply remove the herbs from the jar, clean and dry the jar thoroughly, and then finish the drying process in the microwave. After you have dried the herbs a second time, let them cool and recheck for any remaining moisture.
Your herbs will remain at full potency in the jars for up to a year. After that, they will not spoil, but will loose strength, meaning that you will need to use more of them in recipes to achieve the desired taste.