Campus News

Professor discusses how to dry fresh herbs

Carla Schwan, professor and extension food safety specialist, shared with Martha Stewart the best way to dry fresh herbs to use in cooking throughout the year.

Some herbs are better at drying than others.

“Herbs can be categorized into two main groups, each offering suitability for drying based on factors like your time, environmental humidity, and resource availability,” Schwan said.

According to Schwan, hearty, sturdier herbs, like rosemary and parsley, are considered less tender and easiest to dry without using a food dehydrator due to their low moisture content. Herbs with tender leaves, like basil and oregano, have a high moisture content and will mold if not dried quickly. Their high moisture content makes them require more time to dry.

Schwan recommends a beginner-friendly method to air-dry herbs. First, tear or punch holes into the side of a paper bag. Then, tie your herbs into small bundles. Larger bundles will mold. Hand the bundles inside the paper bags and close the top with a rubber band. Suspend the bag in a location where air currents can circulate and leave the herbs to dry for one to two weeks until they start to crumble.

“Time varies based on temperature, humidity and herb used during drying,” Schwan said.

For quicker drying times, you could use a food dehydrator, oven or microwave. No two ovens are exactly alike, so be sure to defer to the user’s manual to ensure best results

“Microwave ovens are a fast way to dry herbs when only small quantities are to be prepared,” Schwab said. “Follow the directions that come with your microwave oven.”

The way you store your dried herbs plays an important role in the potency of their flavor and their shelf life. It’s ideal to store dried herbs in an airtight container in a dark, cool, dry place. Schwan recommends using glass containers, as they are generally the best at safeguarding your herbs against moisture, insects and other contaminants.

“Proper storage prevents moisture and light exposure, which can cause herbs to lose their flavor and aroma quickly,” she said.

The shelf life of your dried herbs depends on how well they’ve been stored.

“When stored correctly in airtight containers in a cool, dark place, dried herbs can retain their flavor and potency for up to one year,” Schwan said. “However, for optimal freshness and flavor, it is recommended to use them within six months of drying.”