Dehydrating herbs in the oven


Over the years I knew Rose, we had quite a few deep and meaningful phone conversations and although we only met a few times, we knew each other fairly well.  One thing she would not have liked is a fuss being made of her so I want to start today with a final photo of Rose and then get on with it, which I know she would have wanted. This photo was taken the day we met in person after having a friendship online for a few years. I think she looks really happy and healthy.  Goodbye Rose. I'll miss you.

I published the following briefly yesterday but withdrew it when I knew Rose had died.

❤️💛💙

I grow a few food plants in the bush house over summer, in particular, oregano and mint, and they thrive in the partial shade. In late December the oregano starts overflowing out of the containers and long tendrils of oregano hang down inviting me to do something with them. I much prefer using fresh ingredients when I cook. I only freeze or dry what will be wasted if I don't save them. However, oregano and mint are two herbs that take on a different flavour when they've been dried. When they start growing abundantly in summer, that is the time to get the garden scissors out and start snipping so I can use them fresh and dried in my cooking. It helps if you have a black dog following you around while you cut. 😊 Dried oregano is a wonderful addition to Mediterranean food, especially sprinkled over pizza, but is also essential in homemade tomato sauce. Mint is best used fresh in drinks, sauces and desserts but dried it can be used to make mint tea or mint sauce or added to stews. Remember, dried herbs are much stronger in taste than they are when fresh so you won't use as much.

Three pots of oregano growing strongly.

This is the mint with a couple of snake trees growing alongside.
And ginger grown from a store-bought root is now growing well in three pots in the bush house.  To the left of the ginger is a vanilla orchid vine and chilli seedlings
This was Gracie  - with a sprinkling of oregano - after she followed me around in the bush house.  I had to brush her down afterwards.

When the herbs are cut and in the kitchen, I gently wash them under the cold water tap, shake off the excess water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Don't take the leaves off the stalks before drying, do that afterwards, it's much easier. Place a piece of parchment paper on an oven tray and arrange an even layer of herbs over the tray. Today I had enough for two trays.

You can dry herbs simply by tying them up and hanging them but during summer here the humidity is too high and bunched herbs go mouldy rather than dry out. 



My oven operates in the temperature range of 30C to 270C so I turn on the oven to 70C and leave it for a few hours.  The time depends on how mach foliage you have in the oven, it might take two to three hours.  Keep the oven low and slow, you don't want to bake the leaves, you want to remove the moisture while keeping the flavour. If your oven doesn't operate on a low setting, put it on the lowest setting and keep the door slightly ajar with a wooden spoon. Check every so often and you'll see when they're dehydrated and ready to come out of the oven.

This is what it looks like when it's done. When stripping the stems, you want to keep only the leaves. The stems don't add much flavour to your food so throw them in the compost.


This is the part I love, I sit at the kitchen table with a cloth spread out and strip the leaves from the stalks. It's another one of those traditional tasks that connects me with all my great grandmas because I know this would have been something they would have done too. When the stripping is finished and the leaves are completely cold, place them into a clean jar and store in a dark cupboard.  Make sure the leaves are absolutely dry because if they still have moisture in them, they will grow mould and you'll have to thrown them out.

I currently have rosemary, Italian and French thymes, bay leaves and basil in the garden but all those herbs lose their magnificent flavour profiles when dry. They're best left growing and used fresh.  But if you have an excess of oregano or mint, grab your scissors and get a couple of jars of dried herbs in the cupboard to add that extra zing to your cooking.

Just one thing left to do. I want another couple of jars of these herbs in the cupboard to see me through the year so after cutting off the excess, I gave all the plants a good water then fed them with an organic fertiliser. That will promote rapid growth and I'll be out there again picking more oregano and mint in early February.


12 comments

  1. Thanks for that Rhonda, I always have these herbs growing too but have never thought to dry them. They do die back in winter so drying them while they are in their prime makes total sense. I love fresh oregano in beef ragu and in baked ricotta and my darling mum used to add mint to her stuffing for roast chicken. It was just lovely. Have a terrific Tuesday.
    Fi

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  2. So beautiful photos, Rhonda! I also grow several herbs but currently they are covered with snow (I´m in Germany). Some of the herbs will come back full of power in Spring, others will have to be replanted. I still have to wait 3 or 4 months until I can go back to work in the garden...

    Usually I hang them upside down and let them dry for a couple of weeks, I never came to the idea of using the oven - however I use it to dry slices of orange/ apple for Christmas decorations. Makes no sense, I know :D

    I will for sure try it on the next opportunity.
    Gracie splitted with oregano made me laugh, she´s so cute!
    Thank you for sharing so much
    xxx
    Paula

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  3. Oh yum! I love using herbs from my own garden - fresh or dried.

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  4. Oh yum! I love using herbs from my own garden - fresh or dried.

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  5. I've been meaning to try drying some herbs and I have plenty of oregano. Would you do basil the same way. I prefer it fresh but occasionally we run out. Know what you mean about the humidity!! I don't want what Innisfail has had but gee some good rain soon would be nice!

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    1. Shangri La, basil doesn't dry well. It doesn't keep its flavour. You should freeze basil. Just tear or cut it up and pack it into an ice cube tray, then top fill with water. The ratio should be around 3 parts basil and 1 part water. When they're solid ice blocks, store in a plastic bag in the freezer.

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  6. Do you notice that your home dried herbs are more flavourful than shop bought ones? We have an abundance of mint in the summer, I buy packets and teabags in winter and it always seems to taste a bit 'muted'though I was given some mint tea from morocco which was very punchy.

    Lovely photo x

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  7. So sorry to hear about your friend and the photo you posted at the top is lovey. It would have meant a lot to her you driving to see her a few weeks back it would have made her day. Thoughts and prayers are with you and her family. Kathy A Brisbane

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  8. I am sorry you lost Rose...but thankful she was your lovely friend as long as she was!! Indeed one of my best friends and the one I communicate with the most, I have yet to meet in person! But we both feel if not in this life, then in the next!! And I would be kind of lost without her...amazing how we can connect via our words...thanks for sharing about Rose.
    Elizabeth in WA

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  9. Why did I never think to dry mint??!! I have now and your instructions worked a treat - thank you very much indeed. I'm thoroughly enjoying your food-related posts.

    Your tribute to Rose was lovely. My condolences on her passing.

    Spud.

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  10. What a nice stock of dried oregano and mint you now have Rhonda. I am managing to grow oregano successfully in a pot in the garden next to an irrigation post, but I must buy some mint for the bushhouse. I have successfully dried some sage in the oven and that has kept beautifully in my dark pantry cupboard in a glass bottle. It is so good to have these dried herbs on hand during the winter months.

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  11. I'm so sorry to hear Rose has passed. (hugs) It was so thoughtful of you to visit her. It must have meant the world to her, and I know your kindness will continue to bring you peace. It's amazing how the Internet has enabled us to form these wonderful connections, even though we may never meet in person.

    Our older son was just in Canberra on holidays, while our temperature was -32 and snow was falling he sent a photo of the thermometer registering +45. He arrives home tonight. The difference will be a shock!

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