My food dehydrator’s been cranking almost continually for the past few weeks and I intend to keep it going through the fall. Right now I’m drying herbs. I have fairly large stands of thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, oregano and marjoram at my disposal, so I’m shearing them every couple of weeks. I’m filling jars with plentiful herbs for cooking and gifts.
It’s been so long since I’ve purchased herbs, I thought I’d price dried herbs in the grocery store. I was totally shocked at how expensive they are. For example, a small one-ounce bottle of dried thyme was about $3.00. I have about a pound of thyme already dried, so that makes my thyme (and time) worth about $48.00!
Saves money and is fresher than storebought
Herbs are so very easy to grow and preserve that it seems a shame to waste money on purchasing them, especially because you don’t even know how fresh they actually are. By drying your own, you have the luxury of the freshest of herbs, and you can simply throw them away every year as you fill your jars with newly dried herbs.
Herbs are easy to grow
Almost all herbs except basil are extremely drought-tolerant, and they actually produce better flavor if somewhat stressed. So, find the harshest planting spot you have, and your herbs will thrive. They are all disease and insect resistant and need no fertilization or dividing.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, dry them in paper bags in a dry, airy spot out of direct light. The top of the fridge is ideal. Store dried herbs in glass jars in a dark cupboard.
Some herbs to try
Here are only a few – there are oh, so many more):
Dill is an annual herb with early pungent leaves followed by flowers and seeds which are all useful. Dried dill leaves and flowers are excellent flavorings for fish, potato salad and egg salad, and the seeds are classic for flavoring pickles. Try crushing the seeds and adding to rice pilaf with ground garlic – amazing! Let a few seeds scatter themselves and you’ll always have dill in the garden.
Thyme is a perennial, woody plant with tiny, tangy leaves. Shear the soft new growth. It will send up new growth that you can shear repeatedly through summer. Mix thyme with goat cheese for an outstanding spread for sandwiches or as a dip for fresh vegetables. Rub into a pork loin or beef roast. For a variation on a theme, seek out lemon thyme for a wonderful treat.
Basil is an annual herb that comes in every size and shape, from tiny spicy globe basil to huge sweet Genovese, the classic basil for pesto and bruschetta. This one does need lots of water.
Chives – perennial oniony herb with leaves and flowers for drying. Pull apart blossoms and dry the individual florets. Add to a baked potato or top focaccia with them.
Lemon verbena has become a favorite. Tea made from the dried leaves is delicious. I’ve always grown it as an annual in the midwest, but here in the south, I’m hoping it will be perennial.
Rubs and marinades
One of my favorite things to do with dried herbs is to combine them in marinade or grilling rub mixes. Mixing them up ahead of time makes delicious dinner prep pretty easy.
You can use these as a dry rub for grilling meat or vegetables by brushing with olive oil and sprinkling with grilling mix.
For a marinade, add a tablespoon to ¼ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar of choice. Mix in zip lock bag with chunks of potatoes, zucchini, peppers, green onions, etc. Let marinate for 30 minutes. Grill vegetables; heat leftover marinade and pour over vegetables. If you marinate meat, brush with the marinade while grilling but discard any left over.
Basic Grilling Mix
1 T. oregano
1 T. basil
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. thyme
For specialty mixes – start with the basic grilling mix and add the ingredients listed. Feel free to add other herbs and seasonings to make it your own.
Mint Herb Mix
Use on potatoes, lamb or fish
1 T. mint
1 T. marjoram
1 T. tarragon
1 t. lemon balm
Italian Herb Mix
Use for pizza on the grill, on grilled potatoes for potato salad, on chicken breasts
1 t. rosemary
1 t. chili flakes
Herbed Ranch Mix
Use on salmon, grouper or mahi mahi, grilled potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash
1 T. dill
1 T. ground black pepper
For meats, vegetables and potatoes
1 t. sage
½ t. ground chili (or to taste)
1 T. paprika
1 t. rosemary
1 t. black pepper