Fresh herbs like basil and mint can be dried easily and quickly in the microwave. As summer turns to fall it’s time to preserve the fruits and veggies you worked hard to grow all summer. Herbs from your garden are no different. Drying your herbs in the microwave is not only faster than drying them in the oven or food dehydrator, but the microwave preserves the color and flavor better, providing you with a fresh supply of herbs all winter long.
How to dry herbs in the microwave
Why should you dry your own herbs? The great thing about drying and storing your own herbs is that you know exactly what you are getting. I recently switched to a gluten-free, ketogenic diet and I am trying to be more mindful about the food I eat.
There can be hidden sources of gluten and other common allergens in commercially packaged foods. It’s nice to have total control over what you are putting in your body. When you prepare your own food from scratch you don’t have to worry about accidental contamination.
Drying herbs will greatly extend their shelf life by removing any moisture that bacteria could use to survive.
Dried herbs lose their potency after about 6 months. Never buy dried herbs and spices in bulk, buy or dry them in the smallest amounts you can and replace them often.
Dried herbs can be used much like their fresh counterparts. You can use them in all your savory autumn and winter recipes like soups, stews and sauces. Herbs like lemon balm and lavender can be dried and made into tea.
Best Herbs to Dry in the Microwave
- Lemon Balm
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- Coffee grinder
- Small glass storage jars
- Fresh herbs
In general, thick-leafed, hearty herbs that grow in hot, dry climates like rosemary, thyme, and oregano are better for drying in the microwave. This is because their aromatic compounds are naturally less volatile than their more delicate, fair-weathered counterparts.
If they weren’t, they’d lose too many volatiles through evaporation under hot and sunny conditions. In other tems, they handle the heat and sunshine better than other herbs, which would shrivel up and die from the hot sun.
When are herbs ready for harvest?
Herb leaves should be cut when the plants stock of essential oils is at it’s peak. For leafy herbs such as basil, chervil, marjoram and savory this occurs just before the plant blossoms.
Basil, lemon balm, parsley, rosemary and sage can be cut as many as four times during the outdoor growing season.
Cutting should be done on the morning of a hot, dry day. As soon as the dew evaporates off the plants, snip off the top 6 inches of the stem below the flower buds.
Why is it Better to Dry Herbs in the Microwave?
Herbs will dry quickly in the microwave. However, extreme caution should be used when microwave drying because of the risk of not only burning the herbs but also starting a fire.
Unfortunately, I have almost set my kitchen on fire more times that I can count and last year my microwave actually malfunctioned and caught on fire while I was warming up chocolate so please be very careful when drying your herbs in the microwave. Some tutorials suggest placing your herbs between two paper towels. I don’t recommend this as it seems like it would be a major fire hazard.
Why is the microwave better than other methods of drying? Get ready for a little science lesson:
The main reason is that microwaves specifically target water while they’re heating. Microwaves work by emitting waves of long electromagnetic radiation that cause polar molecules within your food to rapidly flip back and forth.
The most abundant polar molecule in anything we eat is water. So really, a microwave doesn’t heat up your food, it just heats up the water in your food. The hot water in turn transfers energy to the rest of your food. An oven, on the other hand, heats everything evenly.
What this means is that a microwave can very efficiently cause water to evaporate from your herbs, especially because they are so thin, while leaving flavorful compounds and colorful pigments mostly intact.
Herbs that would end up brown and flavorless by the time they’re done drying in the oven or through hanging will retain their bright green color and much of their aroma after the minute or so it takes to dry them in the microwave.
Phew! Got it?
Microwaves are by far the most efficient method of heat transfer in your kitchen. You can take a batch of fresh herbs from the garden to the spice cupboard in just a couple of minutes, a fraction of the time it takes your oven to preheat.
Tips for drying herbs in the microwave
- If herbs need to be rinsed, make sure all the excess water is removed; otherwise, they will cook, not dry in the microwave.
- Place no more than 4 or 5 herb branches in the microwave on a ceramic dish.
- Microwave on HIGH for one minute.
- If herbs are not brittle and dry, microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds. Repeat until herbs are crispy
- Place herbs on a rack and let cool.
- Store in an airtight container.
How to Dry Herbs in the Microwave
Place herbs on an a microwave safe dish, then microwave them on high power. Most herbs will take around 1 minute initially, followed by a few 20 second bursts until completely dry. Delicate herbs will take 40 seconds followed by a few 20 second bursts until completely dry.
I started by microwaving each herb variety for one minute and then added 30 second increments until they were dry and crispy.
You will know the herbs are ready when they are crunchy to the touch and easily crumble between your fingers.
Use either a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder to crush the herbs to powder. If you want it extra-fine, you can tap it through a fine mesh strainer. Regardless of how fine your crush the herbs, they should be stored in a tightly sealing airtight container in a cool pantry away from light. Stored this way they’ll last for several months while maintaining flavor and color.
Dry Herbs in the Microwave
Learn how to dry herbs in the mircowave. Preserve herbs for cooking all winter long with this easy tutorial.
- 4 bunches herbs
Working with one herb at a time, lay them out on a microwave safe plate. If possible, remove the leaves from the stems.
Microwave on full power for 1-2 minutes, depending on your herbs and your particular microwave.
Check the herbs and if they feel crisp they are done, but if they feel soft, microwave them for a few more seconds. I do 20 seconds at a time and check them frequently. Don't over-do it or they will turn brown and burn.
Let the dried herbs cool down and then crush them a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder.
Store in glass jars and place in a cool, dry place.
Use within 6 months.
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