Tips & Tricks for Drying Herbs in a Convection Oven
Why Use a Convection Oven for Drying Herbs?
Well if you already have a convection oven, and you have never dried any food in it, why not?
I have hung herbs to dry, and when dust and humid summer air meant the end result was not hygienic or palatable, I turned to the microwave. Microwaving was great because it was quick. But after a pungent crackling fire in the microwave courtesy of a small amount of aromatic sage and a paper towel, that short lived "miracle" was abandoned in a panic.
Buying or preferably building a good dehydrator will be necessary once we move and no longer have this stove. I am leery of heating a plastic unit while my food is in there, so I think building a metal one will be the way to go for us.
In the meantime, I thought I'd share how to get the most aromatic and flavourful oregano from your garden into the herb and spice cupboard using your stove!
What Type of Herbs Are Best to Dry?
I have dried oregano, basil, lemon basil, chives, parsley, marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, and cilantro in my Jennair Convection Stove. Chamomile, calendula and black currant leaves for tea are easy too.
More fleshy type vegetables and fruit we have dried in there are apples, hot, chipotle smoked and bell peppers, green and white onions.
The onions and peppers are awesome for rounding out your own tasty healthy herb dips.
The possibilities are endless for jerkies, fruit leathers and a myriad of other dried treasures.
Gardening & Harvesting Herbs for Drying
- Plant a block of one kind of herb. This keeps weeds at bay and speeds up harvest. You don't want to dry weeds in your herbs. When there are no weeds to pick out, you can harvest quicker.
- Herbs are ready to harvest most of the time. You should harvest before herbs flower as it can affect the flavour. If you are not ready to harvest yet and you see them starting to shoot up flower stems, pinch or cut those stems down to delay things a few weeks.
- Harvest on a fine warm day in mid-morning, when the dew is gone and oils are building and not evaporated yet
- Depending on the woodiness of the herb, try not to cut more than half the length of stem on a woodier herb, like rosemary or sage. Cutting 3/4 of a lush leafy herb like basil or chives doesn't seem to harm them here.
How to Dry Them
- Cut oregano stems off about halfway down - discard any with obvious flaws like bird poop, insect infestation or dead leaves
- Put into clean dry container - one container per type of herb since it's very hard to sort them out once mixed
- Run a full sink of cool water & have salad spinner resting on a tea cloth at the ready. You will probably get water all over!
- Wash your herbs - rub them together to removed any splashed on dirt from the rain, and bugs, check for weed leaves in the mix
- Assemble your drying racks - tinfoil on a raised edge cookie sheet or baking tray works well, with a wire cooling rack on top. The more air flow, the quicker they dry.
- Spin your herbs in the salad spinner til dry as possible, and place on the rack no deeper than 3 inches!
- Set your stove to convect (140*F is best-you lose less oils than at 190*F) and make sure you have the magnet for keeping the door open
- Depending on how thick your herbs stems and trays are, my 3 inch deep oregano piled in there takes about 6-8 hours. I turn it after 3-4 hours and check it.
- Herbs are dry when the leaves break with very little force and when crunched up, the air looks dusty around them. With this method of drying at least 3/4 of the leaves stay fairly green.
- I use a BBQ rack for cooking veggies to sift the stems out and gently crush the leaves off the stems. I don't break the leaves up any more than is necessary to keep the oils in, which helps with shelf life.
- Store herbs, labelled, in dark place. Jam jars work well and are inexpensive compared to tiny spice jars that don't hold much.
- Enjoy the aroma of herbs in your house! Use in any favourite recipes you have.
The Dried Herbs Have Awesome Flavour!
Usually the herbs dried and stored this way have more aroma and flavour even after one year than herbs you just bought from the store.
We often give jars of herbs or ready-made dip mixes as housewarming or hostess gifts or in a Christmas basket with homemade jellies, pickles and jams.