As a homesteader, I have a lot of experience with cooking and raising chickens, managing the various plants in my garden, and DIY.
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 give it a try?
What's the Best Way to Dry Herbs?
- I have hung herbs to dry, and when dust and humid summer air turned them into something that 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.
- In the meantime, I thought I'd share how to get the most aromatic and flavourful oregano from your garden using your stove!
What Type of Herbs Are Best to Dry in an Oven?
- I have dried oregano, basil, lemon basil, chives, parsley, marjoram, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint, and cilantro in my Jennair convection oven.
- Chamomile, calendula and black currant leaves for tea are easy, too.
- I also use my oven to dehydrate fleshy-type vegetables and fruit like apples, hot (chipotle) and bell peppers, and 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.
How to Plant and Harvest Herbs for Drying
- Plant a section of your garden with one kind of herb. This keeps weeds at bay and speeds up the harvest. You don't want to dry weeds in your herbs. When there are no weeds to pick out, you can harvest more quicker.
- Herbs are ready to harvest most of the time. You should harvest before they flower, as the flower can affect the herb's flavour. If you are not ready to harvest yet and you see flowers starting to shoot up, pinch or cut those stems off to delay things a few weeks.
- Harvest on a fine warm day in mid-morning, when the dew is gone, and the leaf's oils are building and not evaporated yet.
- Try not to cut more than half the length of the stem on a woodier herb like rosemary or sage. Cutting 3/4 of a lush, leafy herb like basil or chive doesn't seem to harm them.
How to Dry Herbs in Your Oven
- Cut the herb's stems off about halfway down and discard any bits with obvious flaws like bird poop, insect infestation, or dead leaves.
- Put the herbs into a clean, dry container—one container per type of herb since it's very hard to sort them out once they're mixed.
- Run a full sink of cool water and have a salad spinner resting on a tea cloth at the ready. You will probably get water all over!
- Wash your herbs in the sink, rubbing them gently to remove dirt and bugs. Remove any weeds you might find.
- 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 airflow, the quicker they dry.
- Spin your herbs in the salad spinner until they're as dry as possible, and place them on the drying rack. Layer the herbs as thinly as possible, no deeper than 3 inches!
- Set your stove to convect. 140°F is best—at 190°F, the herbs will start losing their tasty oils.
- Cook time depends on how thick your herb stems and trays are. My 3-inch-deep oregano trays, shown in these photos, took about 6-8 hours. I turned the trays around (rotated front to back) after 3-4 hours and checked them.
- Your 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 will stay fairly green.
- After they've dried, I use a BBQ rack to sift out the stems. I try not to break the leaves to keep their oils in, which helps with shelf life.
- Store herbs, labelled, in a 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.
Usually, herbs that have been dried and stored this way have more aroma and flavour—even after a year—than store-bought dried herbs.
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.