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How to Dry Fresh Herbs in a Microwave

how-to-dry-herbs-in-microwave-01

It’s that time of the season when the days are growing shorter and the garden is giving up the last of its fruits.  The herbs are still full, but it’s just a matter of time when all that will remain is faithful Rosemary.

My Basil plants are BUSHY and it’s a good time to harvest while the getting is good.  But HOW would I collect the leaves and keep them for later use?  The ice cube method? Making pesto?  No.  I really like using dried Basil in my cooking and baking, particularly having Basil in breads.

I pulled out my trusty horticulture encyclopedia and re-familiarized myself with methods of drying herbs. (Did you know that beside being food blogger and a Mom, I’m Horticulturist? Yep, got the B.S. degree and everything.) Anyhoo.  I came across the method of “Microwave drying”.  I don’t remember ever reading about this method before.  So, I just HAD to give it a whirl and see for myself.

HERE’S WHAT THE ENCYCLOPEDIA SAID

Microwave-dried herbs retain excellent color and potency.  Start by laying the herb foliage in a single layer on a paper towel, either on the oven rack or on the glass insert.  Cover the leaves with another paper towel and microwave on high for 1 minute.  Then check the herbs, and if they are still soft, keep testing at 20- to 30-second intervals.  Microwave ovens differ in power output, so you’ll have to experiment.  Keep track of your results with each kind of herb.

Microwave drying is a bit easier on plant tissue than oven drying, because the water in the herb leaves absorbs more of the energy than the plant tissue does.  The water in the leaves gets hot and evaporates – that’s why the paper towels get damp during the drying process- leaving drying plant tissue behind.  The plant tissue heats up a little because of the contact with the water, but the water absorbs most of the heat.  In a conventional oven, all the plant material gets hot, not just the water.

SO LET’S PUT THIS TO THE TEST, SHALL WE?

First, I used a tea towel instead of paper towels.  1. Tea towels are very thin, lightweight.  and 2.  I didn’t have any paper towels.

fresh-basil

Fresh Basil on a tea towel on microwave glass plate.

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I started with 1-minute on high, then proceeded to 20-second intervals.  I learned large Basil leaves needed 2-minutes, whereas the smaller leaves needed anywhere from 30- to 50-seconds.

burned-dried-herbs

Oops, too long and too little leaves.

BE CAREFUL that you don’t start a fire in your microwave.  Very small leaves burn up very quickly.  As you can see from the brown burn mark on the tea towel.  After this lesson, I dried large leaves together then smaller leaves together.

dried-basil

Microwaved Dried Basil Leaves

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It’s AMAZING how well this method works! And how the leaves retained their color.  I compared these leaves to the dried basil in my spice cabinet; the store bought basil was a sad gray.  When the leaves are completely dry, they crumble very easily.  You’ll soon figure this out for yourself.  When they’re not finished, they will have a little bend before they break.  Just put them back for 20-seconds or more.

Basil crumbles easily with a little finger pressure.

Basil crumbles easily with a little finger pressure.

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NEXT CAME DRYING THE ROSEMARY

Fresh Rosemary

Fresh Rosemary

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Since dealing with such small leaves, I knew it wouldn’t take more than 30- to 45-seconds to dry Rosemary leaves in the microwave.  It may be hard to tell from the left photo below.  The Rosemary dried in 40-seconds, and crumbled with a pinch of the fingers.

dried-rosemary-01dried rosemary crushed

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LAST CAME GARLIC CHIVES

garlic chives

I figured Garlic Chives represented any fine herb.  I wanted to know if it would retain it’s wonderful garlic taste.  Well, as close as it could get anyway.  AND IT DID!  It took on 30-seconds to dry the Garlic Chives in the microwave.

NOW CAME THE TIME FOR STORING THE DRIED HERBS

ALWAYS, ALWAYS store dried herbs and spices in a cool, dark, dry space.  Away from sunlight, heat and air.

Confession Time: I have a problem throwing good jars away.  My favorite are the dark brown yeast jars; they’re EXCELLENT for storing herbs, spices and garden seeds.  I like to keep a sheet of mailing labels in my chaotic pen/grocery receipts/batteries/rubber bands/clothes pin/chewing gum/unknown keys -kitchen drawer.  Together, I have what I need to label the freshly dried herbs.

dried-herbs-stored

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post.  I had a BLAST discovering how to dry herbs in the microwave.  It felt like I was performing a magic trick.  I am changed forever.  Give it go and see for yourself!



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  • Susan

    Howdy! So glad you showed the scorch marks on the paper towel! This is what happend to me when I tried this method. It does work great but as you said you have to really be careful to not burn the herbs.

    We love basil…..so yes, I do have a large bag of pesto in the freezer, but I have also found that you can just lay them out on a cookie sheet and freeze them then store in a bag in freezer. I like doing this instead of drying basil. Then I just crumble the frozen leaves.

    Have fun with your herbs! Have you tried Thai Basil or Lemon Basil? I am particulary fond of Lemon Basil.
    Susan and Sandra
    StarDragonfly Herbals

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

      (((SUSAN!))) I miss talkin’ with you! What’s shakin’?
      I have tried Lemon Basil, but I’ve never grown it. What is the Thai Basil like? And did you grow from seed?

      I have NEVER heard of freezing herbs. How did you discover this technique and does it work on all herbs?

  • http://farmsteadlady.com Kiva-Farmstead Lady

    Wow, I had never heard of microwaving drying my herbs. They look great, so I will have to give this a whirl. As an aside, I have also frozen herbs before the key is laying them out and making sure each freezes before placing them in baggie. I have froze basil, sage, thyme and rosemary. The thyme and rosemary, I left on the stems and worked great.

    Thanks for the tip!

  • Susan

    Good morning, Jill! We have been so busy this summmer. We have 2 garden plots dug up…one full sun and one shade. And we just finished the rose and iris garden. When we get a break in the rain and can get the tractor back into the garden we will put in some plants for a fall garden. By next year the herbs should be growing beautifully.

    I am sure I discovered how to freeze herbs from one of the many herb books. We pick the herbs, and because of the sand here, give them a quick rinse and spin in the salad spinner. Then I lay them out on cookie sheets, pop in freezer, when frozen put in freezer bags (Make sure you label….I have been lazy and not done this….always end up with mystery herbs!) To me the herbs keep more flavor….but they are no longer crisp if thawed. So, I treat them as fresh herbs. Good rule of thumb. 1 Tbls. fresh equals 1 tsp. dry. I freeze or dry all culinary herbs but especially basil.

    I actually found the Thai and Lemon Basil plants at Walmart in Round Rock. But you could certainly grow them from seed. I am already looking forward to the spring!

    Susan and Sandra
    StarDragonfly Herbals

    Just a P.S. I have learned that Sulphur Springs has a gardening club, are there any cooking clubs or groups? And I would like to help with Farmer’s Market next year in some capacity. Let me know if you have any ideas. Thanks.

  • sadvatha

    hiiiiii
    iam pursuing m.tech in post harvest processing &food engg. iam useing one of drying method microwave drying….. by changing different power level… while drying stevia it is taking long time….. and the color is not retained … so can i have some information about this fom u r end…..i hope u will help me….
    thanks

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

      Hi Sadvatha,
      You know all I know about drying herbs in the microwave. This was my first attempt and I used my favorite herbs to experiment. Just live it out and learn from the outcome is all I can add.

  • John

    The microwave is a great way to dry basil. The first time I tried doing it
    a couple of years ago, I actually caught the paper towel on fire ! So you
    really have to pay attention. I will have to try rosemary next. Thanks
    for the tips !!

  • http://bellesouthblogs.com Bellesouth

    Thanks so much! I’m going to try this when the basil fills out. I also have an herb garden coming my way, so when I grow them I’ll try this method as well.

    Why don’t they just make mini-food dehydrators? I know I don’t have room for one of those giant Ronco things in my kitchen. :)

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

      Hi Bellesouth! You’re right. There should be mini-food dehydrators! I keep my big one in a closet, I have no room for it in the kitchen. Of course, I REALLY like using the microwave. Yes, I have to stand in front of it the whole time I’m drying the herbs, but it doesn’t take that long to dry a bundle of organic parsley or cilantro. I also like that the herbs retain their bright green color. More healthy phytochemicals for us. ;D

  • Lon

    I have a lavender plant. Would I dry lavender the same way? Is there a certain time of year to dry it?

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

      Honestly, Lon, I don’t know. Test a small batch and see if it gives you the great results. I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t work out. Start with 20 seconds then 10 seconds increments until you find that specific time it takes to get the lavender dry. Let me know what your learn.

      • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

        I’ve never been able to grow healthy lavender. You’ll have to teach me.

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

      Naly, you have helped me and you didn’t even know it. I spent this morning stripping rosemary stems, and now I have a LOAD of rosemary, too much to dry in the microwave. I knew I wanted to make some into pesto, but not all of it. FREEZING the rest is my answer.

      THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! ((BIG HUG))

      • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

        Awesome!

    • Cathryn Alexander

      do I wash the herbs first? da61223@q.com

      • http://SimpleDailyRecipes.com/ Jill McKeever

        If they’re sandy, or you just picked them from your garden, then sure, give them a rinse. Pat dry with a tea towel, but don’t worry about getting them super dry. It will all work out.

  • Kyle Christensen

    I do not like pesto (I know, everyone does…except me) But I bought a huge, gorgeous basil plant (and rosemary) today…..any suggestions, besides spaghetti sauce? BTW, thanks, for info….some of the leaves are getting brown already, I will try it tonight!

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

      I like fresh chopped basil in couscous salads, or any grain salad.

    • Nanapeck

      I also did not like pesto but last year had so much basil I did not know what to do with it. I made a type of pesto with walnuts and no parmesan cheese and froze it in small containers. Wonderful stuff. I think it is the pine nuts I really do not like.

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

      You’re welcome, Maureen!

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill

      You’re absolutely right, Margery. What did you dry?

  • Sehausle

    Genius, this helped me. I needed dried basil for a spice mix in my garden and this worked perfectly ! I used a paper towel and watched very carefully. I stopped anytime it began to smoke a bit.

  • Lorna

    if you put a bowl of water in microwave with herbs on paper towel beside it, the paper towel won’t burn, just do 3 min. at a time until dried. I do this all the time. Just keep checking that your bowl has water in it!

  • shangella

    thanks for the post. I’ll be trying this soon, my basil is getting so bushy!

  • Diane Cramer

    thank you…great tips

    • http://www.simpledailyrecipes.com Jill McKeever

      You’re welcome, Diane!

  • tamara

    Thank you for this post, I dried my home grown basil and it came out perfect, so easy your instruction and pictures made this the easiest way of drying it. I had looked another time online to dry basil. I didn’t bother to even try it their way. Thank you again!

    • http://SimpleDailyRecipes.com/ Jill McKeever

      You’re welcome, Tamara! I’m so glad to hear all worked out.
      Stay in touch!

  • Kimberley Brown

    well I tried drying my garlic chives in the microwave on the paper towel with 1 on top for the time stated & the next thing I knew there was a big flash & they caught on fire in there so I had to open the door quick n grab the on fire paper towels & get um in the bowl of water I luckily had…….. so if using this method be careful & keep an eye on them :(

    • http://SimpleDailyRecipes.com/ Jill McKeever

      Good grief! How long were the chives in the microwave?
      My experience has been 30 seconds TOPS.

  • Lynn Lee

    I recently dried a batch of chives in the oven, to 6 hours. Don’t have that much time to waste so I will try your microwave suggestion.