Consider drying your herbs and late-harvest vegetables to keep them longer. Drying is one of the oldest forms of preservation in the world. Virtually all indigenous tribes used the technique as a way to preserve foods for colder or drier times.
Dry herbs the same way you dry flowers. Some herbs can be spread out in the sunshine but most require a drafty shade to maintain their color and nutrients.
- Gather stems into small, loose bunches.
- Secure the ends together with a rubber bands or twine.
- Hang upside down in a warm, dry, dark, well-ventilated place that’s out of direct sunlight.
- Cover them with a paper bag to keep the dust off.
- Herbs with smaller leaves, such as thyme, can be laid out on newspaper or on a rack to dry.
- For best results herbs should be fully dried within two to three days.
If humidity makes air-drying impossible, dry them in a warm oven or use a food dehydrator.
This year, I dried my basil in the oven. Mine has a pilot light which is ideal. If yours doesn’t have this option, the lowest setting (with the door slightly ajar) often works well.
It’s relatively thin and can easily be dried by spreading it out on a cookie sheet.
Once dried, I transfer it to glass jars. This basil can then be used in soups, salads, eggs or dips. It does discolor a bit, but it tastes just fine.
Y(ou can even give away dried herbs in glass jars for holiday gifts!)
Drying Tomatoes and Paprika Peppers
Tomatoes and paprika, however, really need a bit more power. I use an electric dehydrator for the vegetables.
With tomatoes, I like to start with a paste variety as there is less water in the flesh. San Marzanos are my favorites. I wash and dry the tomatoes, then cut them into slices. The thinner the slice the quicker they dry. However, I find that if I cut them too thin, they stick to the tray and become difficult to remove. Quarter-inch slices have worked best for me.
I lay them flat on the tray and put the dehydrator on 125 degrees. After a few hours, I lift them up so that they won’t stick and the next day, I turn them over. At the end of a few days, they are nice and dry and ready to use in recipes. I want them to be almost crispy so that I can grind them up and use them in dips.
Paprika needs to come from actual paprika peppers.
I get the plants from some local nurseries and put them in the ground when the danger of frost has passed. I have heard that they like sulphur so I usually place five or six matches in the ground with their roots. They enjoy a bit of support as well so I have some nice cages that I use to give it to them.
As the peppers mature, I cut them from the plants. I carefully wash and dry them and slice them into ribbons discarding the internal seeds (or feeding these bits to the chickens if you have some). These ribbons go onto the trays and I again dry them at about 125 degrees. It takes a few days and you want them to get completely brittle so you can grind them into powder.
This powder makes excellent gifts and is a great addition to quiches, deviled eggs and other egg dishes.
Do you dry your herbs, vegetables, or fruit? Please share any comments or questions below!