Drying basil is a great way to preserve your harvest for use throughout the year. There are several methods you can use. Choose the one that works best for you. Once you learn how to dry basil you will be able to extend the life of your harvest.
If you plan to dry your basil you should harvest it when the essential oils are at their peak. This would be right before the plant is about to flower.
Harvest in mid to late morning, after the dew has dried but before the heat from the sun has a chance to start wilting the leaves.
If stored properly, in an airtight container kept in a cool, dark location, dried basil will last six to twelve months. It is best to keep the leaves whole for storage and only crush them when you are ready to use them. A mortar and pestle is a very handy tool to have if you will be drying herbs. You can use it to give them a quick crush before using them in your recipe or you can use it to grind the leaves into a powder, which will release even more intense flavor.
|Always do a container test.|
After the drying process, place the herbs in an airtight storage container. Place the container in a cool, dark location for two days. If any moisture is present inside the container, the herbs should be dried longer before storing.
Drying Basil by Hanging
Cut the stalks about 6 inches above ground level. Do not wash the leaves unless they are really dirty. Washing the leaves will remove some of the essential oils and when you are drying herbs you want to maintain as much of the essential oils as possible to preserve the most flavor.
For this method you will tie the stalks together in small bunches and hang the bunches upside down to let the essential oils drip into the leaves as they dry. Hang your bunches in a warm place away from direct sunlight and away from kitchen appliances that will produce heat and disrupt the slow drying process.
You may want to tie a small paper bag over the leaves to keep them dust-free. If you choose to do this, poke many holes into the bag to allow air to circulate.
In one to two weeks, when the leaves are dry do a container test. If any moisture is present, let them dry for a few more days, or place them in the oven for a quick-fix. When they are ready to be stored, strip the leaves from the stems and place the whole leaves in an airtight container to be stored in a cool, dark place.
Drying Basil in a Dehydrator
A dehydrator is another great tool for drying basil leaves. If you do not have one, you can get one for anywhere from $40.00 to well over $100.00. For typical household use, a model on the lower end of the price scale will work just fine.
Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying herbs. The process generally involves laying the leaves in a single layer on one or more of the dehydrator trays, attaching the lid and letting the machine do all of the work while you do other things. What could be easier?
Drying Basil in the Oven
Remove the leaves from the stems, wash them and pat them dry. Spread the leaves in an even layer on a baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into a preheated 140 degree oven. Leave the door slightly open. Warm the leaves for about 45 minutes then remove them from the oven. Let them stand at room temperature for 12 hours.
Once the leaves have cooled do a container test. If moisture appears during the container test, return the leaves to the oven for 10 to 20 more minutes, depending upon how much moisture was present. Let cool for 12 hours before storing.
Drying Basil in the Microwave
This is the most labor-intensive method for drying basil, but this is also the method that can be done in the shortest amount of time.
Remove the leaves from the stems, wash them and pat them dry. Layer several sheets of paper towel on the bottom of your microwave. Arrange the basil leaves in a single layer on top of the paper towel. Microwave on high for 1 minute intervals, rotating the paper towels each time if your microwave does not automatically rotate as it cooks.
Once you start to notice the leaves beginning to get dry, reduce the intervals to 30 seconds. When the leaves are dry and brittle cool them completely and do a container test. If moisture appears, microwave for 1 more minute and repeat the process until no moisture appears during the container test.
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