June 08, 2016

Drying Garden Basil

I've mentioned drying basil before, but with gardens all around the US starting to give up some early harvests, I thought it would be prudent to mention it again.

Basil is one of the easiest things to grow - it grows 'like a weed' usually!  And soon you have these beautiful little basil leaves ready to be used in your pasta dishes, your Italian sauces, your chicken or potato dishes... but because it does grow so well, you probably have more basil than you need.  No worries.  It's so easy to dry and store no matter how you choose to dry it.

I've posted previously on simply cutting the stems down low, tying with string or twine and hanging in a cool, dry place (just do a search in the sidebar to the right if you want to find any previous posts on An American Housewife).  I've also posted about drying it in the microwave.  This last time I used my dehydrator as I had it out on the counter for other things and drying basil literally only takes a few minutes!

The important thing is to not burn it, dry it well, crumble or chop it and store it in an air tight bottle or container or even small pouches or mason jars.  When you use your home grown and dried basil you will be happily surprised (and maybe shocked) at the aroma and fresh, strong flavor of the herb verses what you may be used to if you typically buy it in the spice department of your local dollar store or grocery store. 

Choose your basil from the garden
Rinse gently in cool water and pat dry or let air dry on a paper towel
If you have cut long stems of basil, simply tie the end with twine or string, or use a rubber band and hang a small bunch in a cool, dry place like your pantry. Within a week or so depending on your humidity level, your basil will be dry and ready for use.
If you have leaves;  
  • Microwave individual leaves on a paper towel with another paper towel covering, for 1 minute. Check your leaves, remove any smaller leaves that are dried and microwave the rest for another 30 seconds if needed.  They should be dried by now, if not, continue in 15 second increments.  
  • Oven: turn your oven on it's lowest setting.  I don't use this way because my ovens lowest setting is 175 and I find it's easier to microwave for 1 1/2 minutes or use my dehydrator.  Place on a paper towel on a baking sheet in the oven at your lowest setting and watch, turning over if need be, for anywhere from 8 minutes to 20 minutes depending on the temperature of your oven.
  • Dehydrator:  Place individual leaves on your racks,do not allow leaves to touch.  If you have an herb setting, use it.  Most lower cost dehydrators just have "on" and "off" so turn it on, your basil leaves should be done in about 2-4 minutes.  The longest mine have ever taken was 8 minutes and that is when they were put in the dehydrator wet from being rinsed.
  • If it's not too humid, you can also just place them on paper towels on the counter or in the sun coming through the window to  air dry.

Crush or crumble into your air tight container and use in your recipes.  I keep mine in an old BASIL spice jar I bought a few years ago at the grocery store and just keep refilling it as needed.  I do the same with our dill, red pepper flakes and cumin containers!

Products related to this topic available through Amazon:
NutriChef Kitchen Electric Countertop Food Dehydrator, Food Preserver, White
Chef Essential Herb Mill / Grinder
Microplane 48006 Herb Mill, White
Nesco FD-37A American Harvest Food Dehydrator, 400-watt

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