Drying Herbs at Home: 2009 AND 2010 Parsley

I’ve been harvesting parsley for drying on My Little Farm in Town this week! I planted it last year from seed and transplanted it to form a border for my front walk. Last year, I harvested and begged everyone else to harvest it. (See my January 28 blog—Eggs, Parsley, and Barter)   Parsley is the ultimate cut-and-come-again herb. It’s easy to grow enough in your yard to supply your family’s needs for an entire year and save a little on your grocery bill in the process. It is also an herb that easily makes it through the winter and comes again in the spring! It and chives are the first fresh herbs that I harvest each year.

I’ve been a tad late starting my seeds this year and am a bit short on garden space. So I’ve decided to harvest and dry parsley early and just grow a few plants this season for fresh use.

Parsley is a biennial. It grows leaves the first year and flowers and goes to seed the second year. It will supply you with plenty of green until about May (in this hemisphere anyway) and then it bolts, and you dig it out and add it to your compost pile if you don’t intend to save seed.

Parsley is one of the easiest herbs to dry. (Some sources claim that it doesn’t taste good when dried. I can only guess that they dried it at high temperatures, because my parsley always tastes fine.) I harvest when the dew has dried off the plants by breaking or cutting the stems a couple of inches from ground level.  I then cut the leaves from the stems with my trusty kitchen scissors right into my drying trays. I don’t wash them. If a stem is too soiled, I add it to my compost bin.  Parsley doesn’t take long to dry—when it is crunchy, it is done. (Be sure to let your test leaf cool before trying to crumble it.) If you have a simple convection dryer like mine, be sure to rotate the trays every couple of hours. Store the dry parsley in an airtight container in a dark, dry, cool place. If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of fresh parsley,  you can substitute one teaspoon of your dried product.

I picked up my dryers for $5 each at garage sales, but you can often find them at thrift stores or buy them new if you have the funds. I prefer the dryers without fans and thermostats. I mainly dry fruits and vegetables so it is not a problem.  These simple driers are usually cheaper and work just as well for my purposes. Some herbs like basil I prefer to air dry out of the sun (always) because it is so easy to cook them and lose all their volatile oils.

Other ways to dry herbs include hanging them in a dry, dark place; drying on screen frames outside; and drying on trays (always protected from direct light) in your car, in a gas oven with the pilot light lit, or in an electric oven with the door closed and the light on, or even in the microwave oven!

The moral of the story is—Don’t pull that parsley in the fall. Let it overwinter and feed you for another season! Begonia.

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