During our first year of gardening on the Range we had an abundant supply of mint, sweet basil, Thai basil, and parsley.
The parsley plant (Moss Curled) had been growing for over a year in Rockhampton when I dug it up and brought it down to the Sunshine Coast with me. I planted it out into a raised bed, and it flourished! It became one of the biggest parsley plants I have ever come across.
As it began nearing the end of its lifespan (the plant only lasts for a couple of years) we decided to harvest as much of it as possible and to preserve it by drying it. At the time we did not have a dehydrator, so I used the microwave to dry it out. It is quite a fast process, and preserves the colour of the leaves. The dried leaves were then crumbled and packaged into zip-lock bags and stored in the refrigerator and freezer until required.
Dried parsley can be used to flavour scrambled eggs, savoury tarts, quiches, etc. As the flavour is concentrated as a result of the drying process, not as much is required to add flavour to dishes, compared to what you would need of fresh parsley.
We invested in a dehydrator which give adjustable temperatures and times, and it is much easier to use than the microwave – you just put the produce in and set the time and temperature, and while it is drying you can get on with other things! We have a 9 shelf model, which helps when you have a lot of produce to dry. We initially set the dehydrator to a low temperature (45 degrees Celsius)for drying herbs, but next time we will try the higher temperature, possible 50 degrees Celsius.
I attended a talk by a local lady who dries and packages herbs. She uses flat wicker baskets to air dry the herbs, but with the heat and humidity here I was worried about the possibility of mould forming on the dry herbs. I therefore prefer to dry herbs for consumption in the dehydrator.
We harvested a large amount of lemon grass leaves which we air dried in the sun. This was successful and once they were dried I chopped them up and stored them in a zip lock bag. I use the dried lemon grass in the chickens bedding and nesting boxes to deter mites.
When drying herbs, it is essential to choose fresh, clean and unmarked herbs. Only use good quality herbs. All herbs with blemishes can be discarded into the compost. The herbs must not be old either, or their fragrance and properties will be diminished. They should be washed, patted dry gently with a cloth (rather than paper towel), and then placed carefully onto the drying racks. Once the rack is full it can be placed into the dehydrator and the next rack filled. When drying it is best to dry one type of herb at a time, rather than a mixture of herbs.
Once completely dry and crunchy, they can be packaged into vacuum packs or zip-lock bags and stored in a cool place, preferably in the fridge or freezer.