Drying Fresh Herbs
Growing your own herbs is both fun and cost effective. Add to that the fact that you're creating something to use in your foods or products that are chemical free and additive free, you've hit the jackpot.
In most cases though, herbs can be very prolific. You can only use so much of something before the season ends and you may find yourself with more of certain herbs than you can possibly use---or share with friends and family.
Drying herbs is a wonderful way to preserve your herbs. You still retain all the nutrients and healthy properties of the herb, just in a dried form.
There are several ways that you can dry your herbs as well. You don't have to have a food dehydrator though that is my preferred method of drying these days. It's quicker, makes less of a mess and assures that the herb is completely dry in all of its many bouquets.
When drying herbs, it's really important to make sure all pieces of the herb to be saved are dried. Having just a small piece of an undried leaf of basil for instance in your container will cause mold to develop and ruin the entire batch.
Remember that dried herbs means totally dried--they are supposed to be able to be crumbled into dust (or very fine pieces at least) easily.
A good rule of thumb for substituting dried herbs for fresh is a 3 to 1 ratio--so 1 tablespoon of fresh cut dill will equal 1 teaspoon of dried dill.
How To Dry Fresh Dill in a Dehydrator
You can easily grow your own dill. When it begins to develop flowers on it, it's a great time to cut some off with pruning shears and begin to dry it.
If you don't grow your own, there is an abundance of fresh dill in supermarkets and at produce stands starting in late summer. Purchase freshly cut stems, preferrably ones soaking in water, and use the same way.
Once cut, if you think the plant is rather dusty, spray lightly with water and set on a dish towel to re-dry. If you think the plant is pretty well cleaned, you can skip the wash and dry.
You can also rinse any herb gently and lightly and place in a salad spinner to dry--then let it sit out on a dish towel to further air dry.
Once dry, break or cut off pieces of the dill in "parasol" like sections and place on food dehydrator trays.
I use plastic trays that I use for fruits on the individual trays because the herb parts when dried are so tiny that they can drop through the spokes of the dehydrator trays. This keeps all the precious parts of the herb on the plastic liner.
I space my herbs so that they are barely touching so that they have circulation room. I fill up as many trays as I have with as many herbs as I have until I've run out of trays or herbs--whichever comes first.
I stack the trays in the dehydrator, then turn the setting to herbs--which is about 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
All I have to do is plug it in and check starting after about 12-24 hours to see if the herbs have completely dried.
Be sure and check every tray to be sure they have dried the same amount. If some trays are still not quite fully dried, take the trays out that have dried and process--return the others to the dehydrator and keep checking every 4 hours or so until all herbs are dried.
Herbs are done when they are literally bone dry--you can crumble them with your fingers. Pinch off dill into a bowl one piece at a time, separating if you'd like dill flowers from dill weed pieces. I mix mine together. Or if you have dill seeds, keep them separate if desired.
Store in a cool dry place with your other herbs--I put mine in small spice jars that I purchase and have on hand for my drying sessions.
You can also place in ziplock freezer bags, label and date--store as above.
Step by Step Guide to Drying Dill
You'll need a fresh dill plant--wash and let air dry if you're worried about how dusty it might be. Or cut off sprigs from plant, gently spray with water and spin dry in a salad spinner.
Using kitchen shears, cut off sprigs and arrange on trays of dehydrator. Don't pack the trays and make sure that the sprigs have plenty of room around them for the air to circulate. Use plastic liners to keep small seeds and leaves from falling through the cracks. Prepare each tray individually and stack on top of bottom tray.
When all the trays are ready, put the dehydrator lid on top and plug it in. Most are automatic and start right away.
Dehydrators dehydrate things at different temperatures. Herbs require a temperature of about 95 degrees Fahrenheit in a dehydrator. Set the dial to herbs/95 degrees. Check after 8-12 hours and then check periodically every 2 hours after that if more time is needed.
When herbs have dried to their "done" degree, they will be very brittle and dry. Take out pieces one at a time to avoid losing the precious dried herbs as they break off very easily.
Using your fingers in a sort of rolling technique (much like you are playing that tiny violin to make fun of someone who is whining), gently disengage the herb from their stalks into a container or onto a clean kitchen countertop. The herbs if dried properly should just fall right off into a perfectly dried herb state.
Put fresh dried herbs in apothecary jars or spice jars--label and store. They should be stored like other herbs in a dark, cool place for best flavor.
Store extra dried herbs in plastic freezer ziplock bags, date and label. Or if you don't have spice jars or apothecary jars, this is a great way to save dried herbs as well. Label and store in a cool, dry place.
What Other Ways Can You Dry Dill?
There are at least 2 more methods that I've used to dry dill weed. Some people also use the microwave to dry herbs but it is not highly recommended as it destroys essential oils found in the herbs.
This method is used for any kind of herbs or flowers and has been around since the beginning of time. You prepare the herb the same way as above but instead of putting it in a dehydrator, you tie bunches of the dill plant with kitchen twine or string.
Hang from someplace nice and dark until completely dry--process as you would using the dehydrator method.
Some people place their herbs inside paper sacks and hang them that way after punching air holes in the sacks with a pencil. This keeps them from attracting dust and bugs.
Prepare the herb the same way as for dehydrator drying. Line cookie sheets or jelly roll pans with dill in a single layer. Again, don't overlap or drying won't progress normally.
Place pans in a 100-110 degree Fahrenheit oven and check every few hours to see how far along the drying process is. When all herbs are completely dried, remove and process the same way.
This method takes only minutes yet is not highly recommended because it robs the herbs of their essential oils.
Can You Dry Multiple Herbs Together?
Yes! Sometimes I will have a layer of each herb in my dehydrator and each comes out with its own aroma.
I do try to combine "like" herbs though when I'm dehydrating them simply for the smell factor. For instance, I might do basil and thyme or oregano and basil. But I usually do peppermint by itself because it is so fragrant.
I also tried doing garlic in my dehydrator and probably won't ever do that again. It was so pungent in smell that it literally took days for the smell to dissipate in our house. It did make wonderful garlic powder but I think other methods for drying garlic work better than this one.
Can You Freeze Dill and Other Herbs?
You can freeze just about anything in its fresh state. However, there are lots of people, this author included, who feel that drying is a far superior method to freezing herbs.
Why? Because freezing herbs seems to deplete them of their flavor. No matter how carefully you pack your herbs in the freezer--in freezing containers or in freezer ziplock bags--in this author's opinion, they somehow become watered down and have less flavor than in the dried state.
I prefer drying my herbs to freezing every time though I freeze many other things--just not herbs. Herbs in their dried state last forever it seems and they still retain their pungent flavors. But if that was the only way I could preserve my herbs, I'd probably opt to freeze as you still started out with a fresh, nonpreserved herb!
Recipes for Dill Weed
Dill has a definite aroma all its own but is great in so many different things.
Try some of these great recipes for fresh or dried dill weed.
- poached fish recipe
- cauliflower and dill soup
- oven-fried potatoes with garlic and dill
- sweet dill mustard sauce
- dilled potato chowder
- baby carrots with dill
- beer and dill quick bread
- cucumber and dill dip
- dilled potato salad
- dilled cabbage and ham
- kosher garlic and dill pickles
- onion and dill bread
- sliced dill pickles
- dilled peppers and peas
- dill infused oil
- dilled rice pilaf
- dill burgers
- creamy horseradish dill sauce
- buttermilk dill salad dressing
- chicken breasts with dill
- dilly rolls
- hungarian summer dill pickles
- cucumber sauce with dill
Don't forget to use fresh or dried dill when poaching any kind of fish, especially salmon.
Or sprinkle on fresh or dried dill when grilling or broiling fish. It's a great herb for many meats but fish is especially great when paired with dill.
Method for Drying Herbs Naturally
Deborah Minter from U.S, California on September 16, 2017:
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on October 10, 2012:
They might, Barbara--we haven't had squirrels now in 8+ years so I'm not sure what they like anymore~~ I know the deer here are a menace with anything you grow but thankfully I have a very high fence, terracing AND my infamous watchdogs--ha ha ha--I'm going to try it though our growing season is SO short I may just opt as I did this year to buy it at the fruit stands~
Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on October 09, 2012:
Thanks for this helpful information. I should start growing dill again next year. The ground squirrels will probably leave that alone.
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on October 01, 2012:
toknowinfo on October 01, 2012:
Thanks for this great hub! Dill is my favorite spice to use. I much prefer fresh to dried, but your ideas are a great way to use the extra dill I get from the garden. I really appreciate your ideas. Rated up and useful.
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on September 05, 2012:
Carol - yes indeed - or grow a lot - I usually grow most everything else and dry it for the next season - I think I'm going to try growing dill too next summer~
carol stanley from Arizona on September 05, 2012:
Looks pretty cool. Buy a lot and dry and save. Sounds good to me.
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on September 04, 2012:
Thanks so much and happy drying, Pauline~
Pauline Davenport from Isle of Man on September 04, 2012:
I love cooking and use lots of herbs and spices, both dried, and fresh from my tubs, but have never really known how to dry them. This hub is wonderful Virginia and I'm going to dry some of my own fresh ones now before the winter sets in thanks to this. I love the way you've presented your hub- the pictures are brilliant. Thanks a lot
Audrey Kirchner (author) from Washington on September 04, 2012:
Thanks, Virginia~ I didn't plant any this year but the fresh worked very well--next year I have to plant my own though. Thanks for the pin!
Virginia Kearney from United States on September 03, 2012:
I have a dehydrator and some dill growing in my garden. Guess I know what I ought to do tomorrow! Pinned.