Howdy Farm has a Nesco Pro Food Dehydrator that interns used last semester to dry herbs. It hasn’t gotten much use this summer, so I decided to pick what we had available and get drying. Monday morning I walked the farm with my clippers and harvested fresh herbs. Early in the day is the best time to harvest for drying purposes so that all of the essential oils are still concentrated and haven’t been dried from the sun yet.
Basil is everywhere on the farm. I filled three and a half dehydrator trays with fresh leaves. We have a few sage plants. I grabbed some leaves to fill half a tray. Then rosemary got a half and marjoram the other. Marjoram is a variety of oregano, thus the two have similarities in taste, though they are different. My intention was to make an Italian herb mix but that will have to wait until we have plenty of oregano, thyme, and parsley growing on the farm to go along with the rest of the herbs I chose to dry.
The dehydrator should be set to a temperature of 95 degrees F, as recommended on the Nesco for herbs and spices. Every 24 hours I checked on the leaves and rotated the trays. Day after day I’d see if the leaves were completely crunchy to the touch so that they would easily crumble. After awhile, the majority of the basil was crunchy but some was still not completely dry. Finally, after five days, every single herb was completely dry.
I chose to lie out pieces of paper for each herb and start crumbling them by hand. I ended up with about ½ cup basil flakes, 3 tbsp rosemary leaves, 2 tbsp marjoram, and 1 tbsp crumbled sage leaves. Next, I used a spice grinder (Hamilton Beach Coffee Grinder to be exact!) to grind the herbs into a coarse powder.
In the near future, Howdy Farm should have all the herbs necessary to make our very own Italian spice blend. For now though, I played around with the herbs we had, mixing and matching to find something tasty.
Photos and blog by Jessica Newman