Drying Herbs with a Microwave
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: James Maggard
Posted on: February 17, 2002

Is there any way that I can dry herbs in the microwave? Someone told me you could and I was wondering if it was true.

Yes, it is possible. The book, "Herb Drying Handbook" (available from Richters), has instructions on drying with a microwave.

We have not tried the specific method described in the book, but years ago when microwaves first became popular we experimented a little with one to dry herbs. We were disappointed with the results because while the herbs generally came out nicely dry, they also lost most of their flavour and aroma. We experimented mostly with aromatic herbs such as mint, sage and savory.

When drying aromatic herbs you want to get rid of the moisture in the herbs while keeping back the aromatic oils that give the herbs their flavour and aroma. The trouble is, the same heat that expels water can easily expel the oils as well. Too much heat and both water and oils will be gone. That’s what happened in our microwave experiments when we ended up with green crispy but flavourless herbs. We tried setting the microwave at the lowest setting, but the results were the same. Nowadays, microwaves have more sophisticated controls over cooking and ventilation and probably we would have had a better result if we had one of today’s models. Still, how well they work will depend on getting the settings just right, and those settings will likely vary for each herb, and may even be depend critically on how much herbs you dry at a time.

For our money, we much prefer simple air drying systems. Even in the living room or kitchen it is possible to dry small batches of leafy herbs on screens – they only take a few days to dry, so they don’t have to be in the way for to long, and the method rarely ever fails because there are no settings to get just right. We have described how to dry using a sweater dryer before; search the "Q&A" section of our website for "Using a Dehydrator to Dry Herbs".

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