Drying of Parsley
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: J. England
Posted on: September 19, 2000

How is the best way to dry parsley?

Parsley is more difficult to dry than most culinary herbs. That is because the oils that give it its unique aroma and flavour are relatively more volatile than oils in other herbs. When you dry the leaves, the oils are lost. You end up with nice looking green leaves but there is little flavour.

The commercial spice industry uses a special process to dry parsley that involves freeze-drying. The result are flakes that have some flavour and decent colour but otherwise are much less flavourful than fresh leaves.

Though it is hard to dry parsley, it is not impossible. We have found that if you use a razor sharp knife and cut the fresh leaves cleanly, without too much squashing of the leaves (as ordinary knives do) then that helps. Cut them into pieces about 5-10 mm (1/4 to 1/2 inch) in size. Cut off the stems before cutting the leaves so that the stems do not continue to supply moisture to the leaves during the drying process. Make sure that when you cut the leaves, cut only a few leaves at a time; if you try to cut too many leaves at once the mass of leaves will not cut cleanly.

Once the leaves are cleanly chopped like this then place the pieces on a screen in a single layer so that there is plenty of air access to as many parts of the leaves as possible. Place the screen in a well ventilated place out of the sun. In a few days, the leaves will dry. They are properly dry when they crumble in your hands when you rub them.

Do not use heat to dry. The heat will drive the flavour oils out faster. If you have high humidity in the air, the drying will be slower, but you can speed it up by increasing the ventilation with a fan in the room.

Incidently, chives is much the same drying challenge as parsley. But cutting into small pieces prior to drying with a sharp knife works well.

A further note: for most other herbs such as oregano, mint, and savory, it is better NOT to cut the leaves prior to drying. The less handling of the herbs, the more oils and flavour they will have, so don’t cut those. That principle would apply for parsley and chives too except in these case, they lose too much flavour if the drying process takes too long. Cutting the leaves speeds up the drying process a great deal.

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