Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

This is a cross post from my blog, domestic efforts.

This weekend, it was time to harvest what was left of my basil, and there was quite a bit of it. Tips for preserving basil often suggest making pesto, but I'm not a huge fan of the stuff. I decided instead to experiment with drying, since I use dried basil quite a bit in soups and stews. Since I don't yet own a dehydrator, I took a shot at drying the leaves in the microwave. Luckily, the microwave method was not only successful but incredibly quick! The result was completely dried basil that still kept its rich color and glorious scent. I plan to experiment with other herbs in the future.

How to dry basil in the microwave
(caveat: since microwaves vary, you may need to adjust the time/heat level. This method probably works best in a microwave with a rotating plate.)
  • Wash and thoroughly dry all basil leaves.
  • Lay an individual layer of basil leaves on a dry paper towel on your microwave's plate. Cover the leaves with another paper towel.
  • Let the microwave run for 30 seconds. Turn leaves over, and let it run for another 30 seconds.
  • Repeat as necessary (it only took me 1 1/2 minutes!)
  • Before storing (whole or crushed), ensure that all moisture has been depleted (see caption below).
(Basil leaves after drying. I placed the dried basil on a paper towel and covered with saran wrap overnight in order to check that all moisture had been depleted.)

(I decided to keep the dried basil whole rather than crushing it. I'll subsequently crush the pieces that I need for each recipe.)

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Comment by Cornelia on October 21, 2010 at 7:42am
Very nice! I have quite a bit of basil left in the herb garden, and it won't last with the frosts coming in overnight now. I'm going to try this - thanks!
Comment by Christa Nelson on October 21, 2010 at 1:28pm
i always do mine in the oven, but this looks alot easier!
Comment by Jenni on October 21, 2010 at 1:39pm
Christa - my oven doesn't have a low setting, so I'm always worried I'll just burn rather than dehydrate. The microwave, which I never really use, finally became useful! :)
Comment by Scarlett Sperber on October 21, 2010 at 2:25pm
oooh. thanks
Comment by Christine on October 22, 2010 at 10:47am
awesome, i've always struggled a little with drying herbs. thanks!
Comment by Lucy Goodman on October 24, 2010 at 4:39am
I generally dry my basil in a room that does not get direct sunlight. i make bundles of it and hang it. After 5 days to 2 weeks depending on weather conditions (wet humid weather means longer drying time) the basil is dry and ready to be cleaned off the stems.

I also have used paper grocery bags to dry the basil. Just put the fresh basil in the bag loosely and once a day fluff it to keep spot from molding and in about a week it is ready to go.

I store my basil in bags in the freezer where it stays fresh and good for about 2 years (vs 6 months at room temp).

I find the microwave leaches a lot of the essential oils and thus flavor from herbs when I have dried them in the microwave so i don't do that any more.
Comment by Jenni on October 24, 2010 at 2:18pm
I love the paper bag tip. Do you dry other herbs this way?
I agree that the microwave can cause the oils to leach if you overdo it. But, I like the technique if I want basil asap.
Comment by Christa Nelson on October 25, 2010 at 2:42pm
i hang most of my herbs to air dry, except basil which i do in the oven as i've heard that it molds quickly (i also freeze alot of fresh basil too)
Comment by Lynn S on October 26, 2010 at 10:02am
I've never even tried the microwave but I have a friend who says that method works well.

Typically, I use a 10-shelf dehydrator and in the early fall (as in now), I string-bundle up armloads of different herbs and head to my greenhouse. I hang the majority of my herbal teas and botanicals in the greenhouse with the 50% shade-cloth on. I turn off the humidistat, and set the heat exhaust fan to open if the internal temp in the greenhouse goes above 85-degrees F. In 2 days, most of the bundles have dried and are ready to be untied and placed in the herb jars. Love the smell in there right now!!
Comment by Diane Fallon on August 22, 2014 at 5:04pm

Oven drying on the lowest temp. turned my basil very dark. Flavor and aroma just weren't there.  So, I tried the microwave technique on reduced power. Basil stayed nice and green but the paper towels turned wet and smelled strongly of basil.  There went the oils. Unless someone knows of a better idea I think I will try the freezing technique.  Does basil turn dark in the freezer???


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