Drying Dill
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Joyce Phillips
Posted on: June 30, 1999

Please do you have any more suggestions for DRYING DILL than there already are on your Web site?

I find that

1) if I hang it up to dry as one hangs up basil and thyme, it loses its bright green colour. (So do basil and thyme, but they are not as bright green to begin with.)

2) I tried drying it in the microwave, using full power for two minutes, turning it, and then full power for another minute and a half. The result was crisply dried dill, bright green in colour, but it lost much of its flavour.

3) Then I tried about three-quarters power for three minutes, turned it and gave it another two minutes at three-quarters power. That was slightly better in that it retained some flavour, but I am not sure that it is fully dry and am afraid that it might mould in storage. I would like it to keep more flavour.

Both these micro-wave attempts used just the leaves, trimmed of stems as far as possible, and about as much as would conveniently go on a paper towel in the microwave oven.

I also have a convection oven on the regular range. Would that be any better?

At Richters we dry our herbs in a home-made convection dryer that consists of a wooden cabinet with slide-in trays that have flyscreen bottoms, a lightbulb in place of the lowest shelf and a small exhaust fan at the top. It works wonderfully well!

For most leafy herbs we find that we get better results with our dryer when we strip leaves off the stems before drying. In the case of dill (and other sensitive herbs such as chives and parsley) it is a good idea to chop the leaves into smaller pieces before drying. Make sure you use a very sharp knife because you need clean cuts to prevent bruising and possible rotting.

A customer once advised me that herbs should always be dried at low if you use a microwave. If after they appear stiff and dry you leave them out overnight just covered with a paper towel they will be bone dry by morning.

Customers rarely report much success with drying with a microwave. Exactly the problems you mention are the common complaints. The microwave is much too fast and hot for drying, and instead of selectively expelling the water and retaining the essential oils (that give flavour and aroma), the microwave does the opposite. It is possible to get the microwave to work, but the settings and times are so critical and the margin of error excruciatingly small that it rarely seems to be worth the bother. Conventional screen drying works very well, especially with stripping or chopping before drying.

Incidently, we never recommend drying by hanging. It is a quaint method from the past that looks and smells nice, but it does not work as well as screen drying.

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