Drying Chives
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Aubrey Goulding
Posted on: July 24, 1999

How are chives dried? I have tried drying them on screens, but they always turn yellow and pale. Other herbs dried this way turn out fine.

Chives need to be dried quickly to preserve the green colour. When drying conditions cause chives to turn yellow the colour usually indicates a loss of flavour and aroma also. Most other herbs can be dried successfully as whole leaves on screens as you have done; but chives leaves cannot be dried in whole form in this manner.

Commercial chives is fresh-chopped and freeze-dried to capture as much of the fleeting colour and flavour as possible, with sometimes mixed results.

For home gardeners and specialty herb producers, chopping leaves before drying is the key. The small leaf pieces (3-4 mm or 1/8 inch long) dry much faster than the whole leaves, and the air can circulate better inside the hollow leaves. It is important to use a razor-sharp knife when chopping because a dull knife will not cut cleanly. If the cuts are not clean, the drying process is slowed and the risk of fungal attacks is greater.

The chopped leaf pieces can be dried with the same screens you are using now. As always, herbs must be dried in a well-ventilated location removed from direct sunlight.

Although it may be necessary to wash chives leaves before chopping to remove dirt, it is not recommended to do so if at all possible. Washing herbs before drying increases the time needed to dry, and increases the chance of failure.

The object of drying is to remove the water with a minimal loss of the essential oils that are responsible for flavour and aroma of culinary herbs. Because essential oils are so volatile, it is easy to lose them during the drying process. That is why applying too much heat to speed up drying does not work. If heat is used, it should be very low – no more than 35 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) – and always the air should be able circulate freely.

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