I am fascinated in methods of preserving our harvest, and my newest attempt is drying. I am drying wildflowers (as they are hanging all around our house), and I was recently given a dehydrator. My first dehydrating project is basil and parsley.
To harvest basil, cut no more than 1/3 of the plant at any one time, and cut from the top to encourage a bushier plant or from the sides to encourage a taller, more narrow plant. I harvested a small bowl's worth, washed the leaves and separated them from their stems. I then placed them on a few racks of the dehydrator (with no overlapping leaves) and plugged it in. I left the basil in for about 12 hours. I left the leaves whole to preserve as much of the flavor as I could. When it's time to cook I (or Josh) will use the mortar and pestle and grind up the leaves to release the oils and make the basil easier to cook with. After all of that work, it didn't make very much. I'm hoping to harvest about once a week in order to have enough basil to last through most of the winter.
To harvest parsley, cut the stems about one inch above the ground. The best time to harvest is when the plant is about to flower. Mine aren't close to that point, but they are very overcrowded and needed to be thinned, so I figured I'd try it now and see how it worked. I clipped here and there and had quite a bit more than I had of the basil. I dehydrated this separately in order to not mix flavors. After the parsley dried, I held the stem in one hand and ran my fingers across with the other to separate the small leaves from the stems. I should have no time filling this jar in the next few weeks.
After dehydrating herbs, be sure to check the jars periodically for moisture. If any condensation forms inside the jar, take everything out and put back in the dehydrator for another 6+ hours and dry out the jar to prevent mold or mildew.
Seeing the apothecary at the Bakersville was so neat. I can't wait until I also have rows of dried herbs and spices to use all year.