How to Dry Rosemary

How to Dry Rosemary
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Rosemary is one of the most common kitchen herbs. People from different cultures around the world acknowledge its culinary strengths and charms especially in meat preparation. The aroma of lamb or chicken roasted in rosemary is heavenly. All the same, this herb is not always readily available in the market. Accordingly, it is important to understand how to dry rosemary at home for long term preservation.

Rosemary is a perennial hardy shrub that can grow in almost every kitchen garden. It has sturdy branches and sharp needle-like leaves that are dark-green in color. The sprigs produce a resinous scent with notes of eucalyptus. The aroma is associated with improved memory and concentration.

Rosemary does well in warm climates and well drained soils. Its roots are intolerant to excess water and overall, the evergreen herb does not survive the cold and darkness of winter.

How to Harvest Rosemary

Depending on the variety, rosemary can grow up to 1.8 cm long. Simple tactics such as frequent pruning allow the bushes to maintain proper size and shape. Pruning is also important for optimal airflow and disease control.

Mature rosemary bushes produce enough sprigs that can be harvested throughout the year. Young rosemary sprigs have the best flavor and aroma. The ideal clipping length is from 15 cm and below. Rosemary flowers can also be harvested for fresh use. Dirty rosemary sprigs are cleaned through two methods that include washing gently under running water or using a water sprayer.

Preserving Fresh Rosemary

Fresh rosemary is easy to preserve and can go for up to two weeks with proper storage. I store my sprigs in a paper bag (not polythene) and place it in an airtight container. I later place the container in my fridge.

This works well and I only invest extra effort into wiping water bubbles that form on the inner side of the container’s lid after every few days. This method allows me to use all my sprigs until they are finished. However, these sprigs must be dew or moisture free before preservation.

Fresh rosemary can also be preserved through freezing. The freezing technique involves the use of bare herbs, ice-cold water or oil. To freeze bare rosemary leaves, place a few sprigs on a plate and transfer it into a freezer. Allow the leaves to freeze and transfer them into an air tight container or freezer bag and store accordingly.

To freeze rosemary in water or oil, separate the leaves from the stems and transfer them into ice cube trays. Add water or oil to the trays until the leaves are completely covered. Place the trays in a freezer and let the freezing process take place. You can transfer the ice cubes into an air tight container but at some point you might end up with one big piece of ice.

How to dry Rosemary

Just like in any other preservation method, rosemary that is intended for drying should be cut and cleaned properly before preservation. Air drying, the use of a dehydrator, oven-drying and microwave-drying are the four main techniques used to dry rosemary. No matter the drying method used, well preserved rosemary holds its aroma and flavor for a long time.

How to Air Dry Fresh Rosemary

how-to-dry-rosemary
Image by Julius Machira
  • In the first step, gather a handful of rosemary sprigs and use a string to tie them together at base. Note that it is important to keep your bunch small so that it can dry up quickly. If you intend to dry a lot of rosemary, you can achieve this by making several bunches.
  • Pick one bunch at a time and use the ends of the string to tie a loop for hanging. Hang each bunch separately in a cool, dry and well ventilated area inside your house. You can make something that looks like a clothing line to allow enough space between each bunch.
  • Monitor the bundles regularly and turn them accordingly to facilitate even drying. They can take up to two weeks before they are completely dry depending on the warmth of your room. Once dry, separate the leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container. Keep the container from direct sunlight.
  • A different approach to air drying requires the use of paper bags or large grocery bags. Gather a handful of rosemary stems and place them loosely in a paper bag. There should be enough space between the sprigs to allow air circulation.
  • Improve ventilation by making some holes on the bag. Hang the bag in a cool and well-ventilated place with the top partially opened. Check periodically and turn the sprigs to ensure even drying. This approach prevents dust particles from setting on the sprigs but it slower. The leaves take more time to dry.

Important note: Do not hung rosemary outside or in an area that receives direct sunlight. Sun damages the flavor, aroma and texture. On the other hand, poorly ventilated areas create conditions that are suitable for mold formation.

How to Dry Rosemary in a Dehydrator

  • Drying rosemary in a dehydrator is very easy because its leaves are small and tough. Depending on your dehydrator, place enough sprigs on screens and trays (Use baking papers as lining material) or as required in a box-style dehydrator. Run the machine at 100 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours until the leaves are dry.
  • Check frequently to prevent over-drying.
  • Separate dry leaves from the stems and store them in an airtight container.

It is important to avoid drying rosemary together with other herbs because this leads to loss of natural flavor and aroma as a result of blending.

How to dry Rosemary in an Oven

  • Begin by preparing racks and lining the bottom of an oven with a baking sheet to ensure that small leaves that fall off during the drying process are captured. Place well-prepared sprigs on a parchment paper that is lined with a baking sheet. Make sure that they are not bulky and do not overlap so that they can fit between oven racks properly and dry evenly.
  • For a convection oven, set the temperatures at 100 degrees Fahrenheit and for a non-convection oven let the pivot light do the job.  An oven takes up to 8 hours to dry up herbs properly.
  • Check regularly to prevent over-drying.
  • Once dry, separate the leaves from the stems and preserve them in an airtight container.

Drying Rosemary in a Microwave Oven

  • Arrange a few completely dry rosemary sprigs between two paper towels placed on a microwave oven-friendly plate.
  • Transfer the plate into the microwave and set the device on high heat for about 3 minutes.
  • Check if the leaves are dry and brittle. If not, microwave for 30 or 45 more seconds.
  • Let cool and before storing in an air-tight container.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a sprig of rosemary?

A rosemary sprig is a small, young stem that features tiny needle-like leaves.

How does rosemary look like?

Rosemary is a shrub-like plant that features tiny, tough and needlelike leaves. The stems are rough and the leaves are evergreen. Its smell is almost similar to that of pine but it is characterized by notes of eucalyptus.

What does rosemary taste like?

Rosemary has a very intense pine-like flavor and should be used sparingly in cooking. Sometimes it can be overwhelming especially to unaccustomed people. The flavor can also suppress the taste of other herbs and spices. Therefore, it is important to follow the measurements provided in a recipe.

How do I preserve fresh rosemary?

As noted earlier, fresh rosemary can be preserved in a paper bag inside an airtight container and the container stored in the fridge for up to two weeks. However, the most reliable method for preserving fresh rosemary for a longer period is freezing. This has been explained in details in the article.

Do you have to dry rosemary before you use it?

 You do not have to dry rosemary before using it. In fact, depending on how rosemary is dried, fresh rosemary might have better flavor and aroma. It is also important to note that there are recipes that require dry rosemary and there are those that go well with fresh rosemary.

How long will dried rosemary keep?

 Dried rosemary can last for several months when preserved properly and stored in a cool, dry place. Dried rosemary lasts longer when it is preserved as whole leaves. Crumbled leaves lose flavor and aroma easily. They are suitable for immediate use.

How long does rosemary last out of the fridge?

This depends on the condition of your house. In warm houses, rosemary leaves will only last for about three days before they begin to dry up.

What is rosemary good for?

 What to do with rosemary: Rosemary is good for cooking, making rosemary infusions, roasting, preparing rosemary essential oil, and keeping flies among other insects away. It is rich in components that are essential for memory and remembrance.

How much is a sprig of rosemary?

 Rosemary sprigs are sold in bundles and the price varies from one location to another. Generally, rosemary is not an expensive herb. It grows in many regions around the world because it is highly adaptable to different climatic conditions. It is also one of the easiest herbs to grow in a kitchen garden. It is mostly propagated from stem cuttings. If you live in an area that receives extreme winters, plant rosemary in a pot and transfer it to the house during the winter season.

Can I substitute dried rosemary for fresh?

You can substitute dried rosemary for fresh. However, you will need to use up to three times more than your recipe requires. Dried herbs have concentrated flavor because they lose moisture during the drying process.

What are the substitutes for dried rosemary?

Besides fresh rosemary, thyme or savory can be used.



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