Rosemary is a delicious, savory, aromatic herb, that works well in all kinds of dishes, from lamb right through to salad dressings.
If you live in a temperate climate, rosemary will grow as an evergreen allowing you can harvest it all year round. Whereas in colder climates, rosemary may not survive the winter or you may simply want to gift it to your friends and family.
So….once you’ve grown this superb culinary plant, you might be wondering how to dry rosemary in order to preserve it for winter use or package it up and gift it.
Well, here’s our 6 step Rosemary guide from harvest to store cupboard.
How To Harvest Rosemary
If you are growing your own rosemary, you need to know how to harvest it before you learn how to dry rosemary.
Given rosemary is a hardy herb, harvesting a little at a time bit won’t harm the plant. If you just want to use a sprig or two, you can harvest the top few inches of the plant at any time. If you have several plants, you can just keep harvesting it this way and the plants will continue to grow for the duration of your growing season.
I like to think of it as if I’m just cutting back the shrub, but just a little at a time, as I need it. Harvesting frequently in this manner will also keep the plant healthy and full of young tender shoots.
However, if you want to dry your rosemary, you will need to harvest it a little differently.
If you harvest carefully, you may be able to get several cuttings throughout the growing season. If you take no more than 2/3 of your plant early in the season, it should have enough time to regrow before the season is over.
Rosemary, along with most other herbs, will taste best just before the herb begins to flower. This is when the oils are at their peak and will cause the herb to be the most flavorful.
For even better results, harvest rosemary in the morning, after the dew has dried but before the sun gets hot. The stems are woody so you may need to use pruners to harvest them, especially for mature plants.
Just take your pruners and snip the stem near the base of the plant or to the desired pruning length. Do bear in mind that rosemary does bruise easily just remember to be gentle as you prune and handle this plant.
How To Dry Fresh Rosemary
There are a number of methods to dry fresh rosemary. You could set a sprig or two on your countertop for a few days and it will dry by itself. But if you really want a good quality dried rosemary or a larger quantity of dried rosemary, you will probably want to find an alternative method of how to dry rosemary. So let’s explore a few alternatives.
One means of drying rosemary is to use a food dehydrator.
- Wash your rosemary stems and pat them dry with a paper towel
- Lay the stems out in a single layer on the trays of your dehydrator
- Follow the dehydrator directions from the manufacturer
- Once the stems are dry, you can pull the leaves off and grind them then store them whole and hang them in a bunch if you prefer
Hanging Rosemary To Dry Naturally
My preferred method is the traditional hanging. This slow dry process allows me to retain as much of the natural oils as possible and I feel it adds to the finished flavor as they mature.
- Tie the sprigs into small bundles
- Find a warm, dry area out of direct light, I use my potting shed if the weather permits
- Hang them upside down from a rafter or even a clothes hanger
- Drying should take around 14-21 days, any longer and your room is too cool and risks mold build-up. As it dries, it will give off its beautiful scent.
- Once the leaves begin to drop, the sprigs are dry
- Remove the needles by rubbing the stems over of a bag or bowl to catch the falling material
If you need a faster means of drying your rosemary, you may want to dry drying them in the microwave or in your oven.
Drying Herbs In Microwave
There are pros and cons to drying herbs in the microwave. For starters, the microwave can dry herbs very quickly and evaporate some of the flavorsome oils.
Rinse your herbs and be sure to remove all the excess moisture. You don’t want to cook your herbs my mistake, you want them to dry.
How to dry rosemary in the microwave
- Arrange 4 to 5 sprigs between two paper towels in the microwave
- Microwave on high for two or three minutes
- If the herbs are not dry and brittle, you can microwave them again, for 30 seconds at a time. Check them regularly so they don’t scorch
- Once the rosemary sprigs are dry, carefully place them on a rack to cool
- Store your dried rosemary in an airtight container
Dry Herbs In The Oven
If you don’t have, or don’t want to use, a microwave, you can dry your herbs in the oven. The process is simple.
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Fahrenheit or 82 degrees Celsius
- Place your sprigs of rosemary on a cookie sheet in a single layer
- Bake the herbs for two to four hours
- The herbs are dry when they are easy to crumble
- Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and allow it to cool
- Store your dried rosemary in an airtight container
Oven-dried herbs may lose a bit of their flavor, so you may need to use more of the herb than when they are dried using other methods. To keep the favor the most potent, do not crush or grind the leaves until you are ready to use them. For best results, use your dried herbs within one year of drying.
Rosemary stems are stiff and woody, but the ‘needles’ or leaves of the plant are softer and more pliable when the herb is fresh. When dried, however, the leaves become stiff and hard, so you may want to chop, mince, or grind them into a powder to make them easier to use in your cooking.
How To Store Rosemary
Dried rosemary needs to be stored in an airtight container such as a mason jar, plastic container, or even sealed in mylar bags.
Store it in a cool, dark place away from moisture and humidity. It is best to keep the leaves whole until you are ready to use them. However, if storage space is an issue, you can grind or crush your dried rosemary into a powder so that it takes up less space. It may not be as potent as when it is stored whole.
Alternatively, you can freeze rosemary right on the stem. Or mix your dried rosemary with a little oil and freeze it in ice cube trays for making dressing and sauces.
How Long Does Rosemary Last
Your fresh cut rosemary will last around ten to fourteen days when it is stored in the refrigerator. On the other hand, dried rosemary, when stored properly, can last anywhere from one to three years. Over time, though, it will lose its potency.
How To Crush Rosemary
You can crush or grind small amounts of dried rosemary with a mortar and pestle. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, you can crush dried rosemary with a rolling pin. Just put the leaves of the dried rosemary into a sturdy food storage bag and run the rolling pin over the leaves to crush them.
Fresh Rosemary Vs Dried
Although rosemary resembles a pine tree with its needle-like leaves, it’s actually a member of the mint family. With a pungent aromatic flavor, it’s great with all kinds of poultry, pasta, potato, and pork dishes.
To use fresh rosemary, simply wash off the sprigs and pat them down with a paper towel to remove excess water. Strip the needles off the brown stem and finely chop them and add to your dish.
Alternatively you can use entire sprigs for roasting or as a bouquet garnish.
Fresh rosemary flowers can also be used to flavor dishes or can be crystallized with sugar and eggs to be used on pastries and baked goods. Rosemary is very strong and should be used sparingly, especially when it is dried. You can use fresh or dried rosemary in the same way.
However you dry it, rosemary works best when the leaves (or needles) have been crushed, minced, or chopped. Leaving the leaves whole can make them tough or woody during the cooking process and not everyone will like chewing on them. If a recipe asks for fresh rosemary, you can substitute dried rosemary instead without any real detrimental effect on the final result.
The rule of thumb for substituting dried rosemary for fresh is to use one teaspoon of dried herb for every tablespoon of fresh herb that the recipe calls for.
Just remember that dried herbs are more intense than fresh, so you will need less dried rosemary than you would use if you were using fresh rosemary.
How To Dry Rosemary Conclusion
So we have explored how to dry rosemary so you can enjoy an all-year-round supply. Remember, each method has its own merits whether you just need a quick batch or if you prefer to take the slow dry approach for optimum flavor.
The most important thing is to be sure your rosemary is dry before you seal it in jars to prevent the risk of rot, mold, or general deterioration. If you follow our guide you will have long-lasting delicious herbs for your kitchen, and to gift to your loved ones.