How to get the best flavour out of home-dried herbs

Author: Hugh Wennerbom
Photography: Lauren Haire

I've got a surplus of herbs in the garden; is there any trick to getting the best flavour out of them when I'm drying them at home?
If you grow your own herbs don't waste their summer abundance. Especially if you have thyme, rigani (Greek oregano), rosemary or savory. For year-round supply, and a subtle flavour difference, dry your late-summer prunings in a cool, dry place (the garage works). Simply bunch, tie and hang. If there's plenty of airflow they'll be dry and ready to store in 10 days or so. Before you start, though, check the forecast: a dry week is key. A week of rain and humidity in autumn will give a mouldy taint to your drying herbs. As a young 'un cooking in a fancy Sydney restaurant, I recall being shocked to be told by a senior chef, just returned from a stage at Roger VergĂ©'s Moulins de Mougins in the south of France, that the great man would pick thyme weekly from his vegetable plot adjacent to the restaurant and dry it for a week above the kitchen's ovens. Believing that fresh is always best, I stammered, "But why?" His reply: "Because he prefers the flavour." Thyme is my favourite herb, and at the farm I now have a constant supply of dried stalks of my own on a kitchen shelf.

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