This easy guide with pictures shows how to dry bay leaves at home from the bay tree in your garden. Air drying bay leaves is by far the easiest and cheapest way however they can also be dried in the microwave and oven with all three methods given below.
Bay trees are a must for any garden. They can be pruned and shaped to your garden’s requirements and can even be grown in pots if you don’t have much space.
These aromatic trees are slow growing but they are definitely worth the investment as their leaves add so much to soups, stews and pasta sauces. See this guide to Growing Bay Trees for more information on planting, plant care and pruning.
Picking the Bay Leaves
It is best to wait until your new tree is at least a foot tall before picking leaves. Choose the largest mature leaves which are blemish free leaving the smaller leaves to grow.
To prevent damage to the tree it is best to cut the leaves close to the stem with sharp scissors. These Wiltshire Staysharp scissors are highly rated and come with their own sharpener. No need to worry about dull scissors again. (Paid link)
Drying Bay Leaves in the Microwave
Drying bay leaves in the microwave will retain more of the green color however the leaves can blister if heated for too long.
First wash then dry the bay leaves. Place in a single layer on a microwave safe ceramic plate. Microwave on high for 30 seconds then turn the leaves over. The leaves may pop during the first 30 seconds.
Microwave for a further 30 seconds then check to see if they break when bent. Continue heating in 30 second bursts checking each time until dry.
It can take up to 3 minutes in total but be aware that the longer you leave in the microwave the more chance of the leaves blistering. It may be best to leave the leaves to air dry after the first 2 minutes.
Cool the bay leaves completely before storing in an airtight container.
Drying Bay Leaves in the Oven
Line a baking tray with parchment or baking paper then preheat the oven to 212ºF (100ºC). Wash then dry the leaves then arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking tray.
Bake for 30 minutes then turn the leaves over. Bake for a further 30 minutes then check the leaves. They will break easily when fully dry. Return to the oven if necessary, then check every 10 minutes until dry. Leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
Air Drying Bay Leaves
This is the most cost-effective method. The quickest way to airdry bay leaves is by drying in a single layer on racks however you can dry bunches of leaves on a branch if you have a large bay tree to pick from. Simply hang in an area with good air circulation such as near an outside door until dry.
Tools and Materials Needed
- Bay Tree
- Drying Racks or a Bakers Cooling Rack – This enclosed collapsible mesh herb drying rack is great for drying herbs and is top rated on Amazon. (Paid link)
- Airtight Container
Time needed: 7 days and 15 minutes.
How to air dry bay leaves on racks.
- Cut then Wash the Bay Leaves
Cut the leaves with scissors close to the stem then place in a bowl. Cover the leaves with cold water then agitate to remove any dirt.
- Arrange the Leaves on Racks
Place the bay leaves either on drying racks or a cooling rack then leave in an area with good air circulation such as near an outside door.
- Leave to Dry
The bay leaves will take 1 to 2 weeks to dry depending on the warmth of the room and level of humidity. They are completely dry when the leaves break easily.
- Store and Label
Store in an airtight container then label with the date dried. Bay leaves will store for 12 months when stored in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. They will lose their potency after that time.
These dissolvable food labels are great for canning, freezing and drying storage containers and jars. They wash off in seconds leaving no residue and are highly rated. (Paid link)
If you don’t have drying racks or a cooling rack then place the leaves on a tray lined with paper towels then turn the leaves every second day so they dry evenly.
Drying bay leaves is a great way to preserve this herb for cooking. All three methods of drying in the microwave, oven and air-drying bay leaves will work successfully. It is simply a matter of personal preference.
Do you have a herb garden? You might like these guides to drying Thyme, Oregano or Rosemary. For more information on preserving food from the garden see this Food Preservation guide or this Homesteading guide to get more out of your home.
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