Sage is a perennial herb. With proper care, you can have several harvests within the year, however, there are some off-seasons. Drying sage enables you to store it for long periods allowing you to preserve the surplus when the herb is in season so that you have some readily available for use even when it is not in season. Below are 4 easy methods and the specific steps on how to dry sage for storage at home. But first, let’s take a look at how to prepare sage for drying.
How To Dry Sage: Preparing Sage For Drying
After harvesting sage, cut off the stems and branches. Sort through the leaves to identify any that are damaged, soiled or yellow for disposal. It is crucial to only dry healthy sage leaves or else the dried herb will spoil easily or not taste right. Also, inspect the leaves for any insects, eggs, or larvae. Bugs like to crawl and web on sage leaves and also lay their eggs.
Clean the leaves with cool, running water. You can put them in a colander or hold them in your hands as you clean them. Once done cleaning, shake off the excess water and place the leaves on a clean, dry towel or paper towel. Blot away any dampness and transfer the leaves to a second, clean dry towel or paper towel.
How To Dry Sage: 4 Methods of Drying
1. Hang to Dry
This is a natural method that preserves the nutrient content of leaves. However, it is slower than other methods discussed below. It also requires that the leaves are hung in an area with adequate air circulation to prevent mold growth.
What You Need
- Clean sage leaves
- Rubber band or string
- Paper bag
- Cut each rubber band into two pieces or cut a string into several 2-inch pieces.
- Pick eight clean sage leaves and bundle them up.
- Use the rubber bands or strings to firmly tie each herb bundle at the base of the stems. Ensure to leave a piece of the string or rubber band hanging to allow enough room for hanging the sage.
- Take the paper bag and puncture several holes on the sides. The holes promote adequate airflow to the leaves. Do not use a plastic bag as it retains moisture causing molds.
- Insert the bundled leaves in the bag and open the base.
- Hang the leaves in the bag in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight. Preferably, hang them indoors to preserve the sage flavor and color. Do not hang them in areas prone to moisture like near a sink, dishwasher, or stove.
- Ensure to check the leaves every other day to ensure they are drying evenly. Also, turn the leaves around to ensure all of them get adequate air supply.
- Allow 7-10 days for the leaves to dry completely. You will know they are completely dry if they are crispy and crumble easily between your fingers.
- Put the dry sage leaves in an airtight container for storage.
2. Food Dehydrator
This is a quick and reliable method when drying sage. It works well even when you have a lot of sage to dry but you will need to dry it in different batches. Also, do not dry it in the dehydrator alongside other fruits or herbs as it will get the flavors mixed up.
What You Need
- Clean and sorted sage
- Food dehydrator
- Preheat the dehydrator between 200- and 230-degrees Fahrenheit. The relatively low temperatures lower the risk of the sage cooking or burning.
- Spread out the clean sage on the dehydrator. Allow ample spaces between leaves for adequate aeration.
- Check the dehydrator manual for a tentative timeline of how long the leaves should take to dry. Typically, it may take 1 to 4 hours. Check the leaves every 30 minutes.
- Once they are dry, remove them from the dehydrator and allow them to cool. Then collect them for storage in an airtight container.
Drying sage leaves in the oven is a quick process. However, since the oven operates at higher temperatures than a dehydrator, there is a risk of burning the sage leaves. Therefore, you need to control the oven temperatures and keep a close eye on the leaves as they dry.
What You Need
- Clean sage
- Parchment paper
- Oven tray
- Preheat the oven to a low temperature between 75- and 82-degrees Fahrenheit.
- Lay parchment paper on the oven tray.
- Spread out the sage leaves on the parchment paper ensuring the leaves do not touch or overlap.
- Put the leaves in the oven.
- If you are using an electric oven, prop open the door to allow for adequate air circulation. If you are using a gas oven do not leave the door ajar as it causes gas to circulate into the kitchen. However, open the oven door briefly every 5 minutes to allow for circulation.
- The sage leaves will take about one hour to dry. Keep checking on the sage every 15 minutes to ensure it is drying evenly.
- Once dry, remove the leaves and allow them to cool.
- Put them in an airtight container.
Using the microwave is the quickest method of drying sage. Since the microwave operates at high temperatures, the herbs are prone to burning. Or, you may over-dry them stripping the sage of its flavor and nutrients.
What you Need
- Clean sage leaves
- Parchment paper
- Microwavable plate
- Lay a parchment paper on a microwavable plate.
- Spread out the sage leaves on the parchment paper and use another parchment to cover the leaves.
- Set the oven on high for 15 seconds.
- Remove the sage leaves, turn them over and return to the microwave for 30 seconds.
- Once again, remove the leaves from the microwave turn them over and put them back in the microwave for another 30 seconds.
- Repeat step five 2-3 times. Each time you remove the sage leaves from the microwave observe whether they have dried. It may take 2-3 minutes in total for the leaves to dry completely.
- Once they are dry, remove them from the microwave, allow them to dry, and then store them in an airtight container.
Should I Store Dried Sage Leaves Whole, Crumbled, or Ground?
Whether to store the dried sage leaves whole, crumbled, or ground is a matter of preference and dependent on the purpose you intend to use the sage for.
For instance, if your main purpose is burning sage, whole sage leaf is more suitable for making a smudge stick. Also, whole leaves retain the flavor profile for longer. Therefore, for use in recipes, store the leaves and crumble or grind them just before using them in recipes.
If making tea, ground sage leaves are the best option. Crumble the leaves by rubbing them between your fingers. Then, put them in a pestle and motor and grind them.
How To Dry Sage: Conclusion
Drying sage is an effective method of preservation. Dried sage can last up to six months when stored in the freezer. It can be used in a wide range of recipes. Choose one of the methods above to dry your sage and enjoy!