How to dry lemon balm – here are the easiest methods for drying lemon balm at home.
With more and more people now opting to use alternatives to traditional western medicine, people have looked into using and harnessing the full potential of plants to serve the same purposes as those artificially made. One of these is lemon balm.
What is Lemon Balm?
Lemon balm is actually an herb that belongs to the mint family. The leaves are packed with a number of healing properties that help people combat insomnia, anxiety, cold sores, stress, indigestion, and even dementia. It is also known to inhibit bacteria and virus development as well as provide a calming and sedative effect to users.
The Easiest Methods for Drying Lemon Balm
Drying Lemon Balm in a Dehydrator
Thoroughly clean your lemon balm.
Prepare a small basin of water, the size should be big enough to accommodate all your lemon balm and stems and allow them to move freely enough that water can easily pass through each balm. Run the lemon balm leaves and stems under the faucet, and gently shake each one to help release any unwanted debris that could be stuck on the surface. You can also use a sprayer to do this but make sure the pressure isn’t so high that it can potentially take out the leaves from the stems.
Once done, dunk the leaves and stems in the basin of water and start swishing them around. You can manually pick out the visible debris or inspect the balms until you’re certain that it’s clean.
Once the rinsing is done, shake the stems and leaves off to get rid of excess water. Next, lay each piece on a clean dish towel and cover it with another clean towel to create a sandwich effect to absorb the extra moisture. If you think this didn’t work as well, you can use paper towels to fully dry the lemon balm leaves and stems.
Lay them on the dehydrator.
Start lining the lemon balm on the bottom of the dehydrator tray. Make sure that you do not overcrowd the tray with too many lemon balm leaves and stems. Doing so will prevent your dehydrator from drying the lemon balm properly and risk having a few stems or leaves that are still fresh or contain moisture.
You know you’re doing ok when you see a thin layer of lemon balm on the bottom of your dehydrator tray and still see the bottom base because there are a few small spaces in between the lemon balms you’ve laid down.
Since lemon balm is relatively tender, it would be best to dehydrate it at a low temperature of approximately 95 F.
The whole dehydration process should take about 12 to 18 hours.
Drying Lemon Balm in the Oven
Can you dry lemon balm in the oven? Basically, you can. As mentioned above, lemon balm is a very tender herb and the oven or microwave is not the best way to dry tender herbs. But it is possible, just be careful, set the temperature as low as possible, and check the lemon balm drying process at least twice per hour.
Here is a good post on drying herbs (including lemon balm) in the oven.
READ: Drying Herbs in the Oven: Everything You Need to Know
Air Drying Lemon Balm
Air drying lemon balm will take more time to complete but the results are just as good.
Clean your lemon balms – hold your lemon balms by the stem in small batches. Run them under a good water flow under the faucet or using your kitchen spray. If you prefer, you can use your garden hose or shower head as long as you maintain the pressure and avoid damaging the lemon balms in the process. Clean each one thoroughly and make sure there is no leftover debris present. Especially make sure that there are no insects lingering in between the stems and leaves. Once rinsed, put these in a clean colander to start draining the excess liquid.
Fully dry the surface – using a clean towel and paper towels, carefully pat each leaf and stem dry. Lay each one flat on the clean towel and pat it dry with a paper towel. Don’t forget to flip it on the other side and pat that side dry as well. Remove as much surface moisture as you can until it feels dry to the touch.
Select the ideal spot – air-drying lemon balm requires the following: a warm but dry environment that is deprived of direct sunlight. This can be anything like a kitchen pantry, cabinet or cupboard, or even the garage or garden shed. There is always the option to air dry your lemon balm outdoors, hanging by the porch, but you may lose some color and flavor especially when it’s openly exposed to the elements.
Prepare the lemon balm for drying – take about 5 to 7 stems full of lemon balm. Tie them up as you would a bouquet of flowers. Do not make a thick bunch to ensure good airflow. Make sure to leave extra string hanging on the end that you can use to suspend the bunch. Tie them on a rod or clothesline with ample space between lemon balm bunches.
Leave to dry – there is no exact time frame on when each bunch will fully dry. Air circulation, heat, and humidity will play a key factor in the process. If you have ideal conditions, you can probably see your lemon balms fully dry in a week. Otherwise, it can take longer than that, maybe up to a month tops. Apart from regularly checking on the visual appearance of your lemon balms, you can check if it’s fully dried by trying to crumble one of the leaves. Take a piece that’s in an inner spot since that will take longer to dry than the ones that are fully exposed. If it crumbles easily, your lemon balm is ready to be used or stored for flavor preservation.
Here is a great tip about drying lemon balm.
Storing Dried Lemon Balm
Once you’ve successfully dried the amount of lemon balm you want, you’ll need to store them properly to ensure proper preservation that will prevent it from losing flavor. Keep in mind that there are 2 things you need to keep away from your dried lemon balms: air and light exposure.
If you plan to constantly use your lemon balm and you’ve made a bit of a big batch, it would be best to store these in small containers. Doing so will allow you easy access to your lemon balm without unnecessarily exposing the rest of the batch to air every time you open the container. Either use small mason jars or resealable plastic bags. For small portions, it would be best to use the resealable bags and store them all in an airtight container for easy reference and storage.
Avoid exposing your dried lemon balm to direct sunlight. It is best to store these in a cool, dry, and dark place such as your cupboards or pantry shelf.
Extra tip: if you do plan to use these ground or crumbled, it would be best recommended not to store them in that state. Whole leaves or plants retain maximum flavor and aroma that deteriorates after it has been crumbled since it will allow the stored essence to seep and dry out. So just grab a few pieces and crumble or ground them when you’re ready to use them so you get the best possible quality with all the lemon balm goodness.
Thank you for the image: the spruce