Sage leaves can be dried and stored for as long as one year. Drying herb leaves reduces some of their flavor, but sage is an exception to this rule as it actually becomes more flavorful after drying. Sage belongs to the mint family and has a strong taste that is widely used in cooking, especially for fatty meats like duck, pork, and goose. The leaves and flowers of this plant are also quite attractive, making this a popular ornamental plant as well. The following will provide you some tips on how to effectively dry your sage leaves.
Sage leaves, like most other fresh herbs, are at their most flavorful when the plant is just blooming. You can retain more flavors by harvesting the leaves at this stage. However, if you can't wait for the blooms, you can harvest and dry sage at any time during the growing season.
Choose a sunny day for harvesting, but avoid wilting by plucking the leaves when the weather is not too hot. Pluck large branches from the plant. Inspect the leaves for any signs of disease or pest infestation, and discard any affected ones. Also, remove any leaves that look wilted or dry.
Preparing the Leaves for Drying
Wash the leaves thoroughly in a colander and let the water drain out. Then, pat them dry with a cloth or paper napkin. You can either spread the leaves out on a ventilated surface, or tie them up and hang them for drying. If you want to tie the leaves, use a string or piece of floss to tie some branches together. Sage leaves contain a relatively large percentage of oil, so they may take longer to dry than you expect. It is best to tie a few branches at a time to speed up the process.
This method requires that a bunch of sage branches tied together at the bottom. Place the bunch in a paper bag so the bottoms of the stems are at the opening. Tie the paper bag around the stems with a rubber band or a string. Use a fork or scissors to poke some holes in the bag to give the leaves sufficient air circulation. This will also help protect against mold. Finally, hang the bag upside down from a nail or a rack. Choose a drier area in your home to hang it, such as a shed or the garage.
Tip: I personally use the 'brown bag with holes' method for drying herbs including sage, and it is foolproof.
Using a Food Dehydrator
A food dehydrator can make your job very easy. Spread the sage leaves on a drying rack and place it in the food dehydrator. Avoid drying other foods at the same time, as the pungent odor of sage may seep into these foods. Inspect the leaves every couple of hours, and remove when crumbly. A dehumidifier also works in the same way, but the drying process will be much slower.
Storing Dry Sage Leaves
Discard any dried leaves that show signs of mold. Then, rub the dry sage over a sieve and collect it in a plate. You can also store the dried leaves whole and use them as needed. All dried sage should be placed and stored in airtight containers.