Drying herbs can be a simple way to maximize their usefulness -- herbs have a stronger flavor dried than fresh, and they keep for much longer. Parsley is a relatively robust herb that can stand up to drying by air, by dehydrator or even in the microwave.
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Preparing the Parsley
Pick the fresh parsley early in the morning, if you grow your own. The leaves are most flavorful before the sun heats the plant too much.
Wash the stalks gently in cool water. Shake them and then carefully towel them as dry as possible. This speeds up the dehydration process.
Remove any damaged or discolored leaves.
This simple, low-tech system requires no special equipment but takes considerably longer than the other methods.
Tie the parsley into small bunches. The smaller the bunches, the more air can circulate around the leaves and the shorter the drying time.
Hang the parsley bunches upside down in a dry area. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, drying herbs outdoors can leach some of their color and flavor, so hang them indoors if possible.
Check the leaves for dryness after several days by crumbling them between your fingers. When the leaves crumble easily, the parsley is finished drying.
Drying in a Dehydrator
If you have a food dehydrator, you can use it to dry parsley and other herbs. Check the instructions for your model for specific drying times and safety guidelines.
Always follow the safety guidelines in the dehydrator's user manual. Keep the dehydrator out of the reach of children while in use.
Heat the dehydrator to the setting the instructions recommend for drying herbs. This is probably the lowest setting, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Arrange the parsley in single layers on one or more of the dehydrator trays. Place the trays inside the dehydrator per your model's instructions.
Dry the parsley in the dehydrator until the leaves crumble easily between your fingers. Depending on the model, this may require anywhere from 2 hours to 24.
Drying in the Microwave
For smaller quantities of parsley or if you don't have a dehydrator, a microwave can do the trick just as well and in a fraction of the time.
Test-dry a stalk or two of parsley to determine the right drying time, as microwaves vary. Place one or two stalks on a plate, and microwave them for 20 seconds. Remove them from the microwave and allow them to cool. Check the leaves by crumbling them between your fingers. If they don't crumble easily, return them to the microwave for another 10 seconds, and repeat the process until the leaves are fully dry.
Spread the rest of the parsley on the plate in a single layer, and return the plate to the microwave. Cook the parsley for the total length of time the test stalks needed to dry. Remove the plate from the microwave.
Allow the leaves to cool, then check them for dryness. Return them to the microwave for additional cooking in 10-second increments if necessary.
Storing the Parsley
For the longest-lasting, most flavorful parsley, store the dried stalks and leaves whole in a dark-colored jar. Keep the jar in a cool storage area, and use the parsley within six to 12 months. Crumble leaves immediately before use for the freshest taste.
Dried herbs are several times stronger than fresh herbs, so if you're substituting dried parsley for fresh, use 1/4 to 1/3 the amount called for in the recipe.
Add dried parsley earlier in the cooking process than you would add fresh parsley, so it has time to release its flavor into the dish.