Friday 10 May 2024

the dehydrating fridge

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 Is it a confusing title or have you noticed that your refrigerator can be used for more than just cooling? I've been using it to dry herbs for years, starting at least two decades back. As far as I know, it is my original idea and to date I haven't come across this tip anywhere.

I've been meaning to share it in my blog for ages, even took sets of pics at different times. Yet the occasion just never arose and several of the old pics have been discarded for newer ones.

So here's presenting five things I dry in the fridge - four herbs and bread. Good thing I took the above pic and noticed that this is all that remains of my dried coriander leaves. Time to stock up for the monsoons.

Please note that except for the 1st and last pic, all others have been taken a while back.

1. Ajwain / Oregano leaves - About two years back I had consulted some resources and had shared how to dry the leaves following a video. However I used the microwave instead of a pan. Yet, this was time-consuming especially if one has gathered a lot of leaves. Hence I went back to my tried and tested method of fridge-drying. I was skeptical at first since the leaves are thick and have a high water content. But it worked! Though it does take many more days than other herbs, but I don't have to put in any extra effort.

Above you see one twig which was washed and the leaves separated and placed over a kitchen napkin/absorbent paper. I now include the stems, breaking them into tiny pieces. Eventually they dry out and I store them in an air-tight jar in the fridge itself (just to be on the safe side). When needed, crumble and sprinkle. The 'harvest' I showed here is already drying in the fridge.

2. Dhaniya / Coriander leaves
Clean the leaves and remove stems. Spread on an absorbent sheet on a tray. Leave it in the fridge for a couple of days to dry till crisp. For these, again, I simply store them in an air-tight container and crush only when needed. I need this dried form only for a couple of months when good fresh coriander is not available.

3. Pudina/Mint leaves -
The process is again the same, although the starting pic is not of Day 1. It was already in the fridge and I pulled out the tray to take a pic. For dried mint, I grind or crush into powder since I use it a lot and make it in relatively large amounts. It works nicely as a substitute for kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), too.

4. Curry / Sweet Neem leaves - In Delhi, it hasn't always been easy to procure curry leaves - a must in South Indian dishes. Which is why I always tried to have a potted plant in the balcony. Yet just before spring, the leaves/twigs, unless plucked, would just wither away giving way to new sprigs. I would much prefer to store them for use as needed.
I found many ways to store leaves which included frying them in oil, etc. None of these suited me - either their texture changed or the aroma was missing. That's when I tried my dehydrating method. Over time, this is the process I have fine-tuned....
Entire branches snipped off (or store-bought) and washed. Leave to dry in a colander for a few hours, under a fan (sometimes I stuff it in the fridge itself). Remove leaves and follow the same process as previously described. Initially they require a larger flat surface to hasten drying, but eventually they can be transferred to a bowl till completely dry and crisp. Store in air-tight bottle. Stays fresh for ages and when used for tempering, the aroma is almost similar to that of fresh leaves. They can be crushed into powder, too.

5. Bread Pieces - I make bread crumbs at home using the same process. It takes care of unused slices, too. 

Simply break the slices into large chunks, spread on a tray (no need for absorbent paper either) and allow to dry in fridge for a couple of days. Move the chunks around everyday so that they are all exposed. Again they can be transferred to a bowl when sufficiently dry, and then ground into powder for bread crumbs.
I like to coat my veg patties with two layers of fresh bread crumbs. Often some of these ground crumbs are left over (as seen in the bowl placed over the tray). These, too, can be dried in the fridge and later ground to finer powder and stored in air-tight container.

So this is my story of how my fridge does extra work to keep us stocked with dried herbs, etc.

Please note that if you live in a high humidity area, the drying time may increase, but the effort will not.

To recap -
1. Wash, remove stems, leave to dry under a fan for some time if you wish. It speeds up the next step.
2. Spread out the leaves over some absorbent sheet on a flat tray. Try not to use fibrous material coz as the leaves dry they tend to get caught in the fibres.
3. Place in fridge for a few days, depending on the leaves. Rustle them occasionally to allow equal chance for exposure.
4. Once they are a bit dry, you can conveniently shift them into a smaller container or bowl for further drying.
5. When dried to a crisp, store in air-tight jars as is or after grinding to powder.

This may read like a lot of work, but it is the least labour-intensive method and the dried leaves retain their aroma. The green colour is also closer to the original than store-bought herb powders or if we dry them in sunlight. See, that's another advantage of drying in the fridge - no need to cover against dust or bugs!

How do you dry your herbs or make bread crumbs? 


  1. That’s really interesting, thanks. I’ll read it again carefully.

  2. I had no idea that fridges reduce humidity. I think the one we have is a bit failing in that department. My mom dries herbs on newspapers on top of furniture and the air here is so dry, they don't need to stay long. Thank you for the idea! I'll tell my mom about it too, maybe she might give it a try.
    Speaking of bread crumbs, we always buy them, but if we were to make them at home, I'd toast the bread a bit to give it more flavour :)

    1. Lavi, leave anything open in the fridge and the top layer will start crusting. If kept covered, it will remain fine. Would love to know if your Mom tries it. 🍃❤️

      Hmm, i hadn't realised toasted bread crumbs give flavour.I had tried it once (with some 'burnt' toast, and you can guess the result, LOL). However, I should've mentioned that I use these crumbs as binding in the patties. For crust, I dip in slurry and use freshly ground bread, twice.

  3. I had no idea I could use my fridge for drying, very interesting post thank you, I will be trying this with my mint.

    1. Would love to hear your feedback and verdict when you give it a whirl, Margaret 🍃❤️
      About a week back I had emailed you. Hope the message didn't go into the spam folder.

  4. Bardzo ciekawe informacje :)

    1. Thank you, Maryla. 🍃❤️ Hope you give it a try.