How to Dry Garden Herbs
If you've never dried your own herbs before, you should try it! Drying herbs is a pretty easy process, you don't need a lot of special equipment, it smells great, and the home dried herbs are full of color and flavor - delicious!
How to Dry Garden Herbs
Garden herbs are great additions to the garden. Not only are they great for companion planting and pest control, they're also fabulous to cook with. There are many ways to preserve them, but today we're going to learn about two easy ways to dry garden herbs for use later: hanging to dry and drying in the oven. Both techniques start the same: first, you have to get the herbs!
Herb Harvesting and Preparation Tips
Pick your herbs in the late morning, after the dew has had time to dry. Plants that are just about to flower are at their peak flavor so try to pick herbs right before they flower (if you want to dry the leaves). If you've never grown herbs before you might not know when they're about to flower, but after you've grown them for a while, you will know. In basil, for instance, the leaves start to bunch together and you can tell the plants will flower soon.
Some herbs are also grown for seeds, though, like dill and cilantro (coriander).If you want to harvest herbs for seeds, pick them as the leaves and seeds are turning brown, but before the seeds drop from the plants.
If your herbs are clean, and you grow them organically, washing is not necessary. But if the herbs are dirty or you've used chemicals, gently wash them first and then spread them out to dry on towels. Once they're dry, it's time to get busy.
Inspect the herbs and remove and dead, dying, or diseased looking leaves, and any insects, of course. Then decide which drying method to use.
How to Hang Dry Garden Herbs
Hanging herbs to dry has been the traditional method used to dry herbs. It's a very simple process. Gather herbs and tie them together. Then hang to dry in a well ventilated and warm area. Settlers traditionally hung herbs in the kitchen or attic.
To hang dry herbs, simply tie 4-6 sprigs of herbs together in a bundle with kitchen twine or a rubber band. As the herbs dry, they will shrink so use something that will be easy to tighten. Hanging works well for herbs that do not have a high moisture content like dill, thyme, sage, parsley, marjoram, cilantro, and rosemary.
Then insert the herbs in a brown paper bag, poke a few wholes in the bag, label the bag, and hang. The drying process should take 1-3 weeks. Once the leaves are brittle and crumbly, they're done!
Just crumble up your herbs right in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. They should keep nicely for 6-12 months.
How to Oven Dry Garden Herbs
To prevent mold, herbs with a higher moisture content like basil, oregano, and mint, should be dried faster. Some people dry these tender leaf herbs in a food dehydrator or a microwave, but I use my kitchen oven.
All you need to dry herbs in the oven is an oven and a baking sheet or parchment paper.
Like the hanging technique, the oven drying technique is also very simple. Just remove leaves from the stems and spread out on the baking sheet. Place them in a warm oven, (180 degrees or less) and leave them there. The drying process should take 2-4 hours - don't rush the process because when the leaves are dried too quickly they will burn and lose flavor.
As with the hanging method, herbs are dry when they are brittle and crumble easily. The picture above shows the stages basil leaves go through as they dry.
I love the little herb jars from Ball. Aren't they cute! Ball also sells just the shaker lids for use on any of their other regular mouth size jars, too. I was very happy to add a few of these herb tools to my canning collection this year. Too bad this computer doesn't have scratch and sniff, because the herbs I have pictured in these two jars smell divine!
For more information on drying garden herbs
Have you ever dried your own garden herbs? What's your favorite herb to dry and which technique do you use?
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