You can use your homegrown herbs for many ways things you know how to dry herbs. You can use dry herbs to make herbal medicines, soaps, teas, or tasty seasoning blends. All you need is an easy guide to learn how to harvest and dry herbs.
Harvest Your Herbs
Annual herbs such as anise, basil, dill and summer savory are usually cut at ground level. Perennial herbs like mint, chives, fennel and tarragon are normally cut about a third of the way down, gathering the main stem along with the side branches.
- Wait until your herbs are just about ready to flower before you cut them. This is when they'll have the best flavor.
- Harvest them while they are at their peak, typically during the early morning hours.
- Cut them while they're still damp with dew and before the sun has caused them to droop.
How to Prepare Herbs for Drying
Once you've harvested the herbs you wish to dry, you need to prepare them. This step is important for any dry herb process since you don't want to let freshly cut herbs lie around, especially not in the sun. Sun-dried herbs will lose much of their flavor from the bleaching of the sun. The herb colors will fade significant.
- Gently wash the herbs under cold running water.
- Shaky the water from the herbs very gently so as not to bruise the plants.
- You can hang them upside down to dry off or place on paper towel to blot the remaining moisture.
- Once dry, separate the leaves and flowers from the stems if you like.
- Discard any damaged leaves, flowers or stems. You only want to use the best quality herbs for the best results.
How to Dry Herbs Yourself in a Dehydrator
The easiest way to dry herbs is with a dehydrator. This is always the quickest way. Drying herbs with a dehydrator ensures you end up with the highest quality as possible since you can control the air circulation and temperature. These two factors determine the quality of your dried herbs. You'll need an electric dehydrator with a maximum temperature setting if 125°F for high humidity regions.
- Set dehydrator temperature between 95°F to 115°F. If humidity is an issue in your region, bump the temperature up 125°F .
- Spread prepared herbs onto the drying racks, making sure all the plants lie flat on the surface and aren't overlapping.
- Set a timer for one hour. If the stems still bend the herbs aren't dry.
- Return to dehydrator for another hour.
- Check again and repeat timed drying until the stems break easily and the leaves and flowers crumble.
How to Dry Herbs in Paper Bag for Air Drying
You may prefer air drying for herbs, with strong stems, such as rosemary or sage. These herbs are not as delicate or tender like mint or basil. The method requires a dry warm area with good ventilation. You will need some type of wire or clothesline.
- Lunch size paper bags
- Clothesline inside home
- Gather prepared herbs into bunches.
- Cut about 8" to 12" length, depending on size and thickness of stems.
- Wrap the twine around the stems, close to the foliage and secure by tying the two ends together
- Place each bunch inside its own paper bag so the herbs are upside down.
- Fold the top of each bag over.
- Use clothespins to hang the bags on a line in a dark, warm, well-ventilated area, taking care to space them out so the air can circulate around them.
- Keep the temperature in the drying area between 70°F and 80°F.
- The leaves will be dry in about one to two weeks.
Instructions if Leaves and Flowers Are Removed
If you have already removed the leaves and flowers during prep, you can try this method for air drying:
- Spread the individual pieces on a screen or cheesecloth.
- Keep them in a dark, warm area until they have dried completely.
How to Dry Herbs in Your Oven
You can also dry herbs in an oven. Many people prefer this method because it is faster, and it also protects your herbs from mold and bugs.
- Cookie sheet
- Paper towel (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°F.
- Spread a layer of paper towels onto the cookie sheet.
- Spread the leaves out onto the paper towel. Leaves shouldn't touch.
- You can use a single layer or add another layer of paper towel and leaves (up to three or four layers).
- Place the sheet in the oven.
- Check the leaves periodically to prevent them from over drying.
- They should be completely dry within two to four hours, depending on their original water content.
How to Dry Herbs in a Microwave
Microwaving provides an even faster way to dry herbs. Keep in mind, you don't want to cook the herbs, you just want to dry them for storage and future use.
- Paper plates (plain, not wax coated)
- Spread the herbs onto a paper plate.
- Microwave them for 30 seconds on high.
- Check the herbs to see how dry they are, and turn them over or stir them a bit.
- Continue microwaving in 30-second intervals, checking the leaves to see how dry they are.
- Depending on the size of the particular herbs you're drying, they should dry properly in one to three minutes.
How to Store Your Dried Herbs
You want to store your dried herbs properly to preserve the flavor and color. You can store your herbs either whole or crushed.
Crushed or Whole?
Some herbalists crumble the herbs after drying and then store them. However, other herbalists feel this can cause the herbs to degrade much faster It's often recommended to keep herbs whole until time of use. You can try both ways to see which method works best for your needs. However, seeds should always be stored whole and crushed prior to using.
Select an Air-Tight Container
Dried leaves need to be stored in air-tight containers. Canning jars work well, but opaque jars are even better since they don't allow sunlight to degrade the herbs. Wood, paper or plastic containers are not recommended for long-term storage because they can absorb the oils and scent of the herbs stored in them.
Check Frequently During the First Week
When you first place the herbs into their jars, check them every day for about a week to make sure there is no remaining moisture that may cause mold. Moisture will form on the inside of closed jars if the herbs are not thoroughly dried. If you see moisture, immediately remove the herbs and repeat the drying method that you used prior to storage. When the herbs are completely dry, store them once more in dry jars in a cool, dry, dark place.
List of Best Herbs to Dry
While fresh herbs are a culinary favorite, However, dried herbs are a gardener's favorite since all those wonderful herbal flavors can be preserved for winter use and beyond. Another reason to dry your herbs is the delicious fact that dried herbs are two to three times more flavorful and potent than fresh herbs. You can dry any herb, but some of the most commonly dried herbs include:
- Bay leaf
- Fenugreek leaves
- Lemon balm
Tips for Drying Herbs
You can get great results when drying herbs by making sure you choose only the very best herbs from your garden to dry. Pick herbs before they bloom since this is the height of their flavor. Make sure you test each batch by crumbling a few leaves in your hang. A dried herb should easily break apart into many pieces. If the tested herb is flexible and doesn't break apart, you need to dry it longer, but don't over dry. With a little practice, you'll soon know exactly how long to dry each herb.
Dried Herbs Become Cherished Culinary Treasures
Properly stored, whole herbs can last for up to one to three years while ground herbs can last a year or more before losing potency. When you're ready to use them, they'll be waiting there for you to make wonderful herbal teas, enhance your recipes, or create your favorite home remedies and beauty products. Once you've successfully dried your first set of herbs, you'll never want to go back to store bought ones.