My garden is filled with a variety of herbs such as rosemary, chives, oregano, and mint, to name a few. I enjoy creating my own herbal tea blends, rubs, and spice blends for cooking… when you love spicy blends but can’t handle it too spicy, it is definitely the way to go.
It’s super cost-effective to dry your own herbs throughout the growing season (or even in your window sill during the off months) and it’s easy to do. Regular harvesting of your herbs will stimulate growth and prevent them from flowering and setting seed, which you really don’t want to happen when you are using the herbs for cooking or drying.
To dry herbs, there are only a few rules to follow. Harvest on a sunny, dry day and ensure the leaves are completely dry. Wait until morning dew has evaporated or harvest in the evening before it forms. There is no need to wash your herbs unless they’re very muddy. Keep your cuttings out of direct sunlight until you can begin the drying process. I prefer to use a basket with a towel covering the cuttings.
You don’t need to grow your own herbs, although that will be the most economical. You can also pick up fabulous herbs at a farmer’s market or even a country roadside stand, if you live in a more rural area.
To prevent herbs from becoming dark and losing their flavor, keep them away from sunlight while drying. Slow drying is another common cause of herbs turning dark brown and losing their flavor. A food dehydrator is recommended as the best method to dry herbs quickly, as different herbs have different needs.
There are four ways to dry herbs:
- The first is hang drying, but make sure to lie them out and sort them by size. Bunch four to six stalks together and fasten tightly with a rubber band or twist tie. Keep the bundles out of direct sunlight and in a room with air circulation. Bathrooms are not a good place to dry herbs.
- The second is screen drying, allowing air circulation all around the screen.
- The third, microwave drying, is the quickest way to get dry herbs. Spread a cup of herb leaves in a single layer between paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds.
- The fourth is dehydrator drying. Separate the leaves from the stems and lay them out in a single layer at a cooler temperature. This is my preferred method and the house always smells amazing when I do! You can allow the herbs to overlap on the trays, but be sure to use either the herb setting or what is likely the lowest temperature setting.
Once your herbs are dried crackly dry, either on or off the stem, remove the leaves from the stalks and store the leaves whole in airtight containers. Glass containers are the best for storage, as metal and plastic can affect the flavor of some herbs. Stored in a cool, dark place, herbs should last for up to one year before losing potency.
You can store each herb individually, or you can make up your own blends and store them blended together to make it a quick and easy addition. Some of my favorites are Italian blend or even something simple like a basil oregano mix. Tea blends are also popular too!
You can crush the herbs once they are dried and store it that way. If you have a mortar and pestle, you can grind them that way, but there are some other options like crushing them by hand, or even using a rolling pin to crush them.
Dried herbs have many uses, such as flavored vinegar, herb-flavored oils, tea blends, spice blends, cleaners, shampoo, potpourri, soap, and candles. Just remember to use them sparingly, as one-third the amount of dried herbs are needed for the equivalent amount of fresh herbs in your recipes.