I dry some of my own herbs to use in teas , infused oils , as culinary additions, and, in the case of some of our hops vines, for the sheer pleasure of decoration! In my garden, I grow comfrey , lemon balm, various oregano and thyme varieties, chamomile , fennel , calendula , sage , rosemary , lavender , hyssop , and all sorts of mints just to name a few of my favorites , and all of these are quite easy to dry and preserve for recipes, soaps, infused oils, and even dried bouquets.
The general guideline is to harvest herbs just before the flowers open. I confess I don't always follow that rule because one of the big reasons I grow many of these wonderful plants is for the bees and pollinators. I might pull a few leaves off a comfrey plant, or use fresh herbs in cooking, tea, and other beverages, but I also love to see the flowers bloom - and my honeybees do too. For these, you'll harvest the flower heads after the seeds form. I like to choose strong stems with healthy, intact leaves for drying. In most cases, I don't even need to wash the cuttings since I keep an organic garden and don't have dogs roaming around where the edibles grow.
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You can definitely give the herbs a wash in cool water prior to drying, just be sure to gently shake off the excess moisture, and remove any wilted leaves, spots, insects, or other unsavory elements. I find air drying to be the easiest method and this can be accomplished in a few different ways. For plants with tiny leaves like thyme and oregano, I like to lay the stems out on paper towels or a flattened piece of brown paper bag.
How Long Does It Take To Dry Herbs?
Some folks like to put a clean tea or kitchen towel on a drying rack like one used for cooling fresh-baked cookies and lay the herbs out there. This is best done when the weather is warm and dry. Once the herbs are completely dry, strip the leaves from the stem by sliding your thumb and forefinger along the stem from top to bottom working against the natural upwards bending of the leaves helps them come right off and gather them together in a sealed container.
I gather several stalks together and use a rubber band to hold them at the base. Hang the bundles upside down in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight, like in a garage, shed, basement, etc. My California climate allows me to grow the woody herbs, like oregano and thyme, year round, but I still take the time for drying herbs and using other preserving methods to have herbs on hand all year round. Wise women say that the power of the sun on Solstice is the strongest, and is the ideal time to harvest herbs.
How to dry herbs
This act recognizes the bounty of the sun god, who is a patron of healing and medicine. Coincidently, many culinary herbs also act as powerful healing herbs, making this the ideal time to harvest both culinary and medicinal herbs. I love the idea of using the Solstice as a natural timekeeper and a reminder to harvest herbs.
However, in my area, summer comes fast and I usually harvest in late spring. Because on those dark and cold days of winter, what could be more magical than opening up a jar of dried herbs and releasing the aroma and flavors of summer? There are several different ways to preserve your herb harvest, regardless if you harvest with the sun god in mind or not!
Think about how you might want to savor that particular herbs flavor or healing properties in the future, and use a method of herb preserving that makes the most sense. This is the way I preserve almost all of my culinary herbs, as well as medicinal herbs or flowers for teas or other potions. I live in an area with dry heat, so air-drying is the easiest for me. Once herbs are dry, remove leaves from woody stems and store in a jar or container.
Air-drying: Bundle up sprigs of washed herbs with twine or string and hang upside down by their stems in an area with good circulation but out of direct sunlight. Alternatively, which works well with flowers, you can lay out on tea towels, trays, screens, in colanders, or even bowls, and set to dry out of direct light. Sift through the herbs with your fingers daily to mix them up and promote even drying. Check every 30 minutes and bake until dry to the touch, but they should still be green usually about an hour or more.
This is a great way to freeze herbs that will be added to soup or dishes with sauces.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Drying Your Favorite Herbs for Fall and Beyond
They may lose their texture and the color may change, but they retain most of their flavor or healing properties. Finely chop fresh herbs and pack into an ice cube tray. Fill the tray with water, and freeze until solid. Transfer the cubes into a bag or an airtight container, and toss a few cubes into your dish. I often use this method for basil, which I add to tomato soup. Herbs blended up into pesto also freeze beautifully. I fill little 4 oz jars for the freezer and pull out as needed, but ice cube trays also work great for small portions. You might get some discoloration on basil pestos, but the taste is just as good when fresh.
You can use any type of vinegar, but wine vinegar is the most common for culinary and apple cider is used for medicinal.
Simple wash your herbs if necessary, place in a clean jar, and pour over with vinegar. Let the vinegar infuse for at least weeks, then strain and discard the herbs if desired- it will only get stronger over time , and rebottle the vinegar. Depending on your herbs, infused vinegar is great to use in salad dressing or taken as a shot like fire cider. Like vinegar, this does not preserve the plant part, but it does save the flavor.
Place clean and dried herbs in a jar, and top with oil, making sure herbs are completely submerged. Once you start exploring the topic, you realize there are many different ways to dry herbs at home. Whichever method you opt for, do know that all of them have one goal in common and that would be- preserving the aroma, color, and freshness of the herbs. Some of them go through the process faster, some take a bit more time, and that can help you choose the most appropriate drying tools and methods. This is one of the easiest yet the slowest method than the others.
There are two ways- to dry the herbs in bundles or spread them over a rack.
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The other option minimizes the chances for herbs to mold or rot before they get dry totally. These products are available in shops but if you are into a DIY adventurous mission, why not making your own rack?
How to Freeze or Dry Herbs
It may take some additional time, but benefits are numerous:. You may end up with a gadget that is not only practical but very decorative as well. This method takes less time than airdrying, but you have to be extra careful not to burn the herbs. The best way to find out is to conduct a small experiment and test how it works. You have probably noticed that as the listing method progresses, each of them is quicker than the one I described previously. By drying them this way, you actually manage to keep them greener than when using other methods, and the taste itself is somewhat fresher.
You actually have a unique opportunity to observe the whole process and see how fresh herbs slowly become dry spices. Gardening, in general, is a hobby which should make you feel calmer and more patient. So, why rushing things? They come in several forms, such as hanging and stackable, with the hanging ones coming in various forms.
Those are usually square and have stackable screens where you place the herbs. You can even hang smaller branches on it and trim the herbs when the drying process is complete. The good thing about this one is that it has multiple levels which you can either connect or disconnect depending on how many of them you actually need.