Easy Ways to Dry Herbs
There are quite many options and ways to dry herbs so you will get an enjoyment from having them year round. In this post, we will cover how to harvest herbs and several easy drying options, so you can decide what works best for you.
Time to Harvest Herbs
A good time of day to harvest herbs is in the morning after the dew has cleared, but before the heat of the day sets in and draws off volatile oils. Dry, sunny days will help maximize the essential oil content of the plants. It is better not to tear or rip the plants and use scissors or pruners. Clean cuts help the plant to repair quickly and prevent the spread of disease. Speaking of disease, make sure your clippers are clean, especially if there is any sign of illness in your herb garden.
Where to Clip Herbs
Where to clip herbs depends on the kind of plant and how you want to use or preserve. For mints, yarrow and other prolific growers, grip a handful of foliage and clip the entire bundle neatly just above ground level. For harvesting smaller amounts or plants that grow more slowly, or individual long stemmed flowers such as calendula, clip individual stems about1/4″ above a leaf joint. Clip the flower head from the stalk for drying and compost the unused stalk. Do not leave a large amount of naked stalk on the plant.
Picking the Plants
Enjoy Picking Herbs
It is preferably to pick only healthy plants that you would use fresh. If the quality is not good, like damaged leaves or signs of disease, it is not going to be better in storage, only worse. Those visible signs of damage will turn a shorter storage life and potential spread of molds or other contaminants to herbs drying nearby. Keep the herbs clean and bug free.
Clean the herbs if needed. Some herbs may need rinsing first and a pick over to remove debris such as dried grass or weeds. Herbs can be gently rinsed under cool water, and given a minimal shake to remove excess moisture.
Ways to Dry Herbs
Now it is time to dry the herbs after you have harvested and cleaned them. There are several ways to do this. The aim is to provide good air circulation out of direct sunlight so that the herbs will dry quickly without bleaching, preserving maximum color and flavor.
First Option: Herb Bundles
Bundling up herbs works very well for drying herbs with sturdy stems in quantity. When cleaning, strip lower leaves from the stems, as they would be crushed in the bundle and prone to mold. Gather the stems in bundles roughly inch in diameter, and secure snugly with a rubber band or even strips of old cloth. Rubber band will hold the bundles tight as the herbs dry and shrink. Hang the bundled herbs upside down in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Dry until leaves are crisp. You can either store them as is bundles or strip the leaves from the stems and store in jars. For best quality, once they have finished drying, store dried herbs in a dry, dark location away from heat. Airtight storage will preserve aroma and flavors better than open-air storage. They look beautiful on display, but light fades the herbs. Keeping them on top of the stove is not the best choice, either.
Second Option: Oven
Arrange cleaned stems in a single layer on a cookie sheet with temperature set at 180° F. Heat for about 4 hours, keeping the oven door open the entire time (to let moisture escape). Stir occasionally during this process.
Third Option: Microwave
Easy and Fast
This a quick & easy method if you need them dried fast…but watch while you’re heating to make sure they don’t smoke or start on fire. Since microwaves cook differently, the times may vary for you. Detailed instructions are found at the bottom of this page.
Fourth Option: Freezing Whole and Chopped
Wash and dry the leaves then store in bags with as much air removed as possible (you can also lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet then pack in bags when frozen). Freeze.