Drying and storing your herbs is a great way to save money. You can extend your harvest when you learn to store dried herbs for optimum flavor.
Herbs are a big part of my garden. I have all the usual suspects in attendance; rosemary, chives, oregano, and mint, just to name a few. I like to make herbal tea blends and create my own rubs and spice blends for cooking.
You can dry herbs throughout the season as time allows, it’s easy to do, and it costs less to purchase individual plants than dried herbs from the store. Your plants will respond to regular cuttings by growing better. It keeps them compact and prevents them from flowering and setting seed.
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The benefit of regular harvests? You will have a longer harvest time and more herbs to dry.
There are only a few rules for drying herbs
- Harvest on a sunny day.
- Harvest during a dry day and make sure the leaves are completely dry.
- Wait until the morning dew has evaporated or harvest in the evening before the dew forms.
- There is no need to wash your herbs unless they are very muddy.
- Once harvested keep them out of direct sunlight until you can begin the drying process. I like to use a basket with a towel covering the cuttings.
- Begin drying fresh herbs as soon as possible before they can wilt.
Use one of these methods for drying herbs.
1. Hang Dry– Hanging herbs in the kitchen add a homey touch, but leaving them exposed to the air means they will eventually lose their flavor.
To prevent this you should lay them out and sort by size. Bunch four to six stalks together and fasten tightly with a rubber band or twist tie. The rubber band will not come loose as the herbs dry. It’s best to hang the bundles out of direct sunlight and in a room that will not get too much moisture but has air circulation. Bathrooms are not a good place to dry herbs.
If you are going to hang them to dry in the sun, place them in a paper bag that has several holes cut for circulation. attach the bag to a string or clothesline using clothespins.
During the growing season, you can string your own clothesline in an unused room and hang bunches of herbs.
2. Screen Dry – The goal is to allow air circulation all around the screen, and the best way to do that is to keep the drying screens off counters by placing blocks underneath. Keep them out of direct sunlight while drying.
The herbs can touch each other because they will shrink as they dry. This process will take only a few days.
3. Microwave Drying is the quickest way to get dry herbs. You can spread a cup of herb leaves in a single layer between paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds.
Check the herbs, turn them over and go for another 30 seconds, if needed. Remove small leaves as they are finished and repeat the process in 30-second increments until the herbs are crackly dry. This will only take 2 – 3 minutes. Do not over dry or the herbs will get scorched and a fire may start.
4. Dehydrator Drying is easy too. Separate the leaves from the stems and lay them out in a single layer. It’s okay to have them touch.
Herbs are dried at cooler temperatures than fruits and vegetables. Start at 95 degrees F. Strong herb flavors should be dried separately from mild herbs that might pick up their flavors.
How to Store Dried Herbs
As soon as you’ve dried your herbs crackly dry, either on the stem or off, remove the leaves from the stalks and be sure and keep the leaves whole.
Crumbling them releases the aromatic oils that you want for your teas, tonics, and lotions. Save crushing the leaves until you are ready to add them to recipes.
You should keep the leaves in airtight containers. Glass is my favorite container for storage. Mason jars work great, but any reclaimed glass container (with a lid) will fit the bill. Glass works best because metal and plastic can affect the flavor of some herbs. I have saved chopped peppermint in a plastic gallon plastic jug. It’s been in there for a few years. The herbs are still fragrant, but I will never be able to store anything else in the jar. It’s peppermint or nothing!
The recommended storage time for herbs is one year, so try to grow enough to last harvest to harvest. After one year they will still be good, just not as aromatic. I use my older herbs for soaps and craft projects. No matter what, your herbs should be stored in a cool, dark place, away from heat.
If you have a bumper crop you can try removing the oxygen and freezing herbs in FoodSaver containers. As long as you keep moisture out of the container, you should be able to get up to 18 months of storage in the freezer.
To use the herbs, just crush the leaves in your hands or powder them in a mortar and pestle or with a rolling pin, then measure as directed in your recipe. Use sparingly, you’ll want about one-third an amount of dried herbs as fresh in your recipes.
Dried herbs have many uses
These products from Amazon will help you dry, process and store dried herbs:
Don’t miss the freshness you get from drying your own herbs. A little effort on your part will bring big rewards and have you reaching into the pantry for cooking herbs for the next year. What other ways have you stored dried herbs?