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It's the time of year when the garden is still going strong, but I can feel that we are getting closer to fall. The sun is starting to set a little bit sooner every evening, and fall veggies are being planted in the garden. Before things really start to wind down, it's important to preserve the harvest. One thing that I love to save for winter cooking are herbs.
There are many ways to preserve herbs for later use, but it's always nice to have some dried herbs on hand. Not only do herbs add tons of flavor to your recipes, they also have a lot of health benefits. I like to incorporate herbs into my cooking as often as possible for these reasons. It's easy to dry your own herbs, and you have lots of options to dry herbs successfully.
Tips for Drying Herbs
- Dry your herbs before they flower.
- Pick herbs in the morning after the dew has dried for the most flavor.
- Make sure the herbs are clean, and if they need to be rinsed, use only cold water to rinse them and remove the excess water before continuing with drying them.
- For herbs with larger leaves, it is easiest to dry the leaves only (other than the hanging method).
- For herbs with smaller leaves, leave them on the stem to dry, and remove them from the stem once dried.
Hang to Dry
Gather a bunch of herbs and secure them together with a rubber band or string at the base of the stem. Find something to tie them onto, such as a hanger or a rod. Hang them in a warm, dry place away from direct sunlight. I hang my herbs to dry in a closet. Leave them to dry until they are brittle. It may take longer for some herbs to dry based on the water content and humidity of the drying area.
Lay Flat to Dry
Using a tray, a cooling rack or another flat area, lay out the herbs individually in rows. Put down a towel or paper towel to help absorb moisture. I have used a shelf in a closet with a paper towel on it to dry herbs. I also find that a cooling rack with no towel on it allows air to flow around the herbs and helps them dry quickly and consistently. Again, drying times may vary depending on the conditions and the herbs you are drying.
Place herbs in a single layer on a baking sheet. Set the oven to the lowest temperature setting and leave the oven door cracked open throughout the process to release moisture. Check on the herbs every 15 - 30 minutes until they are dry. You will know they are dry when the leaves crumble easily. This could take a few hours.
If you have a dehydrator, you can use it to dry herbs. It takes less maintenance than drying in the oven, but can take anywhere from 1-15 hours depending on the herbs you are drying. Place herbs in a single layer on the drying racks, stack drying racks and set the dehydrator for 95 degrees. Dry for the amount of time specified in the instructions of your dehydrator for the herbs you are drying. Make sure to start checking the herbs for dryness when the average drying time has passed. Take herbs out of the dehydrator when they crumble easily. Some layers may dry more quickly than others, so check each rack to test dryness.
Once your herbs are dried, you should be able to easily remove the leaves from the stems if you haven't done so already. Store the leaves whole or ground in glass jars or plastic jars. Leaving the leaves whole is supposed to help the herbs retain flavor. I like to crush my herbs so they are ready to go when I want to measure them out as I am cooking. You can use a mortar and pestle to crush your herbs or a small grinder to grind them. Remember that dried herbs tend to be more potent than fresh herbs, so keep that in mind when following a recipe that calls for fresh herbs.
Check out these posts to learn how to grow some of my favorite herbs:
What's your favorite drying method?