You’ve grown all your herbs successfully for the season and you have more than you know what to do with it. It’s time to start drying them. Drying herbs is a great option for when you have too many herbs then you know what to do with or when you want to save them for later use. Drying herbs you’ve grown yourself is a great way to have high quality herbs for the off season. High quality dried basil in the middle of winter is a cooking luxury everyone deserves. This post is going to walk you through drying your own herbs. Here we are going to cover materials needed, harvesting, methods, cleaning, and of course drying.
This post is going to be your essential guide to drying herbs.
Materials Needed For Drying Herbs
To properly dry fresh herbs, you are going to need a few supplies. Most of these you should already have. These supplies cover harvesting, prepping, drying, and the storing of herbs.
Once you have all your supplies gathered you are ready for the first step of drying herbs.
The first step to drying your own herbs is harvesting them. There are a couple of different methods for harvesting herbs. Depending on what you’re planning on drying it is important to choose the correct method. For some ideas on which herbs you might want to grow next read this post.
The haircut method is exactly what it sounds like. You are essentially going to cut a bunch of herbs with scissors is a straight(ish) line across. This is done with herbs that will grow at least once more during the growing season.
Herbs for Haircut Method
- Lemon Balm
- Tot Soi
- Fennel Fronds
Plucking is also self-explanatory. With some herbs and flowers when they are ready to be harvested, they will have blossoms that are easily picked off. This harvesting method is done by simply identifying the blooms you desire and gently pluck them off the stems. This is going to be the method you want to use for all your edible flowers and budding herbs.
Herbs for Plucking Method
- Cucumber Blossom
- Borage Flowers
This kind of harvesting is going to be for herbs that need more special care for regrowth. This kind of harvest is slightly more tedious. You will want to take the stem of the herb you are harvesting and cut 1/2 inch above the second to last bud. Start at the top go two buds down then cut. This will give you the herb you’re looking for and still promote regrowth. See the
Herbs for Individual Trim
- Bay Leaves
- Milk Thistle
- Pea Tendrils
Preparing The Herbs
After you have successfully harvested your herbs from the plant you might need to do some further preparation. If your herbs are particularly dirty you might wash them. If your herbs are free of dirt and visible bugs there is no need to wash them if you are growing your herbs free of pesticides (highly recommended). If you do wash your herbs, make sure you just use cool water and dry them gently with a cloth.
If you have thick stemmed herbs, you will want to take the edible part of the herbs off the thick stem. You want to do this because the thicker stems retain a lot of water and will keep your herbs from drying in a timely fashion. Prepare herbs like this when you are drying echinacea, ginkgo, or feverfew.
When you have successfully harvested and prepared your herbs it is time to start the drying process. Two different methods of drying are going to be covered below.
Tying and Hanging Method
For this method you will gather small bunches of herbs by the stems and rubber band them together. Always use a rubber band for grouping the herbs together. As they dry herbs shrink. If you tie them together with string they will fall out as they dry and shrink. Your cats have enough play toys so always use rubber bands. Make sure the bunches aren’t too big to promote airflow through the herbs.
After your herbs are grouped together with rubber bands attach a string to the rubber band part. This will be what you use to hang the herbs.
When hanging your herbs find a spot that is dry and promotes good air flow. If you live in a humid area you will want to hang herbs away from windows and closer to an AC unit if possible. Humidity is going to ruin the drying process. Dry mild heat and good air flow is ideal for high quality dried herbs.
Scatter Drying Herbs
For scatter drying you need a flat surface that has good airflow. It is possible to do this on a countertop or a flat baking sheet. I recommend this hanging rack for drying herbs (link). There are multiple sizes to choose from. Depending on the volume of herbs you must order your rack accordingly. You can also use a clean window screen propped up for optimal airflow.
When you have established your drying rack vessel you can dry your herbs by simply scattering them on your drying rack. Try to lay them in a flat layer. Avoid stacking herbs on top of each other. Again, ensure optimal airflow.
With either method, tying and hanging or scatter drying the process should take 2-5 days depending on the herbs.
You know your herbs are properly dried when they feel dry and crumble in your hand when lightly crushed. They should also smell fragrant when being crushed.
Storing Dried Herbs
Your dried herbs should last 6-12 months if dried and stored properly. To store your dried herbs keep them in their most whole form possible. Avoid crushing or grinding them until you need them for consumption. Remove the string and rubber bands if they were used and then place the herbs in an airtight mason jar or reusable sealable bag. Keep the stored herbs out of direct sunlight to keep them fresh for longer.
Uses for Dried Herbs
Now that you have high quality dried herbs what are you going to do with them? Below is a list of uses for fried herbs and additional recipes to try out depending on what herbs you have available.
Dried Herb Uses
- Stocks or Sauces
Now that you know how to properly dry herbs, get harvesting and start drying. With the knowledge you now have you may have to use some deductive reasoning and trial and error when working with new herbs. Drying your own herbs will provide you with high quality ingredients you can use all year long.