How to Dry Herbs
We have talked about canning vegetables in order to preserve your summer harvest for the winter. For this post, we’re going to focus on how to dry herbs so that they can be used in soups and stews or even to make balms or infusions. In general, the best time to harvest herbs is right before they flower. After flowering, the flavor of the herbs changes slightly to be a little bit bitter.
Keeping this in mind, try to decide which herbs you’re going to harvest and use for drying. Some easy herbs to dry are: lavender, mint, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Try to cut the herbs so that they will continue branching and growing from the cutting point. They will continue growing if you cut above the woody tissue on the stem, or above at least the lowest set of leaves. Sharpen your tools to get a clean cut to reduce the likelihood of disease or insects infecting your plant.
Now, take the branches that you’ve cut and tie a few together with string and hang them upside down in an area to dry. When choosing your location for drying, keep the following things in mind: herbs will lose their flavor if dried in direct sunlight, they will become moldy in an area that isn’t ventilated well, and the herbs will take longer to dry in an area that is cool. Therefore, it’s a good idea to pick an area for drying that’s out of direct sun, warm and well ventilated. One method is to hang the bundles of herbs from a laundry drying rack with a fan blowing nearby for ventilation. Some people have put the individual branches on a baking sheet in the oven on low with the door open to dry the herbs pretty quickly; the down side with this method is that the herbs usually lose their pungency and flavor.
Surprisingly, leaving herbs in a paper bag inside of my garage worked pretty quickly for drying herbs. It gets pretty hot and dry in there during the day and the herbs were out of direct sunlight. I’ve heard people say that they dry them in a paper bag inside their car for a sunny summer day or two.
At this point, your herbs should be dried and good to go! It’s a good idea to store your newly dried herbs in glass jars which are the best at preserving the scent and taste of herbs. Of course, you could always store them in plastic bags or plastic containers, but their flavor will dissipate more quickly. Now you’ve got dried herbs for sauces, soups in the winter, balms, or anything that you want!