How to Dry Fresh Herbs

dried echinacea
Photo courtesy of peacefulbean.

Herbs are a great way to flavor almost any food dish, and add nutrients to a meal as well. Buying fresh or dried herbs in the store can be expensive, but it’s easy to grow these in your home. It’s also more cost effective, and actually kind of fun to have your own little herb garden.

With so much confusion these days over where our food is coming from, sometimes the best thing you can do to save money and ensure that you have the healthiest options is to grow your own. Here’s how to get started.

Grow Your Herbs

If you have a sunny spot and some good soil, you can grow your own herbs at home. Choose the ones that you use most to season food and grow them in small planters. I like herbs like basil, thyme, oregano and cilantro for getting started.

When growing herbs, treat them like any other plant; Pruning and cutting back the leaves brings even more leaves. As you cut and use fresh herbs they will continue to grow. In fact, the herbs may grow faster than you can use them, so share some with friends and neighbors.

Dry Your Herbs

Dried Herbs
Photo courtesy of timmothy.

Instead of letting any herbs go to waste, it’s time to try your hand at drying some herbs. Dried fresh herbs lose their moisture, but still retain the entire flavor of a fresh plant. You’ll now have herbs to last for months to come and you can pass them on to others once they are dried as well.

Tools you will need:

  • You’ll need a place to dry your herbs. You can use wooden or wire racks. That cooling rack you use in the kitchen for cookies and cakes would be perfect for drying herbs.
  • a colander,
  • some cheesecloth,
  • paper towels or a clean hand towel
  • some string.

Directions:

1. Wash and rinse your herbs in cold water.

2. Let the excess water drain off of the herbs with the colander.

3. Use paper towels or a clean hand towel to pat each leaf and stalk until the herbs are dry of any visible moisture.

4. A this point if you only want the leaves, remove the stalk and lay the leaves on a drying rack. Depending on the size of the leaves, you may need a wire rack for them as opposed to a cooling rack from the kitchen. Drying can be done either inside or outside, but use cheesecloth to cover herbs on a cooling rack if you plan on letting them dry outside.

5. If you would rather use the entire stalk, you can dry your herbs in bunches and hang them.  Tie them with string at the stalks and hang them upside down on a nail to air dry. You could also hang them from a towel rod, or anything else that allows the herbs to breathe while hanging. If you want, you can even purchase a cute hanging herb rack for your kitchen.

6. Make sure that you are drying your herbs in an area that is well ventilated and has no humidity.  Humidity will keep moisture in the herbs and prevent drying.

Drying herbs
Photo courtesy of Chica and Jo.

7. If you want your herbs dried more quickly, then you can use the oven or a dehydrator. The temperature should remain low (around 120 degrees). Gently touch the leaves every half hour to test for dryness.

Dried herbs will keep for up to six months. After that, the flavor begins to wane. Herbs should be stored in Mason jars or plastic containers, just be sure to label them so you know which herb is which. In order to keep the herbs dry and avoid molding during storage, seal the containers air tight.

Now it’s time to enjoy homegrown dried herbs in your every day cooking! Will you be growing an herb garden this year and drying herbs? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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