Drying Herbs

By | February 14, 2014

Do you have too many herbs from your garden? Drying herbs is the best way to enjoy the benefits of a fresh herb garden all year round. Most herbs are easy to dry and will retain flavor and aroma.

The method of drying an herb depends on the herb itself, specifically the moisture content. For example, basil is best dried in an oven whereas sage and thyme are best dried hanging in bunches.

Herbs need a dry, dark, well-ventilated, place such as an attic, garage, and cupboard or inside of an oven.

It is best to pick herbs at their freshest, which is usually right before they flower. If the plant has flowers or blooms, make sure to remove them before drying. As a rule, you do not want to dry any part of the plant you wouldn’t use fresh.

Hang Drying Herbs

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Drying herbs in bunches requires long-stemmed herbs such as mint, lavender, sage, rosemary and yarrow. Once you select an ideal place to hang the herbs:

  • Pick herb at the bottom of the stem. For herbs with tough or bark-like stems, you may want to use garden shears. Leave the bottom of the stems and roots of Perennials, such as Thyme, Lavender or Sage, so that they will return the next year.
  • Remove any dead or wilted leaves. You do not want to dry any part of the herb/plant that you would not use fresh.
  • Bunch together, making bunches about 1 inch in diameter.
  • Secure with a tie, string or rubber band.
  • Hang the herb bunches upside down, in a dark area, until they are dry.
  • Herbs should be dried and ready to store within 2 weeks.

If you do not have a dark place to hang the herbs, you can dry them in a paper bag. To do this:

  • Cut a hole in the top of the bag, large enough for the string or tie holding the bunch together.
  • If you have more than one bunch, depending on the size you can make two holes in the top of the bag or use a second paper bag.
  • Make slits throughout the bag with scissors, to provide ventilation.
  • Pull the bunch through the top of the bag with the string, making sure the bunch will hang without touching the edges of the bag.
  • Tie off the bottom of the bag with a piece of string, so the bunch is fully contained.
  • Hang and let alone for two weeks.

The paper bag method allows you to dry bunched herbs in almost any room of your house.

Most herbs do not take longer than two weeks, but individual herbs and environment can effect drying time. When the herbs are dry, they will fall off the stems with the slightest touch. If you have to pull at the herbs, they are not fully dry.

Hanging herbs is the easiest of all three methods and requires the least amount of effort.

Screen Drying Herbs

Drying herbs with short stems and small leaves that are difficult to bunch, such as thyme, the best done on a screen. If you do not have a window screen, you can use a piece of cheesecloth or other breathable material stretched over a frame.

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  • Spread the herb over a flat screen.
  • Place the screen in a dry place, with minimal exposure to sunlight.
  • Flip the herbs every few days for even drying.
  • The herbs should dry out in 7 to 10 days.

The screen method is also fairy easy, but does require a dry environment with an adequate amount of space.

Oven Drying Herbs

Oven drying is ideal for herbs with high moisture content, such as basil, which are difficult to hang.

  • Prepare herbs by pulling them off the stems.
  • Spread the herbs over a baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil or parchmentpaper.
  • Place in a 350-400 degree over for five to ten minutes, or until brittle.

Alternatively, you can warm the oven at 250 degrees and turn off, place the herbs in the oven and let sit overnight. Re-heat the oven as needed. This will take a few days, but the extra time can prevent burning or over-drying herbs. This is the quickest method of drying.

*For a full selection of hard-to-find, as well as common dried herbs, we recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.

Drying herbs allows you to utilize all the fresh spices from your garden throughout the year. Properties of the herb will help you decide which of the three methods of drying will work best.