Drying Herbs from the Garden

Autumn hit the Hudson Valley so hard it feels as if Mr. Frost is taking an express flight from the Arctic after an extended stay. It went from 80 degree days to 40 degree days in one week. Boss and I are not taking it well.

In the mornings I’ve been huddling by my space heater, picking off dried herbs and placing them in jars (or laying in bed for another hour).

After a full growing season of hanging upside down, suspended from my spice rack, these herbs are finally dry enough to put away.

Some tips for drying herbs

(If you are fortunate enough to have a dehydrator, use it to its specifications.)

  • Make bundles of herbs while they are still fresh for less of a mess.
  • Use the larger stems to create a bundle; keeping the individual leaves on the larger stems.
  • Don’t make the bundles too large, otherwise the air will not circulate through them properly. Use your judgement, but 4-7 stems are frequently what my bundles are made up of.
  • Use grocery twist ties instead of twine to secure the stems together. The stems will shrink as moisture escapes them; it is much easier to simply twist the tie tighter around them than it is to re-tie the twine. You may want to purchase longer twist ties if you are bundling large stems, like rosemary or sage, so you have more to work with.
  • Hang your bundles of herbs in an area with good air circulation that is relatively low in moisture. Each bundle should have a couple inches of space from the others to allow proper air flow. If you notice any molding, they will have to be discarded. So, prevent that from the onset.
  • Make sure your herbs are completely and totally dry before placing them in an airtight container! I am Ms. On-The-Safe-Side, so I wait 5-6 months for this.

It is perfectly fine to use your herbs before they are completely dry if you want to cook with them in the interim. The flavor may be slightly different, but never in a bad way.

It is also acceptable to dry your herbs horizontally on a baking sheet, making sure that they do not overlap one another. However, do you really have space for that?

When storing your herbs, pick out an air tight container that will allow for you to easily access them when they reach the bottom of the container. A wide-mouth mason jar, a clean tea tin, or a recycled spice shaker are all good options.

I may experiment with drying some herbs in the oven on the very lowest setting. I don’t think this will be the best idea (thinking it might lose some of the flavor or start to burn). Still, I have a kitten who is very interested in what I am doing, who I would like to not eat the things he shouldn’t. Hence the oven experiment, to be able to store these end of summer herbs quickly; before they are captured by the leaping kitten and brought to the ground.

If I do, I’ll let you know how it goes and link it here. Until then, happy herb storing!

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