Have you managed to grow a large number of herbs in your garden and do not know what to do with them? Or have you purchased some fresh from the supermarket and do not want them to go bad?
Drying them is the best way to preserve herbs for future use without wasting them. Knowing how to dry herbs will keep them fresh for years to come. We are going to give you the best herb drying tricks, tips, and techniques.
Air Drying Location
Before you do anything, make sure you pick the right place to dry your herbs. It should be somewhere that is warm and sunny with lots of air circulation. Make certain that airflow will completely encompass the space.
You also want to ensure that the drying area and herbs will remain untouched. This includes disturbances from pets, lots of foot traffic and any amount of moisture. If there is any risk of moisture, and the herbs remaining wet, do not plan to dry herbs there.
Different Drying Methods
How you dry your herbs will depend on what part of the plant you intend to use:
- Whole plant
- Only the leaves and/or flowers
- Berries and fruit
- The root or fruit stones
- Only the stalk/stem
Preparation for Drying
First, remove any dead or rotting parts of the herb. Anything that is browned, greyed, or wilted comes under this classification. Cut stems or other ends if necessary. Remove leaves, flowers and other growth that does not look good.
Then rinse the herbs well in clean, filtered water to remove any chemicals and/or dirt. You may want to add a little baking soda and vinegar in a bowl (or your sink if you have a large quantity) with warm water. Let them sit in the solution for about a minute and then rinse with clean, filtered water.
Take a piece of microfiber towelling or paper towel and pat the herbs dry, as much as you can.
How to Dry Herbs
There are a few ways that you can dry herbs, starting with the more simple and traditional all the way through to those that have a need for technology due to the number of herbs that they need to dry.
Keep Reading to see how to dry herbs and keep them fresher for longer.
1. Screen or Rack
Using a screen or a rack with many holes is the best and most common way to dry herbs. These are easy to find or you can create your own. There are many racks you can buy specifically for herbs. But these can get quite pricey.
An old window screen is perfect for drying. But if you do choose to use an old window screen, make sure that it is clean and dry before using it for herbs.
Anything with a great many holes in it will work well as a drying screen for your herbs. You must make sure it is clean and sanitary before you use it. If there are things flecking off it that you cannot remove, clean or scrub, do not use it. Find something else.
This method is good for drying all parts of a herb. Take note, though, if the holes of your screen are large, you will not be able to dry tiny leaves and flowers because they will fall through as they dry.
You can put paper towelling or cheesecloth over the screen to fix the problem. You can set this outside during the day so long as it is sunny, dry and with no chance of high winds. It will take about two to eight weeks to dry your herbs depending on the size, thickness, and part of the plant.
Another popular method (and our favourite) for drying herbs is hanging them by the stem. All you need is some thin hemp rope, shoestrings, ribbon, or another type of string. You could even get creative with twist ties or rubber bands.
Gather a group of stems so that the bunch makes no more than the size of a penny. Wrap the end with your string. You may need to weave the string between each stem and then wrap it around the entire circumference of the bunch to ensure they do not fall as they dry.
The caveat here is ensuring there is good airflow around the entire herb. Do not put it against a wall because rotting can occur and leave a stain on your wall. This method can take anywhere from two to eight weeks depending on how big the stems are and how dense the bunch is.
3. Oven Drying
Oven drying is excellent for leaves and flower petals as well as roots, fruit stones and berries. Cover a tray or cookie sheet with muslin, cheesecloth or even parchment paper. Only the lowest temperature available will work for this. Do not use high temperatures as this may burn the herbs.
To allow moisture to escape, prop open the oven door. After 30 minutes, turn them over to ensure complete drying on all sides of the herb. Even though most herbs should complete drying within an hour, some things, like berries and roots, may take longer.
4. Drying with a Microwave
Microwave drying is a wonderful and fast way to dry a small number of herbs but best done for leaves, flowers, and other small pieces. Take a paper towel and place it inside the microwave. Create a single layer of herbs on the paper towel and make sure they are well-spaced. Put another piece of paper towel on top and turn the microwave on high for 30 seconds.
Watch the herbs and check the batch every 30 seconds to ensure the herbs are not burning. Continue to heat in 30-second intervals until they are completely dry.
5. Electric Dehydrator
If you are looking to dry your herbs quick or you do not have the space to dry them slowly, an electric dehydrator is a great solution. Every machine is different so, you will have to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and suggestions for drying herbs. This is also a great tool for drying large quantities of fruit too.
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How to Store Herbs
Once your herbs finish drying, store them in an airtight container. It should be glass, but plastic will do. Keep them in a cool, dry, and dark place to ensure continued freshness. You will know when they have dried properly when you crush them, and they disintegrate like a handful of cornflakes.
Knowing how to dry herbs with any one of these tricks, tips and techniques will ensure you preserve them so that you can continue to enjoy them all through the winter and beyond. If you do it right, you could be using them for many years.
Garden Doctor Tips
“If you live in a humid area and want to hang-dry your herbs, it is probably best to use an airing cupboard where it is warm and dry!”
“Make sure to label your herbs whilst they are drying. Dried-up green leaves all look the same!”
“Use an elastic band around the stems of drying herbs. As the herbs dry, the stems will shrink but with elastic, you will not need to worry about them falling!”
“Store the leaves whole instead of crushing so every time you use them, you get that freshly crushed aroma!”
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you dry fresh herbs?
The best and oldest way is to hang them up to dry. Gather a bunch by the stems, tie with elastic and hang for 2-4 weeks until dry and crisp.
Ensure that you are not drying your herbs in humid conditions as the moisture in the air will prevent drying.
Do you wash herbs before drying?
You should certainly wash herbs before drying them out as they cannot be cleaned once dried. Washing is done to remove any little nasties that may be hiding in there.
Rinse well in clean cold water and pat dry with a paper towel before drying.
Is it better to dry or freeze herbs?
It is much better to dry herbs. When you are cooking, dried herbs will give you a much stronger flavour therefore meaning that you will use less of them.
You will need three times the amount of fresh or frozen herbs than if the herbs are dried beforehand.