Some are easier to grow than others, but the basic culinary herbs are all easy to grow, dehydrate and use, whether fresh or dried. Herbs need very little attention, except regular watering and trimming as they grow. Most prefer a fairly dry soil, sunlight or part shade, and shelter from severe weather. Many herbs are from the Mediterranean region, so they do not thrive in bitter cold winters without some kind of protection. And, they do not like soggy soil, so watering should be regular, but not excessive. They will enjoy a bit drier, looser soil, than many garden plants.
What you need to know
Whether you purchase fresh herbs from a farmer's market or grow your own, there are very few things to know about drying herbs. They should be cut early in the morning when the volatile oils are at their peak. Herbs should be washed, shake off the excess water or use a salad spinner. They air dry easily. Just allow air circulation around them, so they all dry evenly. They can be hung to dry or laid out on screens to dry.
Small bundles work best, so that the air can circulate around the herbs more evenly. I use an old fashioned clothes drying rack to hang the bundles, which works very well for my needs; will hold a lot of herbs, and it can be moved around where I need it and stores flat when not in use, so it can be stored in a closet, or tucked away.
How long do Herbs take to dry
Typically the herbs will dry within a day or two during warm, dry weather. It will take longer in cool, wet or humid weather. If weather is humid or wet, it may be best to use a dehydrator to dry them more quickly, then package before any moisture can set in. Moisture leads to molding and bacteria.
How to Prepare the Dried Herbs
Once your herbs are dried, remove the leaves from the stems. You can remove the leaves from the stems before drying and honestly as many years as I've grown and processed herbs, I do not find one method better or easier than the other.
If you are not able to remove all the fine stems, no worries, they are completely edible, and will usually grind up in the food chopper, Mortar and Pestle or in the herb grinder without a problem. I try to remove the woody stems such as those for Sage, Rosemary, Oregano and Thyme, but the softer stems of Parsley and Basil are not as big an issue.
Some *Sage* advice
If you're handling several different herbs at the same time, it's wise to wash your hands between working with each herb. When the herbs are cut fresh, the volatile oils remain on those herbs and ultimately on your hands, which can transfer to another herb as you are removing the leaves. It may be miniscule, but it's something I would recommend. If you're making herbal blends with a variety of herbs at the same time, then it may not be an issue at all, but it can be if you are wanting to keep the herbs and flavors separate.
How to Package for storage
When I'm processing my dried herbs, I place each herb in a separate container, or separate sealable plastic bag. I label those and later I can combine herbs I want into special blends.
Do you Need Special Supplies
You do not need anything special for drying herbs, but the following list are things I find useful to have. Many of these things listed, you likely already have and are using for a variety of purposes.
- Screened drying rack (Easy to make with a window frame or photo frame and mesh screen)
- Wooden Clothes Rack
- Twist ties, kitchen twine or Rubber Bands
- Sturdy Metal Paper Clips (Bent to use for hanging herbs)
- Funnel (bottle and jar funnels)
- Spice jars (varied sizes)
- Mason jars with lids (varied sizes)
- Sealable Plastic bags. (freezer type are stronger/thicker--varied sizes)
- Thick Paper Towels
- Plastic Wrap or Parchment Paper
- Herb Grinder or Coffee Grinder
- Mortar and Pestle
- Mini Food Chopper
- Fine mesh Sieve
- Cheese Cloth, Coffee Filter or Cheese Muslin
- Salad Spinner
- Small Slow Cooker (with dial setting--highly recommended)
- Cutting board
- Sharp Knives
- Herb Scissors/sheers (designated for use with your herbs)
- Surgical gloves (if you are sensitive to the volatile oils in any of the herbs)
- Labels (Blue painters tape works great for temporary labeling)
- Decorative labels, ribbon, burlap, jute etc. if gifting
- Decorative containers, if gifting
Note: You can use an oven on the lowest setting to dry the herbs. It's not as cost efficient as a dehydrator, but it will work. It's beneficial if the oven has a fan that helps the air circulate, but it isn't essential. Metal cooling racks, or metal window screen that can be laid on the oven racks will allow for air circulation and prevent the herbs from falling on the oven heat element. If possible the oven should have a setting that will go as low as 125 or 145, or a dial that keeps the oven warm, but not baking. If the oven temperature cannot be set below 175, you can leave the door ajar slightly to release some of the heat and for air circulation.
Tip: Set the cooling racks on a cooking sheet. then lay out the herbs. It will be easiest if you do not strip the leaves before drying, just lay out the herb stems with leaves in tact, then strip the leaves after the herbs have dried thoroughly.
Tip: You can store the dried herbs without stripping the leaves if desired, then strip them as needed.
Special Note: No matter what, label your herbs. Some herbs can look very similar to another and you can't always tell by the fragrance, so plan on labeling; I assure you will not remember which is which at a later date without the labels. If you do miss a label, those herbs can be used in a mixed herb blend or infusion, so they are not wasted, but if you want to know what's in that blend, labeling is essential.
For further information, you can follow any of the links below. From propagating and growing herbs to using them to make infusions, tisanes, salves and in cooking.
Growing and Propagating herbs:
Growing and Drying Herbs:
Oil infused Herbs for cooking and skin care:
Honey Infused Herbs:
Herb seasoning blends:
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CREDENTIALS: Certified Oregon State Master Gardener since 1999. Horticulture degree 2001. Study of Herbs and Horticulture Therapy, heavy research and study of all plants and herbs. Gardening a lifetime