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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Drying Herbs 101

Cherie Langlois
Hobby Farms Contributing Editor

golden sage
Photo by Cherie Langlois

Right up there with oregano, golden sage is
another herb I use a lot in the kitchen.

I noticed a few days ago that some of our herb stores were getting dangerously low—especially dried oregano, a critical ingredient for the homemade pizza we often make on pizza/movie nights. 

So did I panic and run to the supermarket?  No way.  I grabbed scissors, stepped out to my lushly-leaved oregano plants, and snipped off  fragrant bunches to dry for future use.  I also reserved fresh sprigs for that night’s Greek salad. 

Collecting and drying your own tasty herbs is easy and rewarding, saves you money (checked out the prices on those puny herb bottles at the store lately?) and gives you a relaxing aromatherapy session at the same time. 
Here’s how to do it:       

1.  On a dry, sunny day, head out to your herbs and use clean scissors or pruners to snip off the top 6 to 12 inches of stem, depending on the herb. (Click here for tips on how to start a herb garden.)

2.  Pull off the very bottom leaves on each stem, saving them to use fresh, and discard any diseased or pest-infested leaves.  Gather the stems together into small bunches—too large a bunch and the herbs take longer to dry, which may lead to rotting. 

At this point, I give the herbs a gentle shake (outside!) to remove bugs, dust and pollen.  Since we shun pesticides and herbicides on our farm, I don’t bother washing them.  

3.  Tie the lower stems together with dental floss or thin twine, or wrap a rubber band around them.  Your bunch should now look like a leafy bouquet.

4.  Hang your herbs in a dry, warm, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight.  Don’t let the bundles touch:  this enhances air flow and keeps strongly-scented herbs from tainting more delicate ones.  If your drying area is dusty or the herb is one that tends to lose leaves, seeds, or flowers while drying, place the bundle in a paper bag punched with holes before hanging.

5.  Allow the herbs to dry until they feel brittle, but not so dry they dissolve into powder.  Depending on humidity and other factors, the drying time will take from several days to several weeks. 

6.  Once dry, strip the leaves off the stems and pack them whole into clean, dry spice bottles or small canning jars.  Be sure to label and date each container. 

7.  Store your herbs in a dark, dry place, and check them periodically for mold and bugs.  They should last about a year—if you don’t use them up first. (Be sure to check out some of Michelle Bender's yummy recipes using herbs.)

Enjoy!

~  Cherie

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Drying Herbs 101

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Reader Comments
Nice article, i usually dry wild herbs and and leaves for teas and such
Jim, South Branch, MI
Posted: 4/7/2013 7:11:37 AM
Matthew, I think people usually freeze fresh herbs. The herb freezing site I found advised putting the herbs in the ice cube trays, filling half way with water (the herbs will float), let freeze, fill the rest of the way with water and freeze again. Then store the cubes in plastic bags.

Thanks for the nice comments, everybody :)
Cherie, Graham, WA
Posted: 9/27/2010 1:37:05 PM
Great article. I grow mainly herbs.
Tammy, Livingston, TX
Posted: 9/26/2010 6:00:23 PM
About the herbs in ice cubes,do you freeze them fresh or dry? it sounds pretty convenient for cooking either way
Matthew, Wilmington, NC
Posted: 9/24/2010 5:26:02 PM
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