How to Dry and Store Your Homegrown Herbs [Five Ways]

A bright green basil plant ready to be harvested.

You've spent all summer growing herbs. Learn when to harvest them for the best flavor, then use one of these five methods to dry your homegrown herbs and store them so you can use them all winter long. How to harvest, dry and store your homegrown herbs.

How to dry and store homegrown herbs

There's always room to tuck in an herb plant here and there, no matter how much or how little space you have. 

If all you have is a patio or even a windowsill, herbs grow well in containers and pots and don't take up much space at all

I've been using my homegrown herbs fresh all summer as well as drying them for use over the winter.

This year I am drying and storing lemon balm, catnip, basil, calendula flowers, rosemary, rose petals, thyme, paprika and cayenne peppers, and more.

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There are many ways to dry herbs, and I think I've used them all at one time or another. 

All of them are easy. The only special equipment used is a dehydrator, but I'm going to show you several ways to dry your homegrown herbs without a dehydrator.

When to harvest herbs

Whichever method you use to dry your herbs, harvest your plant material in the morning to retain all the scent and flavor, after the dew has dried.

If you're harvesting leaves, do so before the herbs begin to flower. 

By cutting your herbs back several times over the summer you'll prolong the growing season. As soon as herb plants flower and produce seeds, the plants won't be focused on producing leaves any longer.

By pruning your plants regularly you'll have  plenty of leaves to use and to dry to use over the winter.

After cutting, remove any dirt, wilted leaves, bugs, and so on from your herbs. 

For most of the following methods, you'll strip the clean, dry leaves from the stems, and lay them in a single layer to dry.

Five methods to dry your homegrown herbs

Use one of these five methods to dry your herbs. 

  • Hang them to dry
  • Dehydrating
  • Oven-drying
  • The "redneck dehydrator"
  • Air drying

Only one of them requires a dehydrator!

Hang bundles of herbs to dry

For this method though, you don't strip the leaves from the herb stems. 

Instead, cut the stems off of your plants, tie several stems together with string, and hang them in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place until dry.

If you don't have a convenient beam from which to hang your herb bundles, take a look at this hanging herb dryer frame.

Small bundles work best, allowing air to circulate around each stalk.

Several stems of lavender hanging on a wall to dry.

How to dry herbs in a dehydrator

To dry your homegrown herbs in a dehydrator, lay the clean, dry herbs on your dehydrator rack and dry at the lowest temperature possible. I use my L'equip dehydrator that has a thermostat I can adjust.

Many dehydrators often only have one heat setting, or a choice of Low and High heat. The lower the heat setting you can use to dry herbs, the better.

For very small-leaved herbs such as thyme, set a fruit leather sheet on the tray before adding your herb leaves so they won't fall through the openings in the tray.

Catnip plants flowering in the herb garden

How to dry herbs in your oven 

After you've made dinner and turned off the oven, lay the leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet and set it in the cooling oven overnight. By morning they'll be dry. 

Wait until the oven cools off a bit before putting the cookie sheet inside though. You don't want to cook your herbs.

And don't forget that your herbs are in the oven the next day and turn it on to preheat to cook something else!

The redneck herb dehydrator

Don't laugh, this actually works well.

Lay your herbs on cookie sheets or in paper bags and put them in your vehicle on a sunny, summer day. You know how hot it can get inside your car on a summer afternoon, right? 

Added bonus: your car will smell heavenly!

The length of time this method will require depends on what kind of herbs you're drying, the climate where you live and how hot and humid it is that day. Check on your herbs periodically and remove them from the vehicle when they are dry.

How to air dry herbs

This is the best way to dry small-leaved herbs such as thyme and oregano. 

  • For these small-leaved herbs, do not remove the leaves from the stems.
  • For larger leaved herbs, strip the leaves off 

Lay the leaves or stems in a single layer in a flat-bottomed bowl or on a tray or towel. Then just wait until they're dry. Stir them up gently each day with your fingers, so that they are rotated and all sides of the leaves are exposed to the air.

Or try this hanging herb dryer from Amazon that folds up flat for storage. Because it's completely covered with mesh, you could hang this outdoors in a shady place or on your porch for better ventilation and protection from bugs. 

The mesh sides and bottoms also promote faster drying, and it will hold much more herb material than the bowl method.

It can take several days for the herbs to be completely dry, depending on the size and thickness of the leaves, and how many you are drying. 

When dry, remove the tiny leaves such as thyme from the stems.

A layer of lemon balm leaves in a flat-bottomed bowl.

How to store your dried, homegrown herbs

When your herbs are dry, store them in containers with lids. Mason jars are ideal.

Label the jars so you'll know what's inside - don't rely on your memory!

Don't crumble the leaves until you're ready to use your herbs in a recipe. Whole herbs keep better and retain their color, fragrance and flavor longer than crushed herbs.

Store your homegrown herbs in a dark, cool place. Use your home-dried herbs within a year for the best quality.

When you open a jar and inhale the lovely fragrances, you'll be transported back to summer!

How to use your dried herbs

There are so many uses for your dried, homegrown herbs.

Of course you can cook with them. They'll have so much more flavor than a little jar of dried herbs from the grocery store, which might have been sitting on the store shelf for months before you bought it.

But you can use your dried herbs in many other ways too, such as:

Do you need some help deciding what herbs to grow? This article will help:  What Herbs You Should Plant in Your Garden.

So what are you waiting for? Prune those herbs and dry them for use in your kitchen, your craft room and more!

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A healthy basil plant growing in a pot.

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