How to Dry and Store Your Homegrown Herbs


Learn how to dry and store your own homegrown herbs.

How to dry homegrown herbs


One of the raised beds in my garden is devoted to herbs, and there are small pockets of lemon balm and catnip that have "gone wild" here and there in the yard. 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 are easy. The only special equipment used is a dehydrator, but I'm going to show you several ways to dry your homegrown herbs that don't require a dehydrator.

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 they flower and produce seeds, the plants won't be focused on producing leaves any longer. By harvesting 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.

Hanging Herb Bundles


For this method, you won't strip the leaves from the herb stems. Instead, cut several stems off your plants, tie the stems together with string, and hang in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place until dry.

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


Dry 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.

Cheaper 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 herbs so they won't fall through the openings in the tray.


Here's how and when to harvest your herbs, and how to dry them so they'll last all winter.

Oven Drying

After you've made dinner and turned off the oven, lay your herbs on a cookie sheet and set it in the cooling oven overnight. By morning they'll be dry. Just wait until the oven cools off a bit before putting the cookie sheet inside; you don't want to cook your herbs.


(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 Dehydrator

Don't laugh, this really works well.

Lay your herbs on cookie sheets or in paper bags and put them in your vehicle on a sunny day. You know how hot it can get inside your car on a summer afternoon! 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 from the vehicle when they are dry.


Air Drying

This is the best way to dry small leaves such as thyme and oregano. For the small-leaved herbs, lay the stems with leaves on a towel; for larger herbs strip the leaves and lay them in a single layer in a flat-bottomed bowl or on a tray. Then just wait until they are dry.


This can take several days, depending on the size and thickness of the leaves, and how many you are drying. 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.


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


Lay herb leaves in a single layer and let them dry for several days.

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 scents, you'll be transported back to summer.

How to use your dried herbs


Of course you can cook with your dehydrated homegrown herbs. 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.


Here's how to make your own cayenne powder, and ten ways to use basil (both dried and fresh)


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

  • Make your own tea blends
  • Make tinctures and oxymels
  • Infuse your homegrown herbs to make delicious herbal vinegars (learn how to make your own vinegar from scratch here)

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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You spent all summer growing those herbs; here's how to harvest, dry and store your homegrown herbs to last all winter!



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