It’s garden season and that means plenty of herb growth. While many herbs can be grown year-round, there’s just something special about freshly grown herbs in the summer. So what do you do when you’ve grown your herbs and now you’re not getting through them fast enough? Trust me, I know this can be difficult even when you cook daily. When we find we are getting to a point where we aren’t getting through the fresh pick quick enough we’ll dry them out.
I find that drying them out is an easy and economical way to continue reaping my rewards of organic growth.
Drying your own herbs is also a healthful and flavorful way to preserve the herbal harvest. Whether you have tried it before and not been happy with the result, or whether you will be trying your hand at drying herbs for the first time, here are some success tips and suggestions.
What Herbs Work Best?
An herb, when used as food and/or medicine, consists of the leaves, flowers, and/or stems of a plant. Sometimes the root is considered a herb, too, as in the case of ginger and valerian.
Some herbs lend themselves to drying better than others. Chives, for example, tend to wither into brown threads when dried; other herbs retain their shape and color nicely. Here is a list of some of the herbs that do well with drying:
* Echinacea (flowers, stems, leaves, and roots)
* Lemon balm (stems and leaves)
* Catnip (stems and leaves – but watch out! Your cats will raid it while it’s drying if you don’t have it out of reach!)
* Mints (stems and leaves)
* Bee balm (stems and leaves)
* Dill (seeds and leaves)
* Stevia (leaves)
* Ginger (root)
* Sage (leaves)
* Basil (leaves)
When you go to harvest your herbs, the best time of day and method of harvest depends on several factors. For one thing, it depends on what part of the herb you’re harvesting; for another, it depends on the time of day and season. (If you’re purchasing herbs to dry, such as ginger at the grocery store, you can do that any time of day or year.)
When harvesting roots, it’s best to do so on the fall, sources say. If you are cutting the aerial parts (stems, flowers, and leaves), then it’s considered best to do that in the morning. Most herbs reach their peak somewhere in late spring, depending on where you live – herbs are best harvested at this key point, when the blooms have just opened or the foliage is at its best. You can still harvest herbs after blooming, but they may not be as flavorful and the stems might become woody (as in the case of stevia).
To dry the aerial parts of herbs, the best method is to hang them upside down. Cut the stems close to the ground with sharp clippers, then tie the bundle at the base of the stems with twine. Leave a loop when you tie, and hang this on an S-hook or other convenient area. Herbs dry best in shady, dry environments like open sheds, attics, or under house eaves. You can also dry them indoors.
For roots, slice them very thinly and place them in a dehydrator or on a drying rack/screen covered with cotton cloth or paper towels. Cover with another cloth or another layer of paper towels, and leave in the open air to dry. It should take a few days.
Dried roots and aerial parts should be stored in airtight containers.
TIP: Save your store-bought shaker containers from herbs, spices and even Parmesan cheese. They work great for dried herbs.
Have you ever grown and dried your own herbs?