With the arrival of our herbs in the garden centre, we thought we’d show you how to easily extend the life of your herbs by drying them for future use in the kitchen, in crafts or in displays.
When drying herbs, the first thing to ask is which herbs you want to choose. Almost all herbs can be dried, however, some herbs are easier to dry because they have a stronger leaf and can keep their colour and texture better. Herbs with harder leaves tend to be the easiest to dry. They tend not to shrivel up or turn brown. These include Bay, Rosemary, Thyme and Sage. Tender-leaved herbs can be a bit more difficult to dry because they are more affected by moisture. Care has to be taken to make sure they are dried quickly so they do not turn mouldy. Tender-leaved herbs include Basil, Parsley, Mint and Tarragon.
If you are growing herbs indoors, you can harvest your herbs at any time. If you are growing your herbs outdoors, it is best to wait until the morning dew has evaporated and the hot sun has not come out yet (early to mid-morning). For drying herbs, try to harvest them just before the flowers open. Look for lots of buds. They are a telltale sign that your herbs are ready to be dried and generally show when the herb will best retain its shape and flavour. There are always exceptions to this general rule. For example, if you’re drying lavender for a flower arrangement, you definitely want to wait for the flowers to be open before harvesting.
Drying should begin immediately after harvesting your herbs. If you allow them to sit around, they will be exposed to excess moisture and dust, which can ruin the flavour, colour and appearance of your final product.
The first step in drying herbs, especially if you intend to use them for cooking or baking, is to clean them. Rinse the herbs gently under cool water, either in a salad spinner or colander. Another method is to simply let the herbs soak briefly in a bowl of cool water. Once washed, simply shake your herbs gently to remove excess water. Remove any bruised or soiled leaves.
There are a lot of different ways to dry herbs. My preferred method is air drying them indoors. I find that this keeps the herbs more protected from the elements and helps them keep their shape, flavour and colour better intact than other methods (other methods include outdoor air drying, oven drying, and microwave drying). Indoor air drying can be done on a hanging rack or a drying screen. Because of the limited space in my home, I prefer the drying rack method. Drying herbs on an indoor drying rack is particularly good for tender-leaved herbs. I also find it is the easiest way to dry herbs.
Indoor Air Drying on a Rack
Step 1: Bundle the Herbs
Different herbs take different amounts of time to dry, so I find it beneficial to keep different types of herbs separate. If you can avoid it, don’t mix and match. Tie a string or elastic around the base of the bundle with the flowers (or buds) facing down.
Step 2: This is an OPTIONAL step – Place Herb Bundles in Paper Bags
Placing each herb bundle in its own paper bag with a few holes in it. This speeds up drying time and catches any falling leaves or seeds. I choose not to do this step because I love the way the herbs are displayed in my home. It’s a beautiful addition to the décor.
Step 3: Hang Herbs on the Rack and Leave Them to Dry
There are numerous things that can be used for a drying rack. Ladders, ceiling beams, coat racks, clothes hangers and nails in a wall all make great drying racks. Make sure that your herbs are drying away from direct sunlight and moisture. Drying times vary from 5 days to a few weeks, depending on the herb you’ve chosen. The herb is dried when the leaves are crisp, and there is no moisture felt.
Step 4: Enjoy Your Dried Herbs
Whatever you are using your dried herbs for, whether it’s cooking, making a craft, potpourri, or dried bouquet, enjoy your herbs and remember how easy drying your own can be!