Drying and Preserving Herbs

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You planted, you grew now it’s time to harvest and preserve your home-grown, organic, ‘you know what went into them’ herbs!

Don’t just go out and willy nilly cut your herbs down to the ground and don’t just go pulling the whole thing up either. Most herbs are best if harvested right before blooming. It’s also best to harvest after the morning dew has gone. Remove all damaged areas. Some you’ll want to leave on stalks, some you’ll want to strip. (like mint and sage – unless you’re making sage smudge sticks.)

tied lavender drying
tied lavender drying

Consider Air Drying
I’ve dried herbs many a different way. I’ve used the oven on really low, a dehydrator, in small bundles hanging on the front porch and in paper bags hanging on the front porch. (Remember…. I live in an earth shelter so there is no ‘back porch’. The UPS man never even raised an eyebrow …. He must see a lot …)

My folks once grew rows of Sweet Annie for me as I then owned an herbal company. Dad tied the Sweet Annie up in huge bundles about a foot across at the stem end and six feet long. Brought them to me in the back of his pickup…. Hoping he wouldn’t get stopped and have to explain what Sweet Annie was!

I hung those bundles from the rafters in the garage to air try. I left plenty of room between them for walking and air movement and I had a lot of those big bundles swaying from the rafters, nearing touching the ground. Wouldn’t you know it? I had a water tank problem (in the back of the garage) and had to call my tank guy.

When I opened the garage door to let him in…. his eyes got big…he raised his eyebrows…said Oh Kay and walked through the bundles. I quickly said this is Sweet Annie drying and I got another Oh Kay… Yes, I did my best to explain what Sweet Annie was so that he wouldn’t think it was ‘something else’.

Don’t let an overabundance sway you.. you can dry your own herbs!

hanging herbs
hanging herbs

To air dry bundle a few branches together and secure with string or a rubber band and find a place to hang. If you notice in old pictures, or in kitchens done in farmhouse or prim décor you’ll often see dried herbs on a string or rope decorating the kitchen. You even see them in TV shows such as the kitchen in the Good Witch.

When air drying outside, consider placing that same bundle inside a paper bag. This keeps insects from your herbs. You can use another rubber band or a clothespin to secure on a rope/string outside.

The grandparents would either hang big bundles of ‘whatever they were drying’ from the barn rafters OR between screening on top of the chicken house. This gave them plenty of sun, some air movement and heat.

Another way to dry your herbs is in the oven. If you have a gas oven you can leave the oven off and just rely on the heat from the pilot light. (That is unless your oven has an electronic ignition system, in which case just use the gas oven on the lowest setting.)

You can use your electric oven on the lowest setting which is typically ‘warm’. Lay them out on a cookie sheet (or jelly roll pan) (A jelly roll pan has sides which keeps things from falling off.) and bake 1-4 hours or until they are completely dry. Note: Stinky herbs WILL stink up the kitchen if dried in the oven in the house…

I’ve also used my Excalibur dehydrator to dry herbs but I have to admit that I like the look, and the reminder of seeing my herbs drying on a string…

What’s your favorite method of drying herbs?