How to Dry Herbs From the Garden
There really is nothing like walking out to your backyard garden and picking some fresh herbs for that awesome plant based recipe you are trying to make. You cannot even compare their taste to supermarket "fresh" herbs. Herbs at the supermarket are packaged in plastic and they taste mediocre at best. Not to mention they always seem over priced and almost rotten.
Growing your own herbs is a complete game changer. They improve so many great dishes and are stored extremely well if you chose to dry them! Drying is a great option, especially when winter is upon us and we do not want to waste any of our beautiful summer herbs. Once dried, you can add them to your favorite soups and casseroles or you could even make your own custom herb blends totally unique to you and your taste. You can add them to salad dressings, pasta sauces, and really anything that you can think of!
There are two main ways to dry your garden herbs. You can let them air dry or you can dry them in a dehydrator. Both methods have their pros and cons and totally depend on personal preference.
Drying Herbs in a Food Dehydrator
Drying out your fresh herbs in a food dehydrator is an easy way to get your herbs dried in a fast amount of time. We find this method extremely useful especially when harvesting a large amount of herbs at once. If you find that the nights are getting colder and you think it is time to harvest all of your herbs at the same time, this method is definitely the way to go.
Some of the biggest pros that we have found when it comes to using a dehydrator is that you can completely control the temperature and the amount of time you chose to dehydrate them. This is very beneficial because you do not want to risk losing any of the flavor or therapeutic aspects of the herbs.
Here are the instructions that we use in order to effectively and quickly dehydrate our herbs:
- Make sure that you preheat your dehydrator between 95 - 115°F before you start anything so that your dehydrator is ready to go when you are.
- Cut your herbs from your garden in the early morning so that they do not go through any sort of stress due to afternoon sun. Make sure that you are harvesting your herbs before they flower. Once they flower, they tend to lose a lot of their flavor and may even become bitter.
- If you are growing an organic garden this step may not be as critical for you, but make sure to rinse your herbs and get off any bugs or parsley caterpillars (they are sneaky and tend to blend in very well).
- Pat your herbs dry with a paper towel so that you remove as much moisture as possible before putting them in the dehydrator.
- Try to remove any large leaves from the stem. They will dry easier.
- Place your herbs on your dehydrator trays. We recommend dedicating each tray to one type of herb because its much easier to remove an entire tray if one herb tends to dry faster than another. Also, many people advise to lay your herbs in a single, thin layer. If you have a huge harvest this might be unreasonable for you. We have tried to fit as many herbs as possible on the trays and it dried fine for us. It just took a little longer.
- When the leaves begin to crumble when they are touched, they are done! Let them cool a bit before storing.
Although there are many benefits of using a dehydrator to dry your herbs, you should also be aware of the disadvantages of this method. A decent dehydrator that can handle a good amount of herbs will cost around $50 - $100. Also, food dehydrators tend to be a little bit noisy, so that is something to be aware of.
Air Drying Herbs
Air drying herbs is an option that works especially well if you are trying to dry small batches of sturdier herbs such as sage, oregano, rosemary, and bay leaves. This is probably the cheapest and most cost effective way to dry your herbs.
Be careful to avoid this method when trying to dry herbs that contain a high moisture content such as basil or lemon bomb. These types of herbs are more likely to develop mold if not dried quickly enough. Rarely do we use this method but when we do they turn out well!
Steps to air drying your herbs:
- Cut your herbs in the morning and wash thoroughly.
- Tie 5-10 stems together in a bundle and hang them upside down. Make sure that they are not hanging in direct sunlight or else they may become bleached and lose their flavor.
- If you are air drying these indoors (recommended) then make sure that there is air circulating because they are more apt to develop mold if the air is stagnant.
- Usually it takes about 2-4 weeks for all of the moisture to evaporate and then you are able to use them.
(TIP: Herbs that are too small to tie together in bunches can be put on a mesh screen drying tray and the same steps will apply)
How to Store Dried Herbs
A general rule of thumb is that dried herbs will last for about 1-3 years. That is a long time! Usually we crumble all of ours up at once and put them in containers, but if you leave them as whole leaves and crumble them as you use them they will last you even longer. If you have them stored for an extended period of time and are wondering if they are still good, open the jar and make sure that is still smells good. If there is no aroma coming from the jar, then it is not good anymore.
Storing them in airtight containers away from any sunlight is ideal. A mason jar stored in your cabinet is perfect! Also, make sure that you are not keeping them where it is too hot for them. A dark cool place is best. Make sure that they are not in the cabinet above your stove.
Lastly, make sure that you label which jar is which and the date you dried them. They look strangely similar once they are in jars right next to one another!