Its peak season for harvesting fresh herbs in your garden. The rosemary, oregano, basil, and parsley are blooming, not to mention the other fine herbs carefully tucked in containers and pots around the veggie plot. To make the most out of the bountiful herbs spilling out your garden plot, you’ll need to learn how to dry them.
Drying herbs from your garden preserve that fresh summer taste all winter long. But it's not the only benefit to learning to dry herbs:
- Saves money throughout the year
- Reduces waste from your garden
- Guarantees higher quality ingredients than store-bought
Bragging rights after an excellent home-cooked meal
Why don’t more people dry their own herbs during the gardening season? Perhaps people assume it's time-consuming or more difficult than it really is. Drying herbs at home takes no time at all and can be done with to no extra equipment then you’ve already got at home. But of course, there are also helpful, and affordable products, like herb drying racks, which make the process easier still.
How to Dry Common Herbs at Home
If you’ve got one herb growing in your garden, chances are you’ve got a few more varieties to harvest as well. While you might want to throw all herbs into the same hanging drying basket, take care to separate and treat each with care.
There are many different techniques for drying herbs, and often you can use the same technique for all varieties. Each type should be dried separately from one another. Some herbs dry faster, some slower, and some require more air flow.
Below are the most common herbs, as well as the most common drying techniques. Feel free to experiment using different methods for different herbs, what works in some climates might not work as well in others. Get creative!
How to Dry Basil
- Harvest basil leaves after the sun has dried any dew from the night before. The most aromatic part of basil is the top flower, but the few newer leaves below the flower are also pleasant.
- Collect stems into bundles, the looser the better. Tie with kitchen twine.
- Cut the sides of paper bags (one bag per bundle), and place around each bundle.
- Ensure there are enough slots in the bag to allow constant airflow. Tie around the top of the packet.
- String the ends of the bags to lines and hang in a dry location. Outside on a balcony in the dry months, in your hot kitchen, or even an attic.
- Basil is ready to store when leaves are brittle to the touch.
How to Dry Rosemary
- Harvest only the fresh sprigs of rosemary. As the rosemary sprigs age, they lose flavor and become woody. A good indication of freshness is a supple stem.
- Wash the springs to remove any unwanted debris, and pat to dry thoroughly.
- Snip into one-inch pieces, and place in a parchment lined tray.
- Set your over to the lowest temperature, as low as it can go. Bake for roughly two hours.
- Check periodically, as you might need to bake for upwards of four hours.
- When the rosemary darkens in color, but is still green, and is brittle to the touch it is ready.
- Let cool completely and store.
How to Dry Parsley
- Harvest parsley after the sun has had a chance to burn up any dew from the night before.
- Snip individual leaves off of the stem.
- Using a mesh hanging basket, arrange parsley in a single layer in each layer of the hanging racks.
- Hang the drying rack in a dry space, like in your kitchen pantry, an attic, or undercover on your balcony.
- Allow to dry for at two weeks, checking periodically to make sure there is no mold. You might need to flip the parsley halfway through, to speed up the process, although this
- isn’t absolutely necessary.
- Once the leaves are brittle and crumbly to the touch, they are ready to store.
How to Dry Oregano
- Harvest the supple tops of the oregano stems. It's much like rosemary, as it grows the bottoms of the plant become woody and less appealing.
- Gathering the stems in small loose bundles, tie together with a piece of kitchen twine.
- Cut slits into the sides of a paper bag, the more slits, the better airflow into the herbs inside. Place the herb bundles inside the paper bag and tie to secure.
- Tie the paper bag bundles outside undercover in a dry area, in your closet or pantry.
- The oregano should completely dry in two weeks if the leaves are brittle to the touch its ready for storage.
Remove leaves from the stems and into a sealed container.
How to Dry Sage
- Harvest sage young sage leaves before they become dry and flavorless.
- Sage leaves are larger than the leaves of other herbs like oregano and rosemary, and its best to pick them off the stem before drying.
- Place in a single layer, evenly in each dehydrator tray. Set the dehydrator to 95°F to 115°F.
- Depending on the type of sage and humidity in the air, drying times may vary. Check back periodically every hour. The process could take as long as three hours.
- Once the leaves are brittle and easily crumble when crushed, they are ready for storage.
Tips for Successfully Herb Storage
Once you’ve successfully dried your herbs, you’ll need to store them over the coming months carefully. Dry herbs, when stored correctly are good for up to a year, but over time tend to lose flavor. When summer hits next year, it's time to dump any dried herbs from the year before and get to harvesting again.
- Store in glass airtight contacts. Plastic can transfer unwanted chemical tastes to your delicate herbs.
- Store in a cool dark place. Heat and light can damage the flavors as well.
- Clearly label with what kind of herb is inside and date stored