Herbs dried from your own garden are a far cry from commercially dried herbs. For one thing, they are fresher—you have no way of knowing how long the herbs have set on the shelf before buying them. Secondly, they taste better because you grew them. This could be a mental effect rather than anything related to the taste buds, but I’ll take it! Lastly, they are so much cheaper and make great gifts when holiday time rolls around.
Here are five quick ways I have dried my own herbs:
- The lowest tech way of drying is to hang them up in bunches, which is how I did it when I first started. It seems so charming this way, but they quickly collect dust and cobwebs that are tough to clean off. This can be avoided by putting them in a brown paper bag first (just punch some holes in it so air can circulate). (Admittedly, this takes away a lot of the sexiness of air drying because you can’t seem them.)
- My favorite way to dry is in the food dehydrator. The herbs dry in a couple of hours and are ready to go into jars. It does cost me a little in electricity, but that cost is negligible next to the price of store-bought herbs. (Also, environmentally, it is a savings because they aren’t being hauled cross country in a semi after being dried.)
- If you don’t have a food dehydrator, use the oven. Toss them in on a cookie sheet at about 200 degrees for 3-4 hours. (This works great for lavender, whose tiny blossoms seem to fall through the cracks in the food dehydrator.)
- Some herbs can dry on the plant. Dill is one herb that I harvest fresh throughout the summer. Then, once the plant has dried out, I bring it in and jar it immediately. (Need some dill seed? Because let’s just say I have an ample supply.) Another plant whose seeds should be saved once dry is cilantro, whose is technically coriander when in seed form.
- Sun dry. Herbs can be easily sun dried on window screens—they will take a lot less time than vegetables like tomatoes. My biggest deterrent to using this method is my two little boys, who seem to think that I am harvesting herbs for their mud pies and other adventures…
There are also many other great ways to preserve herbs, which I will be covering in the coming weeks. Can’t wait to share with you!