Gardening

Drying herbs: A how-to guide on how to decide how to dry herbs

Black Swallowtail butterfly resting on a Zinnia in my garden

Don’t let those garden goodies go to waste! 

Something I like to do while I’m knitting outdoors is contemplating what to do in my gardens. Truth be told, I actually like to contemplate what I’d like to do in my gardens more than actually working in them. It’s not that I don’t like gardening, I do. I just like to sit with my feet up, leisurely knitting, sipping a glass of wine, admiring pretty flowers more.

I vowed this year I would not let the herbs I worked hard planting go to waste. Although, as far as my herbs go, the chamomile, dill, and cilantro were all volunteer plants from last year – so hard work may be stretching it!

I’ve tried making pesto with different herbs but it takes time, makes a mess in the kitchen (for me it does anyway) and after putting it in the freezer I forget about it for a couple of years and end up throwing it out. Totally defeats the purpose of NOT wasting the spoils of the garden. I need an easy way to save my herbs. (side note: my mother makes a mean pesto. If that’s your jam there is a surprise for you at the end of this post!)

Please join me in my latest endeavor as I try my hand at drying fresh herbs. I’ll share what is working for me and I’ll hopefully have some time-saving tips, because who doesn’t love a good life hack?

How do you dry fresh herbs?

Full disclosure, I usually research (re: google search) things REALLY well before I do them. With drying herbs I did not. How hard can it be? The plants will literally dry once you cut them without physically having to do anything else! I’m also kinda lazy. Not lazy like I don’t do anything, but lazy in that I want the easiest way to do something (case in point: Portuguese knitting). So, naturally, what better way to dry stuff than in the sun?? I got out my biggest cookie sheet, harvested a boatload of chamomile flowers, and put them on the cookie sheet in a sunny spot. I had dried chamomile in no time.

Later I thought maybe I should read up on how to dry fresh herbs, so I found MYSELF a sunny spot and googled. Lo and behold you aren’t supposed to dry herbs in the sun because it bleaches them and they lose flavor and on and on. Now, I’m not convinced, but after that first batch, I stopped using the sun to dry my herbs (so much for my efficient, mass production plans!). My son loves chamomile tea, so I plan on conducting a scientific double-blind taste test and see if he can taste the difference in drying methods. 

Nasturtiums are edible! The leaves have a peppery flavor and the flowers taste just like radishes. They are delicious fresh on a salad. I’m drying a bunch to use in soups and stews in the winter.

What is the best way to dry herbs?

There are a few different ways to dry herbs that don’t involve ruining them with sunlight (still not convinced). Here are the google approved ways to dry herbs starting with my least favorite.

Dehydrator

I don’t have a dehydrator. I don’t need another appliance taking up space on my kitchen counter or stuffing it in what little cabinet space I have. Next.

Oven

This is almost as fast as the sun. I’m not sure it works with all herbs, but I tried it with chamomile and mint and both turned out well. Heat the oven to about 100º-125ºF. Place the herbs in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Pro tip: Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper to make transferring the dried herbs easier. Check on the herbs hourly, flip them over, move them around. Chamomile takes about two hours to dry completely, mint about four to five hours.


Dill and Nasturtium leaves drying flat. Dried chamomile stored in a canning jar. If you’re ever near Taylor, NE be sure to check out Bootleg Brewers!

Lay flat to dry

If you want to dry your herbs el naturale without artificial heat, this is a solid option. Laying the herbs flat to dry gives you an opportunity to make them into pretty arrangements for the ‘gram. This method depends on how many flat surfaces you and/or your family are willing to give up for the cause. My family was willing to give up exactly zero flat surfaces. Hopefully, you have a bigger kitchen than I do or live with nicer people. (Just kidding, they’re great, our counter space is very limited).

Hang dry

Winner winner, vegetarian chicken dinner. Save space! Make cute little bouquets! Looks pretty hanging from a pergola! Plus, I have an old roll-top desk my sister gave me that I’m just itching to turn into an herb drying/hanging/storage station. Stay tuned for that.

How long does it take to hang dry herbs?

Factoring in the humidity during summer in Nebraska, It’s a minimum of 10 days for mint to dry. Chamomile, cilantro, thyme, and lavender dry after about a week. Nasturtiums (the flowers, not the leaves) seem to take the longest, almost two weeks. If you have a place inside to hang the herbs they may dry faster than outside. I like working outside, so I loosely tie small bunches in paper lunch sacks or hang them in my enclosed greenhouse. 

On to the next phase…

There you have it. I finally decided HOW to dry my herbs. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with different ways to store and use the herbs once they’re dry. I’ll bestow my knowledge on how to store dried herbs soon.

How do you keep your garden harvest from going to waste? I’d love to hear what works for you. Leave a comment below!

~mb

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. Here is Marjorie’s Marvelous Pesto.  The recipe calls for basil, but works well with cilantro and mint too!

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2 thoughts on “Drying herbs: A how-to guide on how to decide how to dry herbs

  1. Vic B says:

    Hi dear……reading your comments….that old roll top desk (I do believe) was dad’s….back in the days of accumulation….I remember I kind of wanted it…but it was there and I was elsewhere….so it was all good…….it was in the fam. I can’t wait to see a picture of your new drying station!!! Have fun…! Love you!!!

    Like

    • Hi Aunt Vicki! Thanks for reading…I remember grandpa’s big old rolltop desk, I don’t think the one I got from Kimberly is the old family one, it’s much smaller. I can’t wait to get to work on it, stay tuned. Love you!

      Like

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