Learning How to Dry Herbs
Learning how to dry herbs is so simple and easy, once you learn how you may never go to the store to buy them again! Being able to dry your own herbs for food and medicine will give you a whole new experience, taste, and connection to the food you eat and the medicines you take.
How to dry herbs - Preparation
With all these methods you first need to rinse the fresh plants under cool water to remove any dirt or impurities, and then shake them to get the water out. You can also pat them dry on a towel. For roots, wash and scrub them thoroughly and slice them lengthwise into 1/4 - 1/2 inch thick pieces. Sounds pretty simple right? You just learned the first step of how to dry herbs. Now let the drying begin…
Air Drying Method for drying herbs
Air drying is an almost effortless, easy way to dry herbs. Put your herbs in bundles and tie with rubber bands or with string and hang upside down. Your location needs to be in open warm air, dark and out of direct sunlight. Direct sun can discolor the herbs and dry them of their essential oils.
Your drying air needs to be ventilated well and relatively moisture free. Keep the temperature of your drying area between 80 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Don't get it hotter than 90 degrees. Be sure to turn the herbs periodically so they dry evenly and molds don't form on them. With all the drying methods, you'll know they're dry when the leaves first crush easily in your hands.
Drying Rack method for drying herbs
You can also use a drying rack. Hardware cloth, old window screens, or even sheets work equally well. I'm always looking for how to dry herbs in new ways so the day I saw a friend of mine lay coriander plants on a white bed sheet to dry I was really excited. When they were dry we processed the plants right there on the sheet. It was nice to have a white sheet because we could see all the parts of the plants well and gather up the tiny seeds that had fallen onto the fabric. When we were done we took the sheet out to shake it and voila, we were done.
Paper Bag method for drying herbs
You can bundle your herbs and place them inside paper bags. Put a few holes in the sides of the bag to prevent molding. In my quest for learning how to dry fresh herbs, when I started using paper bags I found that the seeds would drop to the bottom of the bag and I used those for spices, too.
Oven Method for drying herbs
You can dry herbs in an oven so long as you leave the oven door partially open so heat and moisture can escape. Set your heat to the lowest setting possible. When I first learned how to dry fresh herbs I started with roots which are great for drying in the oven. Always allow the herbs to cool completely before storing them. I recommend using glass air tight containers for storing..
Refrigeration method for drying herbs
One more method is the refrigeration method. This does well retaining the flavor and color of your herbs. Spread a single layer of plants on a baking sheet and cover with paper towels. Dry in the main section of your fridge and not the crisper section.
No matter what drying method you choose for how to dry herbs, remember to periodically check to see how your herbs are drying so that you don't over or under dry them. Moisture can evaporate quickly from the plants and the essential oils should remain in the leaves after they're dry. Turn them often. Again, you'll know they're done when the leaves first crush easily. The goal is to retain as much of the fresh flavor and/or medicinal properties as you can.
Keep your drying area clean so you don't gather dust on your plants. If you notice any leaves turning black or begin to mold remove them. Leave space between your plants to support proper air circulation.
Now that you have a basic primer on how to dry fresh herbs, as you gather your herbs you can collect individual leaves, flower petals, seeds, or roots at the beginning of your gathering so that by the time you get to drying you are already done with most of your processing.
Benefits of drying fresh herbs
There are many benefits in learning how to dry herbs. You get to preserve the flavors and aromas of other seasons and spice up your food or bring remedies to your family in a more closely connected way than if you had just bought some herbs at the store. You gain plant knowledge you might not have had otherwise. Perhaps most importantly, learning how to dry herbs puts you in relationship with the plants and the natural world in a way that brings a deep sense of meaning and connection, which is what life is all about. Enjoy the spices of life!
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Check out the Twin Eagles Wilderness Immersion Program.
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