Herbs are not only useful when fresh, but when dried, too. For thousands of years, the only way to keep herbs from spoiling was by drying them. It’s easy, cheap and healthy, since dried herbs do not contain chemical additives.
Most of the herbs produce way more than we eat during a season, so you’ll be using their benefits for the whole year, and not only during the summer.
It’s also very good to know the herbs you are cooking at home are grown with the love and conditions they deserve.
Dried herbs are useful for:
- Making tea
- Crafting things for your home
- DIY beauty products
Fresh herbs can be dried in two ways: by using a machine – dehydrator, or by air drying.
Preparing the herbs for drying:
1. Harvest the herbs
Cut the herbs from the plant. Each plant has a specific way to be harvested, so make sure you get enough information on how to do that.
Some of the herbs benefit if you cut the stem above the growing leaves, so that new branches can be formed. These kinds of herbs are basil and mint.
Other herbs benefit if you remove individual leaves, and leave the stems intact.
If you harvest mid-season, remove a third of the plant, so it can continue growing. And if you harvest at the end of the season, feel free to cut the whole plant down.
2. Wash and dry the herbs
Using cool water, wash the herbs gently and thoroughly, in order to remove insects, dirt and pollen.
Make sure you dry them well. Spread them over a clean towel to air dry them for a few hours. The goal is to get rid of as much moisture as possible, so that they don’t get mold or mildew.
How to air dry herbs:
You need a well ventilated space and a little string.
Unfortunately, it takes a long time for the plants to air dry, and if you live in a place which gets especially humid during the summer, it will be very difficult to air dry.
1. Wrap and tie the herbs
After being washed and dried, the herbs should be bundled, and each bunch can have up to 12 branches or stems. Don’t mix together different kinds of herbs, since they won’t dry at the same time.
Leave a little tail of string (or a rubber band), and wind it around the stems’ base, until you bound the herbs together tightly. Then, tie the string to the tail you left.
2. Hang the herbs to dry
The remaining string should be used to hang the herbs. They should be hung in a well-ventilated place, where they can get a constant flow of air.
The leaves should be hanging down.
Air drying is good for: oregano, rosemary, marjoram, bay, thyme and dill.
How to dry herbs using a dehydrator:
This method is quick, easy, and the risk of mold and mildew is very low.
1. The dehydrator should be preheated
If the dehydrator has an option for preheating, do it. And if it has a temperature setting, set it between 95 and 115 degrees.
2. Put the herbs in the dehydrator
This depends on the types of herbs.
For example, mint and basil have big leaves which are easy to remove from the stem. So, you can remove the leaves and put them in a single layer in the dehydrator shelves.
When drying herbs with small leaves or flowers, put the whole branch or stem in the dehydrator, with the flowers or leaves intact.
Both of the methods share the same final step. Check if the herbs are dry enough, by pinching them (when dry, the leaves will crumble and the stems will break). If you use a dehydrator, they will be dry after a few hours, and if you air dry them – in a week or more.
When using a dehydrator, leave the herbs out to cool, after you remove them. When they’ve cooled, crumble them or leave them whole, storing them in air tight glass containers. Label the container with the date and type of herb.
The best herbs to dry using a dehydrator are: basil, mint, chives and tarragon.
Enjoy the home-grown-summer flavor throughout the entire year!