Fresh herbs have many wonderful properties. When you dry them carefully many of these properties are preserved. The following fourteen tips will help you to dry your herbs successfully.
- Pick your herbs just before you plan to dry them. They are just right when they are fully developed and just commencing budding. Pick off any damaged leaves or dead bits of stem.
- Have a good look over the bunch and ensure that your herbs are insect-free. It is not recommended that you wash your herbs once picked unless they really need it. If your herbs look like they need washing, you could hose them a day or two before you pick them, allow them to dry, then cut your bunches for drying.
- Have everything ready so that you can prepare the herbs for drying as soon as you cut them.
- To allow the herbs to dry at a similar rate, gather them in similar size bunches. For each drying bunch – tie about 8 – 10 stems together.
- For the majority of the herb bunches, tie their stems together with string and hang upside down. Some of the larger bunches of herbs can be hung on a hook or wire by themselves. But, remember to hang them upside down.
- If your drying location is at risk of contamination (e.g. dust, smoke, wind) place a paper bag (or other cover) over your herbs.
- A warm, dry, dark location is the best place to dry your herbs. (e.g. shed, loft or pantry cupboard).
- In the right conditions, it takes approximately five days for your herbs to dry. In cooler conditions, it may take up to two weeks for your herbs to dry. The best temperature for drying herbs is around 30 C (85 F).
- It is OK to dry different types of herbs at the same time. Just make sure that you do not place them too close together. If the herbs are too close together the properties of one herb may taint the other.
- When the herbs leaves are papery (fragile) the drying is complete. If your herb leaves collapse when touched, you have let the drying process go on for too long.
- To store your herbs, remove the leaves from the stems. Try to keep the leaves intact as best as you can, in as larger pieces as possible, even whole leaves if you can. This will help your herbs to keep their wonderful qualities. Tip: Gather the dried leaves on a piece of paper. Use the paper to pour your dried leaves into an airtight container.
- Do not start drying another batch of herbs until previous batches of herbs are ready.
- Store your newly dried herbs away from sunlight. Ensure your container is airtight, preferably glass and even better if you have a dark glass container.
- Crush your herbs just before you use them.
Some herbs suitable for hang drying are: rosemary, sage, lemon balm, wormwood, lovage, parsley, mint and lavender.