DIY Herb Drying Methods
If you're growing culinary herbs this year, you'll want to dry and store them for future use. These two simple methods of drying herbs and ideas for re-purposing common household items will help you easily and quickly dry herbs for the kitchen.
I grow herbs both as ornamental plants and for kitchen use. I used to have a specific herb garden area in my raised bed vegetable garden, but eventually moved all of my herb plants into the perennial garden. They are so beautiful, like the pretty sage, below, that they look great as ornamental plants. I can then pick the leaves or other parts to dry when I want to have herbs for cooking or to use fresh in a recipe.
The first step, of course, is to grow the best herbs that you can. Herbs require full sun, and different soil conditions depending on the herbs. The sage shown above is a relative of mint, and likes hot, dry conditions.
Choose fresh, clean, unblemished leaves and stems for your project. Most herbs taste better if dried before the plant flowers. The oregano, above, is perfect to pick and dry.
The first method of drying herbs involves bundling them and hanging them by the stem in a warm, dry location. You can hang them directly from an overhead rack or use the method I will show you below. I bundle my herbs as shown above with rubber bands, then use jute twine to hang them up from the rack. This is catnip that I have cut and am preparing to dry.
Have you switched to digital audio files? I know that I buy very few CDs now , but I still have CD racks in the house. I re-purposed an old CD rack my husband built for me into an herb drying rack! Clean it, then simply tie the herb bundles to the rack. It's so lightweight you can easily bring it into the sunlight to speed drying time. Slip paper over the herbs to keep dust from settling on them when you bring it indoors.
This is a close up of my catnip bundles tied to the herb drying rack. When the herbs are dry, I remove the bundles, unwrap them, then crumble the dried leaves onto a paper towel. I store it in labeled and dated glass jars and discard the stems. I leave the top off of the jars for a few weeks to continue the drying process. Warning: with catnip and cats, put the jars in a closet. The cats will do anything to get into them!
Another simple way to dry herbs is to use an old baking or roasting pan. These are leaves that fell off of the catnip I was preparing to bundle and dry. I place them in a single layer in this metal roasting pan and leave it in the sun each day. I stir the leaves to keep them from sticking to the pan. Once they are dry, you can crumble them and store them in glass containers, wash the pan, and use the pan again for cooking. Pans are also very inexpensive and easy to find at garage sales and thrift shops.
I think every herbalist and herb grower has her own way of drying herbs. Some people use the oven, a dehydrator, you name it. Different methods produce different results. Too much heat can destroy the oils inside herbs that give them their lovely smell and taste. I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to drying herbs, and that I have inspired you to dry a few culinary herbs for kitchen use this year. Good luck!
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!Go