And Other Ways How To Dry Herbs
Wednesday 03 April, 2013.
Freezing herbs is just one way of how to dry herbs. Learn about freezing herbs and how to dry herbs and have fun preserving your own herbs.
You can air-dry herbs or even dry them in the microwave oven. Often we grow more fresh herbs than we can use and preserving our herbs is a great stress relief activity and ensures that we have good quality herbs for those calming herbal teas, herbal oils and other natural remedies!
Growing and preserving our own herbs also enables us to control the source and quality of the herbs we use! No pesticides! No chemical fertilizers!
Gathering herbs can be a quest that brings healing and stress relief in itself. Native American tradition teaches that a prayer of thanks should be given before picking the plant. When picking plants in the wild, they also make sure that there is still plenty of the plant left so the herb can re-grow. Good Advice!!
When harvesting herbs from the garden, use strong scissors or a kitchen knife to snip the herbs. If the herb can survive winter (i.e. it is a perennial with over-wintering abilities), cut the stems at the base of the plant. Other herbs can be entirely pulled out and the roots and woody parts composted after cutting. Cut all herbs used for drying in a way that leaves them with long stems. For freezing herbs and other drying methods, it is best to gather the herb after the dew has dried, but before the sun is at full strength. This ensures it retains its potency.
Generally, roots of perennial herbs are harvested in the autumn when the foliage has died down and the goodness returned to the roots.
Leaves are best harvested in spring. Collect them midmorning when the dew has dried but before the sun draws out their essential oils. Most herbs contain the greatest amount of essential oils just before they flower. Only perfect quality leaves should be harvested. Leave those with insect damage or disease.
Flowers are harvested at the height of bloom. Choose those in good condition.
Seeds are collected when the seed pod has formed. Leave them to ripen fully as they dry. Then hang them upside down with a paper bag or soft cloth wrapped around them. The seeds fall into the bag or cloth as they dry.
If you have to wash your herbs because of dirt, the best thing to do is to gently spray them with a fine mist sprayer and then wipe them. (Otherwise you may risk having problems with mildew.) Pat them gently with a paper towel or shake herbs dry.
How to Dry Herbs and Store Herbs
Fresh herbs need to be used quickly to make full use of their goodness. They start to decay after several days!
Drying, (including freezing herbs) and storing herbs is easy! …
A very simple way to dry herbs is to spread them on a piece of brown paper or on a rack and place them in a warm, dry cupboard. Spread them so that the leaves and flower heads do not overlap and the air can circulate around them.
Leave to dry for 1 – 3 weeks. When dry, the leaves should be like paper, fragile but not powdery.
Not sure what plants to choose for drying and freezing herbs? I have a list of my best health herbs that I like to work with – Click here for ideas.
- Choose appropriate types for freezing herbs. This method works well for soft-leaf herbs such as basil, tarragon, lovage and parsley. One benefit of freezing herbs is that there are some herbs that you can only freeze as they don’t dry, such as chives.
- Wash and dry freshly picked herbs, see below. Strip off the leaves and place them into freezer bags or containers prepared for freezing herbs.
- Label and date the bags. Frozen herbs should keep for up to 3 months. If you want them to last longer, blanch them in hot water for a few seconds and then dip straight into ice-cold water and then into the freezer in bags/containers. Blanched herbs will freeze for up to 6 months.
- Freezing herbs can also be done in ice-cube trays. This gives you handy little sizes for use in cooking. Freeze approximately one-third chopped herbs to two-thirds water. Puree basil with olive oil before freezing in ice cubes (don’t add water). Remove frozen herb cubes and store in plastic freezer bags. Use cubes as needed.
This is the preferred method for drying herbs since most of the flavor and essential oils of the herb are retained.
- Remove the lower leaves from the stem. Tie small bunches of cleaned herbs together (about 5 -10 stems to facilitate ventilation) and hang them upside down in a dark, warm, well ventilated area.
- The drying time is about 2 to 4 weeks. When drying is completed the leaves should be like paper, fragile but not so dry that they powder when touched.
- Avoid drying strong smelling herbs next to others as their flavor spreads through their fragrance.
If you do not have a dark spot in the house, you can try tying paper lunch bags over each bunch and piercing airholes in the bag. This has the added bonus of also keeping the dust off. This works well when drying lavender – the flowers will fall into the bag as they dry.
Drying Herbs In a Microwave
- Wash herbs well, pat dry and lay aside for an hour. You want to make sure there is no moisture on them before heating.
- Place herbs in a single layer on a paper towel, cover with another paper towel. Place in microwave and heat for 2 minutes on high. Turn paper towel and microwave for another 1 minute or reheat in 30 second intervals until herbs are dry and brittle.
- Pack herbs in airtight containers and store in a dark, dry place. Use as needed.
- Watch while you’re heating to make sure they don’t smoke or start on fire. Since microwaves heat differently, the times may vary for you.
- Can be used for up to one year.
Oven Dry Herbs
Arrange cleaned herb stems in a single layer on a cookie sheet with temperature set at 180° F. Heat for about 4 hours, keeping the oven door open the entire time (to let moisture escape). Stir herbs occasionally during this heating process.
Another effective drying method is to lay a clean paper towel on counter top; lay another one on top of this. Snip washed leaves off stem and arrange in rows on 1/2 of the towel. Lay another paper towel folded in 1/2 over leaves. Add another layer of leaves and bring other 1/2 of first 2 towel layers to cover this. Leave it to dry about 2 days or 3 depending on leaf thickness. You know they’re dry when you can crumble a leaf in your hand. Store in airtight container.
Herbs in Oil
This is so easy and looks so professional…
- Harvest and clean herbs as per instructions.
- Choose your favourite oil. Olive oil is preferred but any other oils that you like are generally fine.
- You can keep the leaves attached to the stem or remove them and add them separately.
- If you want to use the oil as herbal flavoured oil, include the stems. Place herbs in a glass bottle and fill with oil – herbs remaining on their stem inside the oil bottle look very attractive, as well as being wonderful for cooking . If you wish to remove the herbal leaves for cooking, a shorter, wider container is preferable to enable you to put in a spoon and scoop out the herbs and oil.
- Keep in a cool or refrigerated place, especially during warmer months. Use within 6 months of preparation.
- After freezing herbs, use in a herbal oil.
See my list of favourite Stress Relieving Herbs for ideas on what herbs to use!
Herbs should be stored in airtight bottles away from sunlight, moisture and dust. Plastic and metal containers are not suitable as they can affect the chemistry of the herbs.
You can pick leaves off the stem when they are dried and place them in a container as a whole leaf – this will help them retain their scent and goodness for longer. Crush them before using.
Seeds, flowers, and roots can also be stored in dark, airtight containers.
Remember to label all bottles with the name of the herb and the date it was stored. Check them at intervals for mould, moisture and insects and discard if any damage.
Important: If you do notice any moisture in the airtight containers after storing the dried herbs–this is a sign that they weren’t completely dried when packed. Mold can develop because of the moisture, so make sure the herbs are thoroughly dried and have absolutely no moisture left in them.
Most leaves and flowers lose their medicinal potency after about a year, but then there is a new season to harvest. Isn’t nature wonderful? Seeds and roots can be stored for about 3 years.
Be creative and use your home-dried herbs in a variety of ways. There is so much more you can do with herbs than herbal teas. Try your own infusions, decoctions and oils for real DIY stress relief.
So forget the worries of the world, go to the garden.
Choose your selection for freezing herbs and relax!
Go to DIY Stress Home Page
Creating Your Own Healing Herbal Blends with Confidence
by Lana J. Thomas
This course takes you step by step -– from introducing you to herbs to preparation of herbal recipes and blends for encapsulation, teas, decoctions, extracts, tonics, and syrups. Develop and hone your skills towards creating or expanding your own healing practice. Learn more here.