While the freshly picked herbs are the best to use, there is always more harvest than you can use in one season.
And that’s when drying them helps! Dried herbs are flavourful and economically savvy. Home-dried herbs will any day taste better than store-bought ones as they’ll be fresher, organic and free of preservatives.
Home-dried herbs are also free of bacteria, mould, and yeast. Plus by growing your own herbs, you can also choose varieties as per taste.
There are various herb varieties that can be preserved for 6 months to one year. You could plant celery, dill, geranium, fenugreek, lemon balm, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme at home and dry them for later use. You could also dry flowers like lavender, marigold, chamomile, rose and chives. Herbs like basil, borage, chives, coriander, lemongrass, mint, parsley best retain their flavour if frozen, although they can also be dried.
Follow this simple 3 step process to dry herbs at home
It’s important to harvest herbs you intend to dry at the right time. Herbs should be picked before their flowers develop. We recommend harvesting on warm, dry mornings after the dew has evaporated and the sun is not too sharp. It’s the best recommended to pick one variety of herb for drying at a given time.
Preparing herbs to be dried hardly takes much time. If you are harvesting your homegrown herbs, you do not need to wash to ensure that the essential oils are not lost while rinsing. Explore 4 exotic herbs that thrive together in a herb garden.
If you are using fresh store-bought herbs, wash them properly to prepare for drying.
You can use any of the methods below for preserving herbs within the comfort of your kitchen.
Air dry herbs
Air-drying herbs is the simplest way to dry herbs. You can spread the herbs on a shelf or even hang them upside down in a bundle. This method is best suited as it doesn't deplete the naturally occurring oils in herbs.
Air dry herbs with these simple steps
- Spread leaves or sprigs of herbs on a shelf or a wooden shelf. You can also make bundles of specific herbs, tie them and hang them upside down.
- Place the herbs at a warm spot out for indirect sunlight for 6-7 hrs.
- Turn the leaves every 12 hrs.
- The herbs will be dried in 1-2 weeks with cornflake like texture. To test, press a few leaves and they will crumble if completely dried.
Recommended herbs for air drying
This method is best suited for herbs with lower moisture content. Some of the varieties include thyme, oregano, dill, rosemary, bay, lemon balm, mint, and lavender.
Dry herbs in an oven
Oven-drying herbs is a relatively faster method than air-drying. Just be careful to not burn the herbs in the process!
Oven dry herbs with these simple steps:
- Space out leaves on a muslin-covered tray in an oven. Set the oven to a low temperature to retain the fragrant essential oils.
- Turn the leaves over in 30 minutes for even drying. Leave inside the oven until cool.
- You could also microwave herbs on a paper towel on high 2 to 3 minutes, turning them over every 30 seconds. However, some experts suggest oven drying over the microwave method.
Recommended herbs for oven drying
This method is suited for all kind of herbs and flowers. Some of the varieties include tarragon, sage, mint, rosemary, thyme, and parsley.
Herbs can also be preserved with the help of the freezing method. This method is most effective in preserving the essential oils of the herbs. You could lay them flat on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer. When they're completely frozen, store them in an airtight container in the freezer. Or chop them finely, place into an ice cube tray and pour olive oil. Freeze this mixture. Once the cubes become solid, place them into a plastic bag, and keep in the freezer. Use when needed.
Recommended herbs for freezing method
This method is suited for herb varieties like mint, basil, chives, thyme, coriander, and rosemary.
Once you have dried or frozen your homegrown herbs, enjoy their fresh flavours all year long. Store the dried herbs into small, airtight containers. Do not forget to label and date them! Keep these containers in a cool and dark place. Your herbs will be potent for six and 12 months. The sooner you use them, the more flavour and fragrance they will add. Pro-tip on storing dried herbs- your dried herbs will retain more flavour if you store the whole leaves. You could crush them when you are about to use them.
Using dried herbs
Dried herbs, unlike fresh ones, can be added anytime in a recipe. The flavours can develop within the dish. Use your home dried herbs in teas and soups. They also make the perfect seasoning for appetizers, salads, pizza and sauteed vegetables. Pour boiling water over a teaspoon of the dried herb, or more to taste, and steep for 5 to 7 minutes. Voila! Enjoy your healthy tea or share with neighbours, or give away as gifts!