Do you grow lavender, thyme, mint, oregano, marjoram, tarragon, basil…or any other herb in your garden? Drying herbs is so easy and you can enjoy those flavorful or fragrant herbs year round by drying them at their peak flavor and scent.
This is thyme in the picture above. Can you tell which is the store bought thyme and which is the home dried thyme? And the store bought time is not old! I just bough it a few months ago.
I remember the first time I used my own dried oregano in a jambalaya recipe I had made many times before. The whole pot of jambalaya tasted better than it ever had!
It’s definitely worth it to dry herbs yourself, and it really doesn’t take much time or effort.
Here is the process step by step:
You can cut herbs from your garden or even save herbs from the grocery store or farmers market!
Here’s how to collect from your yard – for small leafed herbs like oregano, thyme, marjoram, etc… you want to cut the stems as long as you can so that they will be easier to handle and dry.
You can bundle the smaller stems with a rubber band or twine. For larger leafed herbs like basil, you can cut the full stem, but you may want to just dry the leaves without the whole stem.
When should you cut your herbs to dry? Just before they flower. This is when they will have the best flavor without being bitter.
Do you have to cut them before they flower, what if you missed it and the tops are blooming? Or what if you want to dry everything at once and one of the herbs isn’t close to flowering yet? You can still dry them. I have done so and had good results. They may not be the best, but they still taste great and are fresher than you’ll get from the store. Just be careful because the bees like them after flowering. And be sure to trim off the top flowering part so that you are only drying the leaves and stem.
Wash the Herbs
Be sure to give your herbs a good rinse to get any bugs, dirt, weeds, or any other debris off before drying.
If you have a smaller amount, you can just pat dry them off after rinsing. If you have a large amount, I suggest laying them out on clean dry cloths or paper towels to get excess water off. You could also use a salad spinner.
Methods of Drying
There are a few different methods to dry the herbs at this point. You can
- hang them up to dry,
- lay them out to dry, or
- put them in a dehydrator.
For smaller amounts with stems or large leaves, I like using the dehydrator or at least laying the herbs out on the dehydrator shelves (without turning it on).
Technically, allowing the herbs to air dry does preserve more flavor, but it takes longer. So if you have time, you can lay everything out on the dehydrator shelves and allow it to dry without turning the dehydrator on.
Alternatively, set the dehydrator to it’s lowest setting (mine is 95 degrees). If you leave the dehydrator off, it will take a few days to a week for everything to dry. If you turn the dehydrator on, it takes about 4 – 8 hours depending on the size of leaves and how much you pack into the trays. The leaves should crumble easily when dried completely.
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can bundle stemmed herbs in sections and secure them with a rubber band or twine.
I like to hang up the larger herbs to dry instead of taking up dehydrator space anyway. Be sure to separate the stems into small bundles so that the middle parts can dry before getting moldy.
Then just hang up your bundles upside down in a dark place away from sunlight. I have hooks in my pantry that I loop the rubber bands around.
If you want to save yourself a bit of mess, you can also place a paper bag underneath the bottoms or on the floor to catch bits of leaves that crumble before drying all the way.
Remove Leaves from Stems
If you dried just leaves (sage, bay, basil), you can just put the whole leaves into a container. I find the flavor lasts longer if you crumble the leaves just before using. If you dried the plant stems and all, you will want to remove the leaves by sliding your fingers down the stems to break off each leaf into a bowl. On smaller leaves/stems, you may need to crumble the leaves off as the stems will break with this method.
Once you have removed all the leaves, then transfer them to a container for storage. You could technically put the leaves from the stems directly into a storage container, but in my experience, without a wide mouth receptacle, a lot of leaves will end up on the counter instead of in your container.
A few more tips:
For lavender, you want the purple flowers to be closed when you dry them. Cut the plant just above the leaves so that you are just getting stems.
If you save a bunch extra, you can give small jars of dried herbs out as gifts for Christmas or another holiday that you celebrate.