I did a little research, and found that there are a few methods you can try when drying herbs:
- Hanging to dry: Bundle your herbs in small bunches (about five branches each) and secure them with string or a rubber band. Place them upside down in a brown paper bag with holes punched in the top for circulation, then secure that with a string. Hang in a warm, dry area for 2-4 weeks, checking them occasionally to see if they're dry yet.
This works best with herbs that have a low moisture content, like dill, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme. Herbs with a higher moisture content, like basil, lemon balm, mint, oregano, and tarragon may get moldy before they dry completely using this method.
- Oven drying: Spread the leaves or stems out in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Heat the oven to about 180° F and heat them in there for 3-4 hours with the oven door open.
- Microwaving: A microwave can also be used to dry herbs, although it's not advised because using the microwave can diminish the oil content and flavor of your herbs. If you must use a microwave, lay the leaves or stems on a paper towel, and microwave on high 1-3 minutes, turning every 30 seconds.
- Electric Dehydrator: Turn the dehydrator to between 95° and 115° F, higher if you live in a humid climate. Lay leaves or stems in single laters on the trays, then heat for 1-4 hours, checking occasionally, until they are done.
|Cilantro ready for bottling|
I found that most of the cilantro stems were thin enough to crumble up with the leaves, so that's what I did with those. I separated out the others and put them in the compost. With the oregano, the leaves came off nicely from the stems when everything was dried, so I discarded all of the stems. I crumbled what was left, and used a funnel to fill the bottle. I was able to reuse empty glass bottles from herbs I had bought in the store, and I took off the old labels and put new ones on. (You should also date your bottles and use them all up within a year.)
|Oregano, clipped fresh from the rainy garden.|
It's been fun to clip herbs from my garden and process them myself until, at the end, I have nice little bottles of freshly dried herbs. I also never feel bad anymore about going to the grocery and buying a big, fresh bunch of something I don't have in my garden for a recipe (cilantro, this time). Now I know none of it will go to waste!
I was surprised to see how very green the herbs still are after drying compared to the ones I buy in the store. It makes me wonder what's done to those herbs to make them look so terrible (microwaving?) and also how long they've been sitting on the shelf! I love reaching in my cabinet for these bottles and using them in my recipes. I know exactly what went into the process that resulted in these tiny bottles of dry leaves I use to augment my cooking. I like being a big part of the process. I enjoy knowing precisely where my food comes from and how it got into those neat little bottles.