Drying herbs: a beginner’s guide
It’s nice to pluck a few fresh leaves from this or that herb to toss into whatever is cooking at the moment, but it’s infinitely better to harvest in larger quantities and create your own, all-natural spice rack. Herbs are simple, easily grown, and incredibly useful plants that thrive growing in your backyard garden, in containers on the patio, or indoors by a windowsill. As it turns out, it is just as easy to store and dry herbs as it is to grow them! Once you’ve mastered the art of herb storing, you can mix and match to create your own special seasoning mixes, create uniquely delicious meals, and showcase your gardening prowess by gifting herbs to friends and neighbours.
Drying herbs ensures their survival for the long haul. This only works if you take action immediately after harvesting your herbs - don’t wait until they’ve wilted. The fresher they are, the more flavourful, potent and longer-lasting your dried herbs will be. Before doing any of the following drying methods, you’ll need to get your herbs clean. Rinse the leaves off without crushing or damaging them, and remove any bad leaves from the mix. Give them a little shake to remove excess moisture and then pat them dry gently. Spread the leaves out in a single layer on a clean towel or kitchen drying rack and allow a few hours for them to air dry completely at room temperature.
*For beginners, drying herbs with broad, flat leaves (like basil for example) is much easier. Herbs with nooks and crannies (like parsley) are harder to dry properly and are prone to mould for this reason.
• Tie in bunches and hang dry outdoors in the sunshine. They tend to lose flavour and pale in direct sunlight. They may also be attacked by insects. Tying a brown paper bag around the hanging bunches prevents both of these outcomes! Hang-drying can be done indoors as well – this leads to more flavourful herbs but usually takes a couple weeks longer. A paper bag is still useful as it will keep leaves and seeds from falling on the floor.
• Spread out in a single layer on screen or mesh netting. Place the screen by a sunny windowsill with good air flow (but not enough to send your herbs flying away).
• Oven drying. Lay out your herbs in a single layer on a thin baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Leave the herbs in the oven at the lowest possible temperature setting and with the door slightly ajar. Check on them frequently and remove them when they look dry and crisp.