While the herbs from your garden are best when used freshly picked, there is always more than you can use in one season. Air drying is not only the easiest and least expensive way, but this slow drying process can help retain the essential oils of the herbs, so they don’t lose all their flavor.
The ideal temperature for drying herbs ranges from 95°- 104° F or 35°- 40° C. If this temperature would be difficult to ensure, dry the herbs in a shaded well-ventilated place.
Harvest herbs for drying just before their flowers open. As for the time of the day, generally it is best to harvest herbs early morning after the dew has evaporated but before the sun has evaporated the volatile oils contained in them. Rinse them with lukewarm water, pat them dry with paper towels, remove any dry or diseased leaves. Hang or lay the herbs out where they will get plenty of air circulation, so they can dry out quickly. Wet herbs will mold and rot.
Tie them into a bundle with a rubber band. Keep the leaves and flowers facing downward and hang somewhere in a spot that gets full sun, e.g. on the porch or off a hanger or a drying rack. Another common way is to lay them out on the floor with a thin white paper underneath, but it is also the slowest method, which may result in a poor condition of the herb at the end of the process. The drying process may last up to several days depending on the type of herb and the thickness of the layer.
Once you have dried your herbs, they are ready to use right away, but more often you will want to store the herbs for later. Crumble the dried herbs with clean fingers or crush them in a mortar, discarding any hard stems. Then place the crushed herbs into small airtight containers and keep in a cool, dark place. They may last for 6 to 12 months, but the sooner you use them, the more flavor you will have.
Find out more in My Herbs magazine, a magazine for those who want to live in harmony with nature.
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