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Drying Herbs

Find out how to dry your own herbs

Drying Herbs

preserving | grow your own

Fresh herbs are typically only available cheaply for a couple of months per year in the UK - whether shop bought, or grown in your own garden. Therefore, it makes sense to dry herbs in the summer so that you have them available for use in cookery all year round. Herbs you have grown and dried yourself taste much better than commercially bought pots of dried herbs.

Drying herbs

Picking and Preparing the Herbs

Herbs should be cut (with scissors) in the early summer when they are at their most aromatic. Ideally pick them in the morning after the dew has evaporated off, but before the sun has scorched the leaves. Shake off the herbs to make sure any dirt or insects are removed, and then wash in cold water. Remove any old, damaged, or diseased leaves and stems by hand and then pat the herbs thoroughly dry with a kitchen towel.

Air Drying Herbs

The simplest and most effective way to dry herbs at home is air drying. Small bunches of five or so stems should be tied together and hung upside down in a brown paper bag - ideally a bag large enough that the leaves of the herbs do not touch the inside of the bag. Cut a few holes towards to the top of the bag for ventilation to speed up the drying process. (The bottom of the bag will catch any seeds and leaves which fall off the stems so that they do not make a mess.) Write the name of the herb and the drying date on the bag so you can identify them later.

Dried herbs

Each bag of herbs can be hung anywhere warm, dry, and well ventilated. An attic is typically perfect. After a couple of weeks (the longer the better), open up the bags and check the herbs. If there is any sign of mold throw away the whole bag. Strip the leaves from the stems and throw away the stems. The leaves can be crushed or ground at this time, however they will retain more flavour if you leave them whole for now and only grind them immediately before use with a pestle and mortar.

Herbs can be stored for years in airtight containers located somewhere cool, dry, and away from light. Ideally use the herbs within one year as the strength of flavour will diminish as time passes, and after 12 months you'll be ready to dry some more fresh herbs again! Again, don't forget to label the containers with the name of the herb and the date it was prepared. If after a few days you notice condensation forming on the inner surface of the herb container, remove the herbs and dry them a little more.

Oven Drying Herbs

Drying Oregano in a warm oven

Drying herbs in an oven is very inefficient, but will dry herbs very quickly. You can spread herbs out on a tray (or directly on the rack) in a warm oven (70-80 degrees Celcius) for 3-4 hours opening the door every now and then to release the moisture and so you can give the herbs a stir around. Alternatively use a very cool oven (<50 degrees Celcius) overnight to dry herb leaves arranged between layers of paper towel.

Article Published: 15:37, 7th Jul 2008

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