Drying fresh herbs is one of the ways that gardeners are able to make use of herbs from the garden long after the growing season has passed. By drying the herbs properly, it is possible to retain the majority of the flavor and the nutritional content of the herbs for use in cooking, making teas, or as home remedies for various ailments. There are several ways to dry herbs effectively, with many of them based on methods that have been employed for centuries. Here is what you need to know if you wish to preserve herbs from your garden for later use.
One of the simplest and most inexpensive ways to dry herbs is a process that is known as air drying. Requiring nothing more than some string and a paper bag, air drying works very well with any herb that has a lower moisture content, such as oregano or thyme. Simply cut the branches of herbs from the plant and rinse with cool water to help remove any small insects that may be clinging to the leaves on the branches. Pat the leaves dry with a clean cloth. Bundle a half dozen branches together and tie with a piece of string.
Once the bundles are prepared for drying, use a plain paper bag as the incubator for the process. Punch a couple of holes into the body of the bag to allow air flow. Insert one bundle of herbs into the open end of the bag and gather the ends around the bundle. Secure with more string. Once this action is complete, hang the bag upside down in a room that is warm and has a consistent air flow. The herbs will dry naturally while still retaining the essential oils that give them their flavor and their nutritional value. The end result is dry herbs that are full of taste and are ready for use in your favorite recipes.
To dry herbs with a higher moisture content, the use of a dehydrator is best. Herbs such as mint and basil fall into this category. This method will remove most of the moisture in a short period of time while not robbing the herbs of their flavor or nutrition. One of the advantages is that a simple countertop dehydrator with several layered sections makes it possible to dry several different herbs at one time. When using the dehydrator, there is no need to bundle the herbs. However, make sure that the herbs on each shelf are positioned in one single layer rather than stacking several branches on top of one another.
Drying herbs is one of the ways to enjoy the benefits of herb gardening all year long. The dry herbs provide healthy ways to season various recipes and have the added benefit of not containing any preservatives or other commercial elements that cause an allergic reaction in some people. Once the herbs are dried, it is recommended to keep them in a container that can be sealed, such as a glass jar with a screw-on lid.