Learn how to dry your own herbs from scratch, so that you can use them for cooking, to make tea blends or for medicine.
Herbs are pretty magical. Not only are they a great addition to your meals, they also have a strong healing potential that’s been backed by science and by their use in folk medicine for thousands of years when antibiotics weren’t available and modern medicine was non-existent.
I usually use my herbs while cooking. It’s the usual suspects – basil, dill, mint and parsley. Every year, I also like to collect thyme and chamomile – great for inhalations when you have a cough and for tea.
Other medicinal plants I often collect and dry are stinging nettles and smoketree. The nettles are great in soups and stews, very nutritious and have many health benefits including. Smoketree you only use externally – it has many health benefits and it’s a natural disinfectant, but I know it’s toxic if ingested. A daily bath with smoketree has helped me heal a very deep wound on my foot 3 years ago after I had a little accident helping a friend.
There are many uses for herbs and medicinal plants and it’s important to know that, yes, these things do grow outside and we can make use of it. We can grow herbs ourselves (yes, even if you live in a small apartment) and we can collect them when out in nature (be sure to do this with someone who knows what they’re doing). While some plants can heal, others are pure poison.
The thing is, you can only use so much of the plant within the day or next few days. One great way to preserve your herbs is drying.
REASONS TO DRY Your Own Herbs
I like to dry my own herbs late in summer and I never really buy herbs or tea. The goal of drying your herbs and food, in general, is to remove the moisture from the plant, while preserving the nutrients.
The antioxidants, the microelements, the flavor and the aroma – it all stays inside. You don’t want to dry your herbs just to prevent them from going bad, you want to maintain the nutrition and flavor of the fresh plant, even better – you want to condense it.
When drying your own herbs you get to control the ingredients and methods used and this leads to a better quality of the final product.
If you’d also like to dry your own herbs here are a few options you can choose from.
How To Dry Herbs At Home
Option 1: Air-drying
This is the method I usually go for with all of my herbs. Depending on the type of herb you’re going to dry you have two options – spread over a drying rack or hang in bunches.
Leafy Herbs With a Higher Moisture content
If you’re working with leafy plants, with higher moisture content like basil, mint, lemon balm, nettle, bay leaves or parsley you want to spread them out and allow the air to circulate. The reason for this is that you want to achieve even drying and prevent the formation of mold. Binding these herbs in bunches and hanging them in the air won’t allow any of this to happen.
So here’s how it goes:
For this method, I use an old mosquito net (actually an old window insect screen) that I attached to an old frame and it works perfectly.
I spread out the leaves over the surface, not stacking them on top of each other. This way the air can circulate freely to prevent mold and to allow the mint leaves/ sprigs to dry evenly.
My framed net is not very pretty, but it does the job! In case you need instructions and want to make your own herb drying rack, I really like this tutorial.
Herbs To Be Dried In Bundles
If you’re drying herbs with smaller leaves like thyme, rosemary or dill your best option would be to bundle the stems and to hang the plants. Make sure the place where you hang the plants is dry, with good air circulation and not in direct sunlight.
Option 2: IN THE OVEN
Another space and time-saving option for drying your own herbs is using the oven. With this option, your dried herbs will be ready in hours, not weeks.
What is important is spreading your washed herbs away from each other, in a thin layer on a cookie sheet or parchment paper and to use a very low temperature.
Preheat your oven to 40-50 C / 105-120 F and let the herbs dry for a few hours. Flip the sprigs throughout the process to speed things up and to allow even drying. Take out of the oven once the herb is fully dry.
How To Store Dried Herbs
Once your herbs are completely dry, it’s time to put them away. I always store my herbs in glass or metal containers in a dark and dry place. I also usually don’t crumble them before using, as I find the aroma lasts longer when I store the leaves whole.
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