Drying And Storing Herbs

The whole idea of having a herb garden, whether indoor or outdoor, is to be able to enjoy and use the herbs all year round. Most herbs are at their peak just before flowering. So this is an excellent time for collecting them for drying and storing. Cut off the herbs in the morning after the dew has disappeared. Annuals should be cut off at ground level. Perennials should be cut approximately one third down the main stem.

You now need to make a decision as to which storage method you wish to use so that you have herbs on tap throughout the year. Basically, they can be dried and stored, or frozen and stored. Both methods work well.

Wash the herbs with the leaves still on the stem in lightly flowing cold water, so that all dirt, soil, dust, bugs etc. get removed. If you have chosen freezing then the washed herbs need to be blanched in boiling water for about forty-five seconds. Cool them quickly in iced water and then package and freeze. Some herbs such as basil, chives, and dill can be frozen without blanching.

If you have chosen to dry store your herbs, drain them thoroughly on absorbent paper towel, or hang them upside down in the sun for a while. Herbs need to be dried thoroughly before storing. For most herbs you should tie small bunches together and hang them upside down somewhere dark and warkm ( 70-80F or 21-26C). It should be a well ventilated and dust free place. Hanging them upside down allows essential oils to flow from the stem to the leaves. The leaves are ready in approximately two weeks, or when the leaves feel dry and crumbly.

Herbs with a high moisture content will need more rapid drying or they will go mouldy before they are ready for storing. Strip the leaves from the stalks and place them on a cookie sheet in an open oven at about 180F (80C) for three to four hours.

Microwave ovens can also be used very effectively to dry out herbs quickly. Place the leaves on paper towel, or a paper plate (don’t use an ordinary plate) and microwave on high for between one and three minutes (depending on the power of your oven). The leaves should be mixed and turned every thirty seconds until ready.

Microwave ovens can be used to dry leaves quickly. Place the clean leaves on a paper plate or paper towel. Place the herbs in the oven for 1 to 3 minutes, mixing every 30 seconds.

When completely dry the leaves may be ground to a powder using a mortar and pestle, or stored whole in airtight containers. A canning jar is ideal as the container needs to have a tight-fitting airtight lid. Store the jars in a cool, dark, dry place.

It is important to check your storage jars every day for the first week. If you see any sign of moisture in the container you will need to repeat the drying process.

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