Drying herbs for winter storage is a skill that goes back thousands of years. It’s an ideal way to give you a supply of herbs all year round, and many herbs taste even better dried, as the flavour is concentrated. Whether you use your own home-grown herbs or fresh herbs from the supermarket, drying herbs is easy to do.
Picking and preparing herbs for drying
If you’re harvesting your own herbs for drying, pick them on a dry day around mid-morning, when the dew has dried but before the sun’s heat evaporates the essential oils in the leaves.
Remove any dead or damaged leaves, then wash your herbs to remove any dirt and bugs and pat dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Tie small-leaved herbs like thyme and oregano into bundles to make them easier to handle, but keep them small, as large piles are more likely to go mouldy. Strip big leaves like sage and mint from the stems before drying them.
Air-drying takes a little longer than other methods but is very easy to do and needs very little in the way of equipment. To air-dry herbs, simply place the leaves or bundles in cheesecloth bags to protect them from dust and hang the bags somewhere out of direct sunlight, with good air circulation and low humidity. Depending on the air temperature, it can take 1-2 weeks for herbs to fully dry – when the stems snap, and the leaves are brittle, they are ready.
Drying herbs in an oven
Herbs can be dried in an oven on a very low setting, around 80°C (100°F), with the door left open so that moisture can escape.
Spread the leaves out on a wire rack and place the shelf in the centre of the oven.
Turn the leaves every 30 minutes until they are dry – this should take between 1-2 hours.
Don’t leave the oven unattended while the herbs are drying, especially if there are children or pets in the house.
Drying herbs in a microwave
Microwave drying is quick, simple, and ideal if you only have a small number of herbs to dry.
Place the clean, dry herbs on a paper towel on a microwave-safe plate and cover with another paper towel.
Microwave on high setting for one minute – stop if you smell the herbs burning.
Repeat in 30-second bursts until the herbs are dry.
Storing dried herbs
Dried herbs will store well for a long time in airtight containers. Keep them out of direct sunlight, especially if stored in clear glass bottles. Use a pestle and mortar or your fingers to crush the leaves before storing, unless you want to keep them whole for easier use.
Growing your own herbs will give you a ready supply of fresh leaves for both cooking and drying. Visit our centre today to see our superb range of herbs and much more for your garden.