Inside: Quaint, isn’t it? There is something so homespun about herbs bundled and hanging from the mantle. Learn how to dry herbs the simple way.
Guest post by Ann Harke
My first experience with herbs was years ago, growing them in the greenhouse at Sugar Grove where I worked. I remember being intrigued with basil. Back then we only grew a few varieties—sweet, purple, and spicy globe—and I loved the smell. I added it to so many foods that my daughter (who writes this blog) wrote a story about me, the Basil Queen. To this day basil is still my favorite.
From those early days, Ellyn, my friend, began growing many herbs, ranging from parsley to rosemary, thyme, marjoram, sage, mint, stevia, and fennel. They were easy to grow, so I did some research, trying to find out what I could do with these wonderful plants. Much of my early knowledge came from Mother Earth News, a garden magazine. Of course, experience is the best teacher, and I began to experiment with drying the herbs.
Beginning with the planting, I usually wait until the ground is very warm, as herbs like it warm. Too early planted and they can damp off and die. So I have found they do well in my straw bale gardening, and also a large planter that I have. I planted parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (remember the song from the 60s?) and also fennel, four different kinds of basil—sweet, lemon, purple, and cinnamon—stevia, various mints, and lemon balm. They all did pretty well, and this year I’ve been able to cut herbs three different times.
The easiest way for me to begin the process of drying is to go out the day before and hose off all plants. That way the plants are clean and dry by the next day. (If you cut, wash, and bundle them right away, they might get moldy.) When I cut them the first time, I trim
about two thirds off the plant and leave the rest to grow again. I then bundle them together with none other than adhesive tape. This holds the herb bundle securely, and I can write on it so I know what it is. Another learning experience: When I first started drying herbs, I thought I would know the dried herbs by their smell, but that didn’t work for me, so now I always write what they are.
I dry my herbs wherever I find space, and usually this time of the year it takes a month to air dry. You can dry them in the oven or if you have a place outside that is somewhat enclosed you can dry them that way. I like to see the bundles of herbs hanging in my house, which gives me a feeling of satisfaction when I see them from small seedlings to harvest time.
Once the herbs are dried, I crush the leaves and discard the stems. You can crush the leaves smaller in between wax paper by running a rolling pin over them. You can also grind the herbs into a powder. But I think you retain more flavor by just crushing the leaves.
Place the crushed herbs in small jars and mark them with the date. Depending on your own taste, you can place herbs directly in food or in cheesecloth for soups if you don’t want to see them floating around.
Herbs have come into their own, and now besides culinary purposes they are used medicinally and made into essential oil. So experiment with them, and never worry that you’re not doing it right. Continue in the quest for living naturally. I am still learning, and I wish so many times that Ellyn was still here to teach me. Hopefully this post has helped you as we journey together for a more healthy life.
Ann Harke has a way with plants and people. She is a thirty-plus-year greenhouse veteran, farm woman, wife, mother of four, and grandmother of nine. These days she seeks to be strong, consistent, courageous, and adventurous in her everyday life. Lately she finds herself navigating strange airports solo as she explores this new path she’s on and where it’s leading next.
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