Spring 2013 was the first one we had in our house and we were very excited to begin work on our property. We wanted to add some gardens, update the existing ones, plant some new trees and more. My mother-in-law gave us some little potted herbs, one of them being a creeping thyme. We put that one in a garden space at the back of the house, hoping it would take over and choke out the other plants I couldn’t fully remove. While I was working in some other gardens I found several basil plants so I dug them up and added them near the thyme. Both herbs LOVED that spot and grew so much that first year. We really enjoyed having fresh herbs right outside the back door and decided to dry most of what was left at the end of summer. This way we could use them all year and not have to buy any from the store. When the next spring rolled around I was very happy to see the herbs come back and grow even larger. Since I worked a lot last summer I didn’t really have time to weed the herb garden, so I’m sorry in advance for a ‘messy’ picture! But everything in this picture is either basil or thyme, except the obvious long stalks of grass.
Drying the herbs is so easy but I wanted to make this post in case some of you may not have thought to dry herbs at home, rather than purchase them already dried. There is nothing wrong with buying dried herbs, especially since they are not usually expensive. But I’d rather spend my few dollars on a potted herb, watch it grown for many years and harvest the herbs from my own garden.
We use a couple different methods to dry fresh herbs, but they are all equally simple and require minimal time and materials.
Method 1: hang to dry
Simply tie a bunch of herbs together with twine or thread and hang somewhere to dry for a few days. The drying time will depend on the moisture content of the herb. For example, basil may take a week or so, but thyme will be dried in a couple of days. This method is my favourite because I like seeing the hanging herbs every time I walk into the kitchen.
Method 2: flat dry
Arrange the herbs on a flat surface such as a plate or cookie sheet. Place them somewhere out of the way, such as on top of the fridge, to dry. Again, the drying time varies based on herb. This method is great if you don’t have a place to hang the herbs or if you have a large quantity to dry.
Method 3: heat dry
You can use heat from your oven or a wood stove to dry the herbs, but I highly discourage oven usage because it is not cost effective since ovens use electricity. To dry using a wood stove, arrange the herbs on a cookie sheet and place on the coolest part of the wood stove (on ours, it’s the part that juts out on top). We have a handy temperature gauge on our wood stove, so I was able to dry the herbs at a temp of about 200F for 30 minutes or so (I dried parsley). I stirred the herbs part way through drying so they didn’t burn. But If your wood stove does not have a gauge, you can still dry the herbs on it. Just get your wood stove to a comfortable heat and watch the herbs dry on it so they don’t burn. You don’t have to stare at them the whole time, but maybe check on them every 10 minutes or so. There is no picture to illustrate this method, since the light where the wood stove is is TERRIBLE. If you will be using the oven instead, preheat to about 200F and dry the herbs on a cookie sheet. Check and stir them after 10 minutes, then dry for another 10 if needed.
Once your herbs are dried, using whichever method you chose, you can grind them up into powder and store them in an air tight container. I like using my marble mortar and pestle my dad gave us, but you can just crush the herbs with your fingers.
Most of the herbs we dry come from our own gardens, but we have also bought fresh herbs that are discounted because they will ‘expire’ soon. We are just careful to check for mold and discard any pieces that are smelling rancid. I prefer to dry my own fresh herbs because it makes me feel like I’m just a little more involved in our food prep.
Have you dried herbs at home before? If so, which method did you use? If you have not dried herbs, do you think you would?