How to dry herbs from your own garden
Here is an easy way to preserve your garden herbsIf you have an herb garden, you already know the delicious benefits of flavoring summer meals with herbs. They are also packed with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and serve as an important nutrient for cardiovascular health. Knowing how to dry herbs is an important skill for gardeners. With a little preparation your garden herbs can boost your health and cooking year-round.
Many herbs are delicate and begin to diminish as temperatures cool. You can wait until the end of the summer or make herb drying a part of your regular gardening work all season. Either way, you'll want to harvest herbs before they flower for best results.
Air drying is an easy and affordable way to preserve herbs and it doesnít require materials that you donít already have around the house. The process takes a little more time than others, but the herbs will retain their natural oils as a result. Note that herbs with high water content preserve best if they are frozen or put in a dehydrator if you have one; this includes basil, mints and chives.
How to dry herbs with long stems
Keep in mind that youíll need a room with good air circulation, and no direct sunlight or air born toxins (including cigarette smoke and hair spray). Itís also very important in how to dry herbs not to expose herbs to humidity. Humidity can cause drying herbs to mold and ruin an entire crop. Bay, Rosemary, Thyme and Dill are a few herbs that will dry well using these steps:
- Cut branches in the morning after the dew has dried and before the high noon sun sets in. Remove dead leaves and brush or shake to remove insects.
- If you rinse herbs pat them completely dry and place them on a new towel to prevent molding.
- Group about five branches together and tie the bottom with a string or rubber band. Make smaller bunches with herbs that have a higher water content. Note that youíll need to tighten the tie as the herbs dry and shrink.
- In a dry room, hang the bundles upside down to draw the natural oils to the leaves. To protect the herbs from dust and save any seeds or pieces that fall, you can cut a few small holes in a paper bag and cover each bundle with the bag before hanging. Youíll also make life easier on yourself if you label the bag.
- Check on the herbs every week. They are ready for storage when the leaves feel brittle and some absolutely no trace of mold.
How to dry herbs with short stems
- Once the branches are cut from your herb garden, brush or shake o remove insects, rinse with cold water, and pat them dry and place them on a towel for half an hour to air dry any excess water.
- Remove leaves from stems and lay them on a clean screen or a cookie rack with a paper towel. If the leaves are small, leave them on the stem.
- Spread the leaves out and place the screen on a dry surface in a room with air circulation, but no direct sun.
- Turn the leaves daily so they dry completely. Change the towel every few days if you are using a cookie rack.
- Once the leaves are brittle, theyíre ready for air-tight storage. Remember, moisture takes its time evaporating so when in doubt, leave the leaves out another day or two.
Storing dried herbs
The leaves of dried herbs will fall off if you run your fingers gently down the stems. To preserve the most flavor wait to crush the leaves until you are ready to cook with them. Transfer the leaves to a glass jar, and label and date the jar. As you transfer, throw out every leaf that shows sign of mold or disease. Containers should be stored in a dry cool place away from sunlight.
The general rule is to use dried herbs within a year: as the color dulls so does the flavor. Growing herbs is fun and learning how to dry herbs and preserve them makes the effort all the more rewarding.
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