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Do you ever cringe at the price of spices in the grocery store? I do. Some brands are as much as ten dollars for a small jar. I decided I was no longer going to pay those kind of prices and determined to start growing some of my own herbs. But if you learn how to dry your own herbs at home, you'll never have to pay for them again.
Cooking with fresh herbs is amazing. The depth of flavor is so much more than the dried version, but if you live in a climate that has cooler (or down right frigid at times) winters, then not all of your garden herbs are available year round. So like any true pioneer, we're preserving our herbs for use during the winter.
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Pick your herbs in the morning. They have the highest concentrate of oils in their leaves at this time of day. Basil is the exception and can be picked a bit later in the morning.
Lightly rinse your herbs to remove any dust or other unseen debris. I'm sure you practice organic gardening at home, so we don't have to worry about any icky chemicals or pesticides. Place herbs on an absorbent towel to suck up the rinse water.
There are two ways to dry herbs, one is using a dehydrator and the other is the old fashioned hanging method. Because we're so damp in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, I use the dehydrator. After a ton of research, I purchased my Nesco Square Dehydrator (affiliate link) due to it's design to hold more food per tray than the circle varieties and the price point. While I know a ton of people say the Excalibur Food Dehydrators (affiliate link) are the best on the market, I couldn't afford the price tag that came with it at this time.
I've had my Nesco since spring and love it. We've done fruit leather, jerky, candied apples, and herbs so far. I've ran it for two days straight without any problem and it's extremely quite.
But if you live where it's still dry and warm, try the old-fashioned way.
Old fashioned method. Tie the ends of no more than four to five stalks of herbs together. Hang the bunches upside down in a warm dry area, out of direct sunlight. Allow to dry until leaves crumble at your touch. Depending upon the moisture content in your leaves and the climate, this can take anywhere from a week to a month.
Dehydrator method. Place your herbs in a single layer on your dehydrator tray, making sure they're not touching. Because the herbs will shrink dramatically when dried, I use my fruit leather screens, or as our affiliate amazon calls them,Nesco SQM-2-6 Clean-a-Screen for FD-80 and FD-80A Series Square DehydratorsYou want to make sure there's enough between the herbs for the air to circulate.
Dehydrate your herbs at 95 degrees, which is the lowest possible setting on my dehydrator. We'd had some excessive rain, so it took 24 hours for my herbs to dry. Check them at 12 hours.
Because herbs don't transfer flavors when drying, you can dry them together. I had four trays going at once with chocolate mint, spearmint, oregano, basil, and thyme.
Once herbs are dry, crumble them with your fingers into clean dry jars. I prefer glass jars as plastic containers seem to effect the flavor of the herbs over time. I purchases these jars from my affiliate partner Amazon for this years herb harvest 4PK 4OZ Dry Herb JarsYou can also use any glass jar with a tight fitting lid you have on hand.
It's best to store dried herbs out of the light in a cool, dry place to retain the most flavor and the longest shelf life.
When cooking with dried herbs, it's best to put the herbs in at the end of the cooking time to maximize flavor.
What herbs do you grow in your garden? How do you use herbs through out the year?
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This post is featured on The Homestead Barn Hop.
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.