This blog post was originally written for How Does She.com . Head there to see my original post.
If your garden is giving you an abundance of too many fresh herbs at once, don’t let them wilt. Dry them! Or, if you picked up a bundle of fresh herbs from the farmer’s market, don’t let them spoil in the fridge. Dry them! Preserving fresh herbs is a simple method where you can enjoy summer-flavored herbs all winter long.
My preferred choice for preserving herbs is air drying. Air drying is the easiest method for low-moisture herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, dill, bay leaves, oregano, marjoram). The moisture in the herbs slowly evaporates during air drying, leaving the herb oils behind. But it does take about 5-7 days to fully dry to a crispy leaf.
Cut large stems from the mature plant and remove any old or damaged leaves. Turn the branches upside down and tie about five stems together in a small bunch. Hang tied bunches together. I like to hang mine in my kitchen and enjoy the fragrance from the herbs as they are drying. It also adds pretty greenery to the kitchen. Make sure they are drying away from moisture and heat. If you’d like to speed up the process, put the tied branches into a paper bag to air dry, and cut several holes in the bag for ventilation. Make sure the leaves do not touch the sides of the bag.
If you want to speed up the air drying process, use a dehydrator. Dehydrators are also useful when you have large quantities of herbs or high moisture herbs (basil, mint, tarragon). Spread the herb branches loosely on the racks, leaving space between them for the air to circulate. Dehydrate until the leaves are crisp and dry.
Another method to drying herbs is using an oven, which is also great for high moisture herbs. Place the herbs on a baking sheets and dry them in the oven that is set between 140-200° F for about 20 minutes. Do not use high temperature or it will result in a tasteless herbs. Check the herbs every 15 mins until they are dry.
Once your fresh herbs are dried, separate the leaves from the stem. Discard the stems. Keep the herbs whole, instead of crushed, because it retains their flavor longer. Store dried herbs in an airtight container like a ziplock bag or glass jar. Place in a cool, dry, dark place away from sunlight. Dried herbs keep for years but for best results use within a year. When you are ready to use the dried herbs, crush with a mortar and pestle just before adding to a recipe.
Get creative with your dried herbs! Store herbs together, so when you need Italian seasoning for your spaghetti dish, you can pull those herbs out and they are already grouped together and ready to season the food. Here are some seasoning combinations:
Italian Seasoning–basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme (common add-ins cilantro, sage and garlic powder)
Herb de Provence–rosemary, savory, thyme, oregano, basil, marjoram, fennel seed (common add-in lavender)
Greek Seasoning–oregano, thyme, basil, marjoram, dried onion, dried garlic
Fines Herbs Seasoning–tarragon, chervil, chives, parsley, thyme
Enjoy drying and preserving your herbs!