How to Dry Herbs

How to dry herbs

The most natural process of preserving herbs is to dry them in a cool, airy room, out of direct sunlight. Simply spread out the herbs in a single layer on a sheet of brown paper or newspaper and allow them to dry 2-3weeks, until the leaves are crisp. Check them occasionally and move them around occasionally. If this takes up too much room, make a series of drying racks. Use a wire cake rack and cover it with thin window gauze (ask the hardware store). Lay the herbs on the gauze in a single layer. Stacking more than one rack saves space, but make sure there is plenty of air flowing through the room. Once the leaves are crisp they can be stored in an airtight container that is labelled and dated.

Herbs to harvest
April and May are the best months to harvest and preserve herbs like basil, mint, lovage, coriander, sage and tarragon, which all die down in winter. It is even worthwhile preserving hardy herbs like thyme, oregano and rosemary, for a good supply to flavour those slow-cooked winter stews and roasts. There is some interesting debate about the best time to pick herbs for drying. Some say morning is best, after the dew has dried but when the leaves are still fresh. Another point of view is that the concentration of volatile oils is at its highest at the end of a bright sunny day, so leaves should be picked in the late afternoon. Perhaps the most important guideline is to pick the best-quality, healthiest, least blemished leaves.

Preserve culinary seeds
Save and dry fennel, dill, cumin and caraway seeds. They add a spicy  avour to baked breads, biscuits and cakes, as well as curries and pickles. Cut the flower heads off the stalks when the seed is beginning to ripen. Place the seed heads upside down in a paper bag and leave in a warm, dry place for a week. The seeds then separate from the stems easily for storage in an airtight container

The Gardener