Drying herbs from your home garden is simple, but they can take weeks to air dry. A few tricks can speed up the process.
Few things please my taste buds more in summer than fresh picked herbs to flavor what’s on the table. Mint and lemon balm for my tea; basil for anything served with a tomato; parsley in fresh salads; rosemary and thyme for fresh grilled chicken or potatoes. I could go on for days.
I use many of my herbs fresh from the garden, but I also dry a fair amount for use over the winter-especially mint.
Many writers recommend tying herbs in bunches, hang them upside down from the ceiling and let them air dry. This is so 18th century – personally, I find this method to be nothing but a mess and a throwback to earlier times when there wasn’t much of a choice in technique. The dry herbs fall to the ground, and the inside of the bundle takes forever to dry, as it gets little opportunity to be exposed to air.
The best method I’ve found for drying herbs is to bring them indoors, pick the leaves from the stem, and spread them on a table you can part with for a week or two. If the air conditioning is running, the herbs will dry quickly, thanks to the low humidity. Alternately, remove the leaves, and deposit them in large paper grocery bags which have been cut in half (that’s the top half, just so we’re clear).
If you have no air conditioning, you can still dry herbs quickly. Pull the leaves from their stalks and put them loosely into paper lunch bags. Label the bags, fold the tops down, close them with a clothes pin, and put the bags in your refrigerator. The herbs will dry in only a few days, thanks to the dehumidified air in your fridge. Then transfer the herbs to an airtight glass container to store.
One last note I’ve learned from experience: Make sure that your herbs are totally, completely dry before you store them in containers for the winter. If there’s any moisture left in the leaf, mold will build up on the leaves and your herbs will be inedible.