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How to Dry Herbs

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It’s easy to dry herbs at home and without electricity to keep them on hand for the long winter months.

A bunch of herbs tied to a string and hanging in front of a wood wall.

This process ensures that flavorful herbs for cooking and medicinal herbs for remedy making are on hand even when nothing fresh is growing in the herb garden.

Gather Herbs

Before we can dry herbs, obviously harvesting must happen. How harvesting happens naturally depends on the herb.

Leafy Herbs

Cut the stems about one inch above the soil. This is for any herb from which we want the leaves, think mint, lemon balm, comfrey, oregano, etc. Harvest before flowering for best flavor.

Herbs and flowers collected in a basket.

Floral Herbs

Most flowers should be gathered when the blooms are fully open and before they wilt or turn brown. Cut these blooms about an inch below the flower head. Think roses, calendula, dandelion, feverfew, etc.

There are some rare exceptions here, lavender, for example, can be and is often harvested before all the blooms open for drying.

Prepare Herbs for Drying

Whether the herbs are foraged or homegrown, a wash is a good idea. Washing helps remove insects, dirt, and other possible contaminants (in case the neighbor’s cat or dog or a deer stopped by, for example). Soak those herbs in some water, give them a spin a salad spinner and spread out on a towel to remove surface water.

Bundle Leafy Herbs

Gather those leafy herb stems in bunches. About 10-15 stems per bunch. Gather them so the cut ends are all together. Tie some twine or leftover bits of yarn around the cut end of the stems. Tie this very tightly. Tight is important – as the stems dry, they shrivel and can slip out of their noose if it isn’t very tight. Leave a long tail of twine or yarn and use that tail to hang it.

Hang Leafy Herbs

Using the tail of yarn or twine, hang the herbs to dry. Hang them from hooks, tie the tail around clothes hangers and hang in the closet, tie them around beams or use a clothing rack. Anything works.

Herbs hanging to dry with labels attached to identify.

Simply hang them in a location out of direct sunlight. It doesn’t have to be completely dark, just not in direct sunlight. I often hang mine from a coat rack in the guest room and pull the curtains.

An optional labeling step: If worried about identification once the herbs are dry, label them before hanging. Simply tie a piece of scrap with the name of the herb to the string. This way when completely dry there’s no confusion between oregano and marjoram or sage and comfrey.

Put Floral Herbs on Trays

Lay those flower blooms out on trays or screens to dry. Hanging is an option here too, but from experience I’ve found that laying them out on racks to dry is much better. Use dehydrator trays or cooling racks, even a clean window screen (or make your own herb drying screen) for this purpose. 

Calendula blossoms laid out on a wire screen.

To use dehydrator trays, spread the blooms out on the trays and place the trays back into the dehydrator. Leave the door off the dehydrator and do not turn it on. Simply use the dehydrator as a storage bin for the flowers to dry on their own.

If using window screens or cooling racks, spread the blooms out and put the racks or screens where they will get nice air flow around the blooms and leave out of direct sunlight.

One exception to this general process is lavender. The lavender buds have a tendency to fall out as they dry. This is true whether hanging or putting on trays. To prevent the loss of buds, tie lavender in bunches inside a bag (either cloth or paper), the bag will catch any fallen buds to be put away later.

Let Mother Nature Dry

Once the herbs are hung or spread out, there’s nothing to do for a bit. Simply let the herbs dry in the time it takes. The goal is for the herbs to be crispy and completely dry.

The time it takes for this to happen will vary. Most will be ready within 7 days sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. Heat and humidity play a role here, just let them dry as nature intended.

Letting them hang longer is never going to be a problem. Too short of a time can result in moldy herbs so make sure of crispy doneness.

Storing the Dry Herbs

Once the herbs are completely dry, it is time to get them ready for long term storage. Cut the leafy herbs from their bundles. Over a wide bowl, strip the leaves from the stems. Simply start at the cut end and run fingers along the length, letting the dried leaves fall into the bowl.

Labeled jars of dried herbs stacked and sitting on a table.

Put these dried leaves into labeled jars and store in your pantry out of direct sunlight.

Floral herbs can either be stored as whole flower heads or remove the dried petals from the flower.

Having a pantry full of homegrown or local herbs is a thing of practical beauty.  These dried herbs are the foundation of flavorful and sometimes healing teas. They season meals when fresh isn’t available and can be the basis for healing and body care.

The best part about dry herbs is that it’s easy and will keep with very little hands-on time. So get out there when the getting is good and build your own pantry of dry herbs.

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Cate

Tuesday 2nd of June 2020

My 80-year-old mentor (who is a Master gardener and 95% organic) told me to dry herbs in a brown paper sack on top of the fridge. I have done this for years and it works beautifully. The reason she is 95% organic is - she grows everything and her husband is a hunter. They are in northern Idaho.

Dee Wolford

Sunday 31st of May 2020

I get to do a lot of foraging while on vacation in other states. I put all my selections in paper bags and put in the rear window of my car. By the time i get home, everything is dried and ready for the jars. I get a lot of herbs I can't grow at home.

Nancy

Sunday 31st of May 2020

You give the most detailed and I feel important information I have yet read. In particular, the flower heads were problematic for me. Also, lavender. I appreciate your remarks. Thanks for sharing.

Tracy

Saturday 30th of March 2019

I am new to the herbal circuit and I find your article here EXTREMELY helpful! Thank you so much! Can't wait til my herbs are ready to harvest. Prior to this I was making healing lip balms, lotions, baby bodywash, candles, etc, but I bought everything. I decided to grow my own to save money so thank you again for all your info. I'm keeping tabs on your site for future tips and advise! :)

Kathie Lapcevic

Sunday 31st of March 2019

I am so glad to know this was useful to you!

Cheryl

Wednesday 25th of July 2018

I have a stupid question, I have a lot of bee balm and would like to dry it and use it for tea or anything else. The problem is that it has powdery mildew is that going to ruin things? I’m thinking it would. Thank you

Kathie Lapcevic

Thursday 26th of July 2018

I can't find anything to say for sure but I wouldn't use it if it's got powdery mildew on it, personally.

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