Saturday, June 18, 2011

Drying Herbs

I love growing herbs. I love the textures, flavors and fragrances. Weeding my herb bed is one of my favorite gardening tasks. These are plants that are fun to bump into.

I use fresh herbs occasionally in cooking. I often keep a pot of herbs by the door for a quick sprig of parsley or chives.


But mostly I just grow herbs for the fun of it. Several times a friend has walked through my herb garden and asked how I use a particular plant. "I don't use it, I just grow it," if my usual reply. It sounds ridiculous. I have several thriving oregano plants yet I purchase dried oregano at the store. My mint bed is flourishing but winter time finds me buying dried mint for my hot tea.

Part of the problem is that I never think of drying herbs for winter use until fall. By then the leaves are wilted and ragged. This year I was determined to plan ahead.


I borrowed my mom's dehydrator  (still have not purchased my own) and went on an herb drying binge. I picked the herbs in the morning as soon as the dew dried from the plants. I did not wash them as they are not sprayed and I'm not worried about a bug or two.


I stripped the leaves from the  stems, placed them on the dehydrator trays and turned it on.

The aroma in the kitchen was wonderful!


The leaves dried in only a few hours.


A dehydrator is not necessary. In the past I have dried a few herbs in the attic. But I usually would forget about them until they were dusty and I didn't feel that the flavor was best. I am trying the dehydrator method in hopes to keep more flavor.


Once the leaves were very crunchy dry, I placed them in sealed bags and jars. Label everything well as dried leaves all start to look the same after a while.  I plan to keep the leaves whole until winter, then I'll grind just what I need to refill my spice containers. I'm even hoping to experiment with making some seasoning mixes like Italian seasoning.

I know that dried herbs don't cost that much. You can get them at the dollar store for very little. But I'm thrilled to finally be putting my herb garden to use and being able to grow one more item that I normally purchase. Of course, I'll still need to purchase the exotic spices like cinnamon and nutmeg that I'll never be able to grow in PA!

Do you dry your own herbs? Anything I should know?

11 comments :

  1. We loved using our parsley and our cilantro out of our garden last year - both fresh and dried!

    Deanna

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  2. I make mint sauce, which we eat with roast lamb. Fill a jar with finely chopped mint, a few teaspoons of sugar and top up with vinegar, you can add the mint as more grows. serve with roast lamb and roast potatoes

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  3. How exciting! I hope to dry my own herbs this year, maybe next, but in the absence of a dehydrator, I'm going to try my ovens "keep warm" drawer.

    Beautiful garden!

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  4. I dry alot of parsley (curly type) and dill. We use alot of it all winter long. Easy and so much nicer than store bought dried.

    Load up that dehydrator and keep it running :)

    blessings,
    Niki

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  5. Yhis post is inspiring b/c I just started an herb garden this year. However, my motivation dissolved as soon as we made the raised bed. I did grow some cilantro and cayenne pepper, but the other herbs like chives and basil just stayed in their pots on the kitchen windowsill. :( Perhaps a walk through your garden is what I need to get motivated (that and to get off bedrest!) :)

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  6. I just bought a dehydrator with the intentions of drying my herbs. Thank you for the timely post on drying herbs.

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  7. My herbs are one of my most favorite parts of my garden! Every year I add a new herb or two to try. I love being able to go out and snip a few sprigs of different herbs to add flavor and variety to our meals. I usually use them fresh. I dig up my rosemary in the fall and plant it in a pot to use inside all winter long. I turn my basil into pesto and freeze for the winter. Last year I tried drying my sage and thyme, which worked out very well. I don't have a dehydrator, so I just bundled them and hung them in my kitchen to dry. I need to work on getting a dehydrator. That would make it much easier to dry more of them.

    I'm looking forward to seeing how your dried herbs work out for you this winter. :0)

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  8. Thanks Gina! You reminded me that this has been on my mental to-do list! I'm pulling the dehydrator out today. :)

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  9. I'm so with you on this one. I have a thriving herb garden, yet never have actually used much of it except for an occasional pinch during the summer when they are thriving. Yikes. Now you are putting me to shame... gotta get going and use the dehydrator to get some put up for winter use. We use LOTS of "Italian" herb mix...Oregano/Sage/Basil/Marjoram.
    We also like "Herbs de Provence" sorry if this is spelled wrong. My daughter gave me a little jar for Christmas and we like the combination of flavors in that one... Marjoram/Thyme/Savory/Basil/Rosemary/Sage/Fennel seed.

    I planted Lavender this year, but not sure how to use it except as an aromatic/aroma therapy.

    Any ideas?

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  10. I feel silly buying mint tea too! I think the value in drying your own herbs is not monetary, but skill-wise and keeping it local.

    You've inspired me to dry and dry some mint for wintertime.

    I'm also going to make mint jelly to eat with lamb, although I see Frugal Queen's idea for mint sauce which sounds fabulous. I do use a lot of herbs in cooking. I make batches of pesto and freeze it in cubes. Makes a great pizza or pasta sauce.

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  11. I made a good size herb garden.I had wonderful results with it but my turkey decided it would make a nice place to begin her nesting in with the herbs. Of course she won a place in the garden and I watched her taste the herbs to her delight.My grandmother always told me when you plant a garden to plant enough for yourself and the animals.

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I'm still learning how to be a joyful homemaker and I'd love to hear from you!

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