How to Dry Herbs

How to Dry Herbs

When you have an abundance of fresh herbs on your hands, knowing how to dry herbs at home is a fantastic way to preserve your harvest. Whether you are drying flowers, leaves, roots, stems, or seeds, there are several different methods you can use to dry your herbs. These methods include using a dehydrator, using drying racks, hanging your herbs in bundles, drying herbs in your oven, and even drying herbs in your microwave. 

Right now my garden is overflowing with beautiful herbs and produce — including my abundant oregano patch.

So, I knew I had to harvest some oregano before it flowered, and thought a recipe with oregano might be fun. My oregano is spreading this year, claiming more space in my garden. I don’t mind that at all. I use oregano a lot in my cooking. And I thought you would like to learn how to dry herbs using oregano as well.I generally dry my oregano using a dehydrator, but you can also use drying racks, hang your herbs in bundles, dry herbs in your oven, or even dry herbs in your microwave. The method you choose for drying herbs depends on what tools you have, your climate, and what herb you’re drying — for example, flowers, roots, stems, leaves, and seeds all have different drying needs.

Today I’ll walk you through how to dry herbs using each of these methods with my fresh oregano. But first, let’s talk about how to dry herbs the right way…

Want to learn more about drying herbs the right way? Check out this exclusive video with best-selling author and herbalist Rosalee de la Forêt on harvesting, processing, and drying herbs. This video is from our courseWildcrafter’s Toolkiton HerbMentor.Wildcrafter’s Toolkitshows you how to expertly harvest, process, and dry herbs from start to finish. For the whole course, you can try HerbMentor for $1 here.

Once cut, I dry my oregano on a very low setting in my dehydrator. (If you’re wondering how long to dry herbs in the dehydrator, it took a full day and night on the number 2 setting for my oregano to dry. This is one of the fastest ways to dry herbs.)Once it was fully dry, I stripped the oregano leaves from the stems into a mason jar to preserve them for storage. I just composted the stems, but if you put them across the grill when you’re barbecuing it will add some oregano flavor to your barbecue. You can do this with stems of other herbs (like lavender, sage, and rosemary…) as well.If you want to know how to dry herbs, this is one way for one type of herb. Other herbs you may approach differently, depending on their water content and density. For example, roots, seeds, and fruit can take a lot longer to dry than leaves, flowers, and stems. 

I have found that some ofthe best herbs to drywith this method include thyme, rosemary, basil, dill, mint, parsley, and tarragon.

You can also strip off some of the lower leaves of your oregano stems and tie these stems together and hang the oregano somewhere out of direct sunlight to dry, but this time of year in the Northwest we’re still getting wet days quite often and herbs just don’t dry very well in our damp air.If you do opt to dry your herbs this way, this method works particularly well if you live in an arid climate.How long does it take to air dry herbs in bundles? Well, it depends on what herbs you’re drying and the climate you live in. This method can take anywhere from a few days to two weeks.When air drying your herbs, I recommend checking your herb bundles everyday to prevent mold or discolored leaves.

If you have the space, you can arrange your fresh herbs in a single layer on mesh drying racks, rotating them regularly to assure they dry well. Ideally these drying racks would be in a dark, well-ventilated room out of direct sunlight.How long does it take herbs to dry using this method? As with the bundle method, the length of drying time depends on your climate and the water content of your herbs — two weeks is usually a safe bet to ensure your herbs are fully dry.While your herbs are drying on racks, I recommend regularly checking them for mold and discolored leaves.

If your oven has a pilot light, you can also dry herbs in the oven. With a pilot light, your oven will run about 80–90º F.  Though many sites will recommend drying herbs in your oven at 170º F, temperatures this high can damage the herbs and make them less flavorful and medicinal. When drying herbs at home, I aim to never let the herbs experience temperatures over 115º F.When using your oven to dry herbs at home, you can spread a layer of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and arrange your herbs in a single layer on the parchment paper. Keep the oven door ajar and turn the herbs regularly until dry.How long it takes for herbs to dry using the oven method depends on the water content and density of the herbs — this can take anywhere from several to 24 hours.

What’s the fastest way to dry herbs? Drying herbs in your microwave!But here’s the thing, honestly, I’m not a fan of this method for herb drying. I find that drying herbs in the microwave can damage the herbs and make them less flavorful and medicinal. Since this isthe fastest method to dry herbs, though, I wanted to mention this convenient method in case you ever need to dry herbs quickly.To dry herbs in the microwave, place a paper towel on a plate. Then place a single layer of herbs on the plate and cover them with a paper towel. Now microwave the herbs for 30 seconds and check them. Continue to microwave the herbs for 30 intervals until the herbs are fully dry. This can take upwards of 3 minutes total. Your herbs will dry very quickly using this method, so pay close attention to them and stop the microwave if you smell burning.

As an herbalist, people often ask me about how to dry fresh herbs at home. Once we chat about the best ways to dry herbs, there are a few other frequent questions they tend to ask…

When harvesting herbs from my own garden, I tend to only wash roots to remove dirt. Roots, seeds, flowers, leaves, and stems tend to not need rinsing. If I’m harvesting from another source I wash my herbs if I’m concerned about them being dirty (though I always make sure to harvest herbs in clean, unpolluted areas).To wash your herbs, you can gently rinse them in a colander and let them drain / completely dry before adding them to a dehydrator, bundling them, placing them in the oven, or putting them in the microwave.

If your herbs get moldy, the best thing you can do is compost them and start over with a new batch of herbs. This can be discouraging, but it’s a natural part of learning what herb drying technique works best for you and your climate. When I was first learning how to dry herbs, I had to compost several batches due to mold growth.If some of your herbs become discolored during the drying process, you can simply compost the discolored herbs and continue drying the rest of your harvest. 

When learning how to dry herbs, I have found that the easiest herbs to dry are often the vibrant culinary herbs with small leaves and hardy stems. Some of the best herbs to dry as a beginner include oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and lavender. Here’s a deliciousLavender Lemonade Popsiclesrecipe you can make with dried lavender.

Yes, dried herbs can expire. The best way to preserve your dried herbs is to place them in glass jars with a lid that securely seals. Then label and store your jars in a cool, dark place, like a cabinet or spice drawer.Dried herbs tend not to mold or spoil, but they can simply lose their potency over time. The best way to tell if your dried herbs are still good is to taste and smell them: if they are still flavorful and aromatic, then they are still full of medicinal constituents that can support your body.When I properly store my dried herbs in glass jars, they can last upwards of 2 years.

Sometimes I have so many fresh herbs on hands that I opt to cook with some of them right away and enjoy their freshness. One of my favorite ways to cook with fresh culinary herbs is to make an herbal pesto.

Check out my simple oregano pesto recipe to learn how to make your own pesto at home — you could also substitute the oregano in this pesto recipe with other fresh herbs like dill, basil, garlic scapes, chickweed, and more.

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