Allora's Advice

Ever thought about drying your herbs?

Tiffany Cornell . Monday, July 17, 2017 . Comments
Ever thought about drying your herbs?

Drying select herbs will not only save you money, it also increases the quality and quantity of your culinary herbs. But a word of caution before you begin; not all herbs dry well. Some lush and aromatic herbs become little more than tasteless dust when desiccated. Below are some choice herbs whose flavour and aroma remains true after the drying process. Also included are some helpful tips for a successful harvest once you have decided on your favourites. 

  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Mint
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • French Tarragon
  • Sweet Bay Laurel
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
Tips for harvesting and drying culinary herbs:
  1. When to harvest: When harvesting herbs for their foliage, the best concentration of oils is available after the flower buds have appeared but before they open. If you can't sit around and wait for your herbs to flower, harvest as soon as they reach their full height. Some plants, like oregano and mint will send up flower stalks - a telltale sign they are getting ready to bloom. Others, like Rosemary, Sweet Bay and Sage can withstand multiple harvests, so waiting for flower buds isn't necessary. The time of day is also important. Once your plants have reached maturity, pick them in the morning after the dew has dried. Essential oils are at their peak, and the more oils present, the more flavour available for preservation.
  2. How much to harvest: Snip off the top six inches of stem. Many people prefer to discard flower buds before drying if present. If your herbs are clean, there is no need to wash them and getting them wet at this stage isn't recommended.
  3. How to prepare herbs for drying: Tie stems into bundles with string, thin wire, or elastic, and hang upside down in a warm, dry place out of the sun. One way to prevent dust settling on your herbs is to place the foliage portion in paper bags punched with holes. This can also reduce UV damage if your drying area is flooded with sunlight. Remember that as your herbs dry, their stems will shrink. You may need to tighten string or other materials periodically so the herbs don't fall down.
  4. Other ways to dry culinary herbs: Drying herbs on window screens laid horizontally or in a low temperature dehydrator work well, particularly for herbs such as mint, or smaller sprigs that can't be tied in a bundle. Distribute evenly across the flat surface so none of the foliage overlaps.
  5. Determining readiness: Your herbs are ready when they feel brittle and crumble easily. That's when you can remove your leaves from remaining stems, crush to a desired size, and place in containers - to enjoy all year long!
Happy Drying!

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