“I love cooking with my fresh, homegrown herbs. How can I preserve some for later in the season?”
Drying is one of the simplest methods of food preservation. Drying homegrown herbs is fairly easy, relatively inexpensive and requires little equipment. One point to mention – once the drying process has started, it should continue uninterrupted. Partially dried foods provide a suitable environment for mold growth and spoilage.
Sun drying is the least expensive way to dry herb leaves. However, if there is any chance of rain, excess moisture, or dew, you must use your oven to do the drying. Cut the leaves for drying just before blossoming time when the plant’s stock of essential oils is at its highest. Choose a hot, dry day and begin cutting as soon as the dew is off the plants. The newest growth is best for drying so cut the stems about 6 inches below the ﬂower buds. Leaves do not need washing unless they are dusty or have been thickly mulched.
Tie the leaves in small bunches and hang them in the sun just until the water evaporates. Then move them out of the sun to a warm, dry, well-ventilated place away from any bright light. Hang the bunches with the leaves down so oils will ﬂow from the stems into the leaves. To prevent dust accumulation, place a brown paper bag around the leaves. Cut holes in the bag for circulation.
Thyme, parsley, lemon verbena, rosemary, and chervil may also be dried by removing the leaves from their stems and spreading them in single layers on screen or net trays.
Leaves are best when dried in 3 or 4 days. If they are not entirely dry in 2 weeks, place them in a 100 degrees F oven until thoroughly dry. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems.
By Bethany O’Rear, Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Contact Bethany at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce. Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.