Why buy herbs from the store when you can grow them straight from your garden? Surely, one of the best feelings in the world is being able to grow, harvest, and cook your very own herbs.
In this guide, we will look at the best herbs to dry and how to keep them flavorful for as long as possible.
How To Dry Herbs
When To Pick Herbs
The best way to ensure flavorful herbs is to pick and harvest herbs at their peak. To do this, pick your herbs when they are growing actively, usually in the spring and summer. It is also good practice to pick fresh herbs from the topmost part of the plant for maximum flavor.
Preparing Herbs for Drying
Before starting the drying process, remove any bruised and imperfect leaves and stems from the freshly picked herbs. Take time to also inspect your fresh herbs for any other imperfections like insects, and remove those, as well.
Afterward, wash the fresh herbs and pat them dry with a towel to remove all excess moisture. At this point, you can now decide on the most suitable drying method for your herbs.
For herbs with lower moisture content, such as Fennel, Sage, Tarragon, and Thyme, it is better to use an air-drying or tray drying method. Herbs with high moisture content, like Basil, Chives, and Mint, are best-suited for Oven and Microwave drying. Below are some of the most popular drying methods you can try:
Air drying is a natural method of drying herbs that requires just time and patience. This method is best for herbs that grow in woody branches, such as Fennel, Sage, Thyme, and Parsley.
To air dry, tie bunches of fresh herbs together and hang them in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. Check the herbs every other day to ensure proper drying. Air drying may produce results in as early as 2-3 days, but large bunches of herbs may take several weeks to fully dry.
Tray drying is similar to air drying. However, unlike air drying, tray drying requires carefully laying out fresh leaves on a flat surface to dry. This method is best done with leafy herbs like Basil, Bay Leaf, Oregano, and Mint because of their high moisture content.
To tray dry an herb, carefully separate a plant’s fresh leaves and lay them on a paper towel or rack to draw out moisture. Make sure to keep the herbs out of direct sunlight to preserve flavor.
Microwave and Oven Drying
For a quick and easy method to dry herbs, Oven and Microwave drying are readily available.
To oven-dry, lay out your herbs on a flat surface and bake at a temperature below 140F (80°C) for 2-5 hours. To microwave dry, place your fresh herbs on top of paper towels and set the timer for 2-3 minutes on high. Repeat the process at 30-second intervals until the desired dryness is achieved.
How To Store Herbs
When storing herbs, keep them in airtight containers away from direct sunlight. Make sure that your containers are clean and that no air can escape, or else most of the flavors will escape, too. A glass jar or ziplock bag can be used to store herbs.
With optimum conditions, dried herbs can even last for up to 3 years. The potency and strength of your dried herbs are maximized with proper storage techniques. By storing your herbs properly, most herbs will keep for up to a year with cool, airtight storage.
Best Herbs To Dry
The juicy and flavorful taste of Basil is often found in Italian dishes. Basil is most known for its use in Pesto (which is when fresh Basil is mixed to form a sauce for dipping or pasta), pizza, and salads with cheese. Basil is also used in Asia as a garnish for curries and dipping sauces.
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The medicinal properties of dried basil are also popular. As a dried herb that provides Vitamin K and Calcium, basil is also a strong antioxidant. Historically, basil has even been used to treat wounds and ease inflammation. Dried or fresh, this powerful herb is a must for both the garden and the kitchen.
Because Basil plants have high moisture content, the best method of drying is through oven-drying. Pick fresh basil leaves once the plant reaches 6-8 inches in height to ensure a strong flavor. It is also best to harvest basil leaves from the top of the plant as it has the freshest and strongest taste.
Bay leaves are a staple in Asian cuisine for their unique and aromatic taste. Used for cooking curries, stews, and sauces, bay leaf provides an undeniably distinctive flavor and spice to many meals.
Dried bay leaves are also used for their medicinal properties. Being rich in Vitamins A, C, and Iron, bay leaves promote digestion and can even ease migraines. Bay leaves have even been shown to be powerful natural insecticides for garden use.
To harvest fresh bay leaves, pick them in the summer, during peak active growth. The best drying method for this herb is tray drying to preserve its fragrant flavor.
The fast-growing Dill plant produces herbs ready for harvesting in just about 40 days. For culinary use, Dill is often paired with pickles, seafood, and different types of meat for added-flavor.
When dried, Dill can also be replaced if a recipe calls for fresh dill. You can substitute 1 teaspoon of dried Dill for every tablespoon of fresh Dill in a recipe. Remember, dried herbs tend to pack a strong and intense flavor!
The best time to pick Dill is during its harvesting stage at around 40 days. You can choose to pick entire branches of the plant, or you can leave some growing for continuous harvest. Because Dill plants have low moisture content, this herb is best suited for air drying. To use dill for cooking, make sure that it is ground into smaller pieces.
The biting and zesty flavor of Mint is mostly used to add a delicate touch to desserts. Sweet treats like mint-flavored chocolate and cool mint iced tea are summer favorites. Mint can also be used in hot teas with its soothing taste.
Mint has multiple uses beyond food and beverage, too. With its sharp scent, mint is one of the few herbs that can be planted in the garden to keep pests away. Mint also aids in digestion and is said to have antibacterial properties.
The mint plant is best harvested before it starts growing flowers in the summer. Oven-drying or tray drying is the best method for this herb due to its high moisture content.
Found naturally in the Mediterranean region, oregano is an herb that the Greeks and Romans have attributed to joy and happiness. This herb is sure to inspire delight whenever it is used in recipes for pasta, pesto, and various meats. Mix some oregano with pasta or enhance your favorite sauces with it; either way, this herb is adored for its sharp and unrepeatable taste.
Dried oregano can be mixed into a tea to aid in bloating and soothe a sore throat. Oregano is also rich in calcium, magnesium, and dietary fiber.
Oregano is best harvested when it is 3-4 inches tall in the summer season. This herb is suitable for air-drying; for culinary use, oregano is ground into smaller pieces as a garnish.
This multicultural herb can be used in countless recipes. Dried or fresh, parsley is a mouthwatering garnish that pairs well with quinoa, salads, and pasta. Parsley is also used for decorative purposes, often as a topping or a side dressing to the most intricate Italian delicacies.
Dried parsley can be put to use in various ways. Rich in potassium and Vitamin C, parsley leaves can help regulate kidney health and promote a clear complexion. Historically, parsley was sacred for being able to take away bitter feelings through its consumption.
This zesty herb from the Mediterranean is available all year-long for harvesting but its peak flavors come around right before the summer. For this foliage-rich herb, the best method of drying is tray drying. This method of drying applies to all varieties of parsley, including flat and curly-leaf types.
Rosemary is a staple for French cuisine. As a culinary herb, fresh rosemary adds an aromatic touch to dishes with chicken and pork. Dried rosemary is also a delicious garnish to stewed vegetables, including tomatoes and eggplants.
Much of the Rosemary plant’s medicinal properties come from its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. In concentrated amounts, rosemary can improve cognitive function and promote overall health and wellness.
Picking fresh rosemary for drying can be done at any time. Like most herbs, harvest fresh rosemary when the plant is at its most robust stage of growth. Because rosemary has a lower moisture content, the best drying method for this plant is air-drying.
The earthy and sweet-bitter flavor of a sprig of sage is a classic in both the garden and kitchen. This hardy perennial herb can be sprinkled on soup, mixed in roast dishes, and served with a variety of sauces. In particular, sage is a wonderful addition to chicken, asparagus, and tomato sauce.
This hearty herb also has medicinal properties. Dried sage can be mixed into a tea to rejuvenate the skin and promote anti-aging. For sacred uses, sage is often roasted to cleanse spaces energetically.
Sage can be harvested from the garden all-year-round, but its flavor peaks right before its flowering stage in the early summer. Air drying is the best method for this herb to capture its fragrance and flavor.
The subtle but distinct flavor of the tarragon plant is a must for those who love French food. Dried tarragon, when garnished, provides a taste similar to sweet licorice. Best paired with chicken and salmon, dishes with this herb will surely make you say bon appetit!
Medicinally, dried Tarragon is also used as a tea to promote sleep and aid with digestion. This versatile herb can even be mixed in soaps and oils for cosmetic use.
Because this plant is available all year long, feel free to harvest it at any time. This herb is suited for air-drying because of its low moisture content.
It’s about time to add the savory flavor of Thyme to your kitchen cupboard. This Mediterranean herb is a mainstay in summer dishes and adds a flowery, peppery flavor to food. Often paired with lemon, creamy chicken, and roast vegetables, this herb is reminiscent of decadent summers in Europe.
As for its medicinal properties, dried thyme can relieve throat pain and aid migraines. Thyme is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, which makes this all-around herb a cherished garden favorite.
The stems of thyme plants can be picked all-year-round, but especially right before the flowering season in the summer. This woody herb can be picked in sprigs and is most fit for air-drying.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I use dried herbs for recipes that use fresh herbs?
Dried herbs are perfect substitutes for when a recipe calls for fresh leaves. The general rule of thumb is to use 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for 1 tablespoon of fresh herbs when cooking. A little goes a long way with herbs. Teaspoons of dried herbs can easily pack the same flavor as fresh herbs, so feel free to experiment with your own ratio!
How do I know if my herbs are dry?
Herbs are ready for storage when their leaves fade in color and crumble easily. Most herbs will turn into a muted green color, close to brown when they are ready for storage.
Can dried herbs be rehydrated?
Most herbs can be rehydrated. To rehydrate dried herbs, place them on a plate filled with water and wait for 5-10 minutes for the herbs to draw in moisture. Most of the time, herbs added to sauces rehydrate on their own.
Whether it’s to cook a dish or to enjoy medicinal benefits, dried herbs are a beautiful addition to your garden. With their easy care and numerous uses, you can never go wrong with herbs. Refresh your body and health; see the magic of herbs for yourself!