Drying garden herbs

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Drying herbs from your garden is a satisfying, fun way to enjoy the bright flavors of summer throughout the year. You can preserve your herbs by drying them with tools you already have at home.

There are three go-to methods for drying herbs at home – air drying, oven drying and drying in the dehydrator. Each of these methods has its advantages.

Air drying is the most straightforward method. For the most success using this method, you need a warm spot with good air circulation. Herbs with sturdier leaves, such as thyme, rosemary and sage, can be tied in a bundle and hung upside down. If you hang them in a spot away from sunlight, the herbs will retain their color and flavor better.

For herbs that hold more moisture in their leaves, like basil and mint, cut some vent holes in a paper bag, place the tied herb bundle inside and hang to dry. Alternatively, you can lay these leaves in a single layer on a cooling rack to dry. Flowers, like chamomile, dry well this way.

Several types of garden herbs, including chamomile flowers, sage, lemon thyme, oregano and mint (clockwise from top left) can be dried and stored in glass jars or other air-tight food storage containers for use in teas and to add flavor to a variety of culinary dishes.

Herbs also can be dried in your oven. The ideal temperature for drying herbs is around 100º F to preserve color and flavor. Set your oven as low as possible. It needs to be below 200º for best results.

Layer clean, dry herbs on a baking sheet. Put them in the oven, and check after about an hour. Check regularly until they are completely dry. There will be some loss of color using this method.

If you have a home dehydrator, you can preserve herbs with high-quality, consistent results. Set clean, dry leaves on the dehydrator trays in a single layer. Set the dehydrator to 100º. Check periodically for doneness. Most herbs will be completely dry within three hours.

Using a dehydrator to dry herbs, including mint, oregano and sage (clockwise from top), will produce high-quality, consistent results in as little as three hours if the leaves are arranged in a single layer on a dehydrator tray.

When your herbs are completely dry, store them in glass jars or other air-tight food storage containers. If you have a large amount, dried, packaged herbs can be kept in the freezer until you are ready to use.

Dried herbs make thoughtful gifts. To use your dried herbs for cooking, remember one teaspoon of dried herbs is roughly equivalent to one tablespoon of fresh herbs.

You also can make your own herb blends by combining a variety of dried herbs in a storage container. Italian seasoning blends typically include basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary and sage.

Equal parts chamomile and mint brewed with some ginger makes a delicious tea. Package some of your favorite blends to enjoy throughout the year.

For more information on growing, drying and preserving herbs, visit the Gardening Resources page of the University of Vermont Extension Community Horticulture website and click on “Herbs.”

by Andrea Knepper, Extension Master Gardener, UVM

Featured photo: Herbs, such as sage, lemon thyme and oregano, can be tied in bundles and hung to air dry, a drying method that helps preserve the color and flavor of the herbs. Photos by Andrea Knepper

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