Drying Fresh Herbs

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HANE Tincture 101 June 2024

Just imagine row after row of amber and cobalt blue bottles lining the shelves of your herbal dispensary, each neatly labeled and filled with various shades of yellow, green, and brown herbal tinctures that you’ve crafted for a specific purpose. In the online, self-paced Tincture Making 101 Mini Course, we explore the craft of tincture making from the ground up, giving you a solid foundation that will prepare you to make, use, and formulate tinctures confidently! 

This is the perfect time for the tincture course - plants are growing abundantly and you ought to take advantage of that, to harvest and prepare your herbal preparations ready for the winter. 

fresh herbs growing in the garden

Drying fresh herbs can be done in one of four main ways - air, oven, microwave or dehydrator. 

You need to get the best and freshest herbs you can find - ideally from your own plants.

Harvest them just before they come into full flower and in the early morning - when the dew has dried off and before the sun gets hot.

Herbalist Courses for all levels

You can try a sample lesson to help you decide if the Herbal Academy of New England is the right choice for you - click the link below.

Preview Lesson from the Introductory Herbal Course
fresh lavender ready for drying

Air Drying
Cut the herbs with fairly long stems - wipe them clean if they need it, but don't wet them if  you can help it. If they're muddy, wash them on the plant and pick them another day when they've dried off.

Gather them together between 5 and 8 stems and tie them with a piece of string.

Place them head down in a brown paper bag with the ends protruding a few inches and hang the bag up by the stem end in a warm, dark place - shed or under the stairs perhaps. I have some hooks screwed into the ceiling of my under stairs cupboard.

It will take one to three weeks for the fresh herbs to dry, depending on the fleshiness of the leaves.

Oven Drying

Take the leaves off the herb sprigs and spread over a baking tray in one layer.

Use the plate warming section of a cooker or the bottom of a conventional oven with the door ajar - put it on the lowest heat.

Turn the herbs every 30 minutes until dried - could be anywhere between 3 to 5 hours - you will know they're ready when they are brittle and crumble when touched.

microwave oven for drying fresh herbs

Microwave Drying

Perhaps the easiest method as the results are known within a few minutes.

Wipe them clean if they're dirty.

Spread the leaves over three layers of paper towel and cover with another layer of paper towel.

Give them a 30 second blast, then turn - keep repeating until they are brittle.

Don't burn them - they should take between 2 to 3 minutes to dry. One lady has reported that her paper towel burst into flames, so do watch it carefully.

Once the herbs are at the brittle stage, crumble them into storage jars that exclude the light and label them clearly.

Drying fresh herbs is a good way of getting herbs out of season.

You can use them during the winter season when there are no plants growing. 

They will be fine for the winter season but once the herbs start growing fresh again, discard what's left - wash, sterilise and store the jars ready for your next harvest.

Drying Fresh Herbs in a Dehydrator

A dehydrator can be a considerable investment, you can buy quite cheap ones and you can often pick them up second hand and barely used. A lot of people (and I'm afraid I'm one!) buy gadgets because they're a gadget nut and rarely use them after a couple of tries. 

However, a dehydrator is a good tool if you want to preserve food that you grow or buy fresh. You can stop wasting a lot of stuff, like fruit and veggies by just drying them.  Apples, pineapple, mango, greens, are all things that sit in the fridge or fruit bowl and get thrown out. It's a waste of money and produce. 

Here's a short video showing you how to dry basil in the dehydrator. 

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