Thursday, September 27, 2012

Drying Herbs for the Winter

Megan Bucknum
How to Keep a Bit of Summer Always in Your Kitchen

Recently, I have been looking at the group of herbs in my community garden and realized that I was a bit overzealous in my planting and,unless I plan on eating salads consisting only of herbs, I am never going to use all of these before our Philly frost date of mid-late October.  Instead, I have been cutting these and bringing them back to my apartment, where I have them hanging to dry, in small bunches hanging upside down.  When they are fully dry, and feel dry and  a bit crumbly (about 2-3 weeks), I am going to crush and create different spice blends to give as holiday gifts.

While my project has been a bit of trial and error (like most projects of mine), I wanted to share some tips and tricks that I found from in case you would like to this with some of the herbs in your garden.

The general rule of thumb is to try and remove any excess water from your herbs before you start the drying process.  This can be done by using towels to remove any water, as well as removing any of the dead foliage on the plant.  Next, gather small bundles of the herb and hang upside down in a dry, warm place out of the sun.  Smaller bundles allow for greater air circulation and hanging upside down allows the oils within the plant to flow from the stem to the leaf.  Some high moisture herbs -- like mint and basil -- require rapid drying or they will mold.  To keep some of the green leaf coloring, it is best to cover the bunch with a paper bag.  In a few weeks, check the herbs and if they feel dry, then start using them.  

Some recommendations said to keep them on the stem until right before use, but if you are going to use as a gift or do not have an area that you can keep them hanging, then crush them.  

Check out this website, where I found a lot of these tips as well as explanations of many different drying techniques.

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