Once you learn how to dry herbs, you’ll wish you had started sooner! This is one of the easiest food preservation techniques to master.
Plus, learning to dry fresh herbs can teach you a great deal about gardening, saving money, and herbal medicine making, too.
So let’s dive in!
Why Dry Herbs?
Besides being an easy and affordable homesteading skill to learn, there are many other reasons to start drying herbs from your garden. Here are a few to consider:
More Control Over Food Quality and Freshness
When you pick up a jar of oregano at the store, there’s no telling how long it’s been sitting on the shelf. And after 6-12 months, dried herbs start to become less aromatic and flavorful.
But when you grow and dry your own, you can be certain of the plant variety, where it was grown, and when and how it was preserved.
Not only can culinary herbs add flavor and nutrients to family meals, but dried herbs are also excellent to have on hand for medicinal uses.
A soothing tea made from dried lemon thyme works wonders on a sore throat. Dried herbs make a lovely addition to homemade soaps and candles, too.
Homesteaders are often looking for ways to cut costs and be more self-sufficient. Since store-bought organic herbs can be rather pricey, learning how to dry fresh herbs can help you achieve both of these goals.
Plus, purchasing a plant (likely cheaper than the jar of store-bought herbs) and learning how to care for it will improve your gardening skills, too.
Drying herbs at home allows you to reuse storage containers rather than continuously buying and throwing away store-bought containers. It may seem like a small thing, but every little bit of waste that doesn’t end up in a landfill helps!
Support Healthy Eating
A pantry stocked with homegrown dried herbs provides excellent motivation for healthier cooking. Get creative in the kitchen and try adding more oregano than what’s called for. Who knows what delicious combination you’ll discover!
Herbal home remedies often call for herbs not easily found in grocery stores like calendula, chamomile, or tulsi. By learning to dry herbs at home, you can have a ready-supply of less common herbs to use for medicinal purposes.
Learning how to dry herbs is a wonderful skill to master. Especially for those just starting their homesteading journey, it’s easy to see why this method of food preservation is an ideal place to start!
How to Dry Herbs
There are many different ways to dry herbs. I’ll be sharing four easy methods that I’ve successfully used to dry fresh herbs at home.
Start small and use what you have. You don’t need to run out and buy a fancy dehydrator if you are just starting out. Keep it simple (and affordable!) when you are first learning a new skill.
How to Dry Herbs in the Sun
Drying herbs in the sun is an easy, passive way of drawing moisture from leaves, seeds, and flowers using heat from the sun rather than artificial heat. However, you must have or create the ideal environment for this method to work.
The ideal condition for sun-drying herbs is 100 degrees Fahrenheit with 60% or less humidity. For those living in hot, dry climates, you could dry herbs in the sun directly outside.
- Rinse the herbs in cool water and gently dry them with a paper towel.
- Lay them out on a screen or perforated pan so that they aren’t overlapping.
- Place the trays in a sunny spot where they won’t be disturbed for a while.
- Leave the herbs out to dry until they are crisp and brittle. The length of time will depend on what type of herb you’re drying and the temperature and humidity.
- When your herbs are dry, they are ready for storage.
If your herbs aren’t dry before nightfall, bring them inside to avoid having dew settle on the leaves. Place them back outside the following day. And on sweltering days (above 100 degrees), it’s a good idea to move your herbs into the shade every few hours to avoid burning them.
If you live in a cooler or more humid climate, you can still dry herbs in the sun. Many people have luck placing herbs on screens or perforated pans and putting them on their vehicle’s dashboard for a few hours on a sunny day.
You could also build a solar food dehydrator for drying herbs in the sun. These can be very handy for passively dehydrating a variety of foods.
How to Dry Herbs in the Oven
Using an oven to dry herbs is an effective solution to not having a dehydrator. However, you’ll need to pay close attention to the herbs as they dry to avoid burning them since most ovens don’t go as low as 100 degrees.
Here are some tips for how to dry herbs in an oven…
- Set your oven temperature as low as possible and keep the door cracked open.
- Rinse and dry the herbs to remove any loose dirt.
- Place leaves, flowers, or seeds in a single layer on a cookie sheet or a perforated pan. And stick the pans in the oven for two to four hours.
- Regularly check the oven temperature using an oven thermometer. You don’t want it getting much hotter than the lowest temperature your oven goes. Open the door to cool things down if needed.
- When the leaves crumble easily, you can take them out of the oven.
Although drying herbs in an oven requires more of your attention, it is still an excellent way to become familiar with drying herbs at home.
How to Dry Herbs in the Microwave
Using a microwave to dry herbs works well for small batches of herbs. This method is quicker than drying herbs in an oven and works best on herbs with minimal water density. Oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage are good examples.
To get started…
- First, rinse and dry the herbs.
- Place them in a single layer on a paper towel. Put another paper towel over them.
- Microwave on high for one minute, then wait 30 seconds.
- Alternate between microwaving for 30 seconds and resting for 30 seconds until the herbs are dry and crumbly. Stop to check them every few cycles.
- Most herbs should be dry in ten minutes.
- Take the herbs out of the microwave and place them on a rack to settle before using or storing them.
Using a microwave to learn how to dry herbs is a great place to start for beginners. If you don’t have a lot of space or the right conditions to dry herbs outdoors, using a microwave is a practical solution.
How to Dry Herbs in a Dehydrator
Dehydrators make drying fresh herbs simple. But like I said before, if you don’t have one, try using the other methods first.
The benefit to using a dehydrator to dry herbs is that they have temperature control settings lower than an oven and typically include an air circulation mechanism.
Food dehydrators come in a variety of styles. And they typically include food-drying manuals with specific instructions. However, these tips should help you get started regardless of what kind of food dehydrator you are using.
- Rinse and dry the herbs to remove any loose dirt.
- Place herbs on the dehydrator trays in a single layer and put the trays in the dehydrator.
- Set the dehydrator to the lowest temperature setting possible. If your dehydrator only includes time-based settings, start with the shortest time and go longer if needed.
- The exact amount of time needed to dry herbs in a dehydrator will vary based on temperature, humidity, and the type of herb. Most herbs will be dry in one to four hours, though.
- When the herbs are dry and brittle, they’ll be ready to use or store.
Food dehydrators are excellent tools for homesteading. When you start growing an abundance of different herbs, they can really come in handy to dehydrate in bulk.
How to Store Dried Herbs
When you are ready to store dried herbs, there are a few things to keep in mind.
First, if possible, it’s best to store dried herbs as whole leaves. You can chop and crumble them up before storing them for convenience. But keeping them whole prevents them from losing their potency and flavor quicker.
Always store dried herbs in dry, airtight containers. I prefer glass jars, but you could use whatever you have readily available.
You’ll also want to keep them in a cool, dark place to prolong their shelf life. It’s best not to store them near ovens or sinks. Heat, light, and moisture will cause your dried herbs to spoil faster.
Don’t forget to label your jars with the plant variety and the date. You may want to include the drying method you used, too. It’s fun to compare the flavor and potency of herbs from different plant varieties and drying techniques.
Use herbs within six months to a year of harvesting and drying. If you notice mold or moisture in the jars or on the herbs, it’s time to add them to the compost pile.
It’s Your Turn to Dry Herbs!
The secret to successfully drying herbs is giving your undivided attention. Regardless of which method you use, be sure to set aside time when you aren’t rushing to get numerous other things done.
And if your first few attempts aren’t successful, don’t quit! Learning how to dry herbs is very much like a science experiment. Take notes about what works and what doesn’t. Tweak the process and try different methods with different plants.
The more you practice, the more experience you’ll gain. Soon knowing how to dry herbs will become second nature!
Have you had success drying herbs with any of these methods?