As the last summer days are coming to a close, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy local, organic produce. This is especially true if you have your own garden. Don’t let those last few plants that are still producing go to waste! I still have pepper plants that are doing great! I’ve fermented several jars and now I’m dehydrating the rest. And if you had any herbs, they should still be growing well until the first frost-possibly beyond if you care for them properly. But drying them is so easy, then you will have them on hand to flavor all those holiday dishes. (And for helping fight cold and flu symptoms!)
Of course the first step is to trim some clippings from your plant. Never trim more than 1/3 of your plant at a time. But regular trimming will encourage growth. After trimming, you’ll need to wash your clippings. Even if you have an organic garden, this is still important. I always find tiny critters that get washed off! Once I even found that I had cut a worm in half when I clipped the plant! EWW! These can carry disease and pathogens, so even though you don’t have to worry about pesticides, these tiny critters still pose health risks. The best way to clean your herbs is to submerge the clippings in a bowl or sink full of cool water.
Lay out the rinsed herbs on a towel and gently pat to remove excess water. You want your herbs mostly dry before you hang them so there is less risk for mold. Then separate them into 2 or 3 clippings in a bundle to hang.
The easiest way I’ve found to actually hang herbs is using a hanger, twine and clothespins. I tie 3 or 4 pieces of twine to a hanger-spread evenly down the hanger. On the other end, I tie a clothespin. Then I simply use the clothespins to hang each bundle. This is the most convenient way to dry herbs. Once you set up your hanger and clothespins, they are ready for multiple uses without having to cut or retie the twine. And it saves time over having to tie each bundle! (Hey, even saving 5-10 minutes is a lot for us busy moms!)
Once you have your bundles attached, hang them in a cool dry area, out of direct sunlight. You also want them in a dust free area. I usually hang mine in our laundry room. But I once hung them near the light switch which wasn’t smart. Every time I tried to turn the light on, I whopped them with my hand, sending a few pieces crumbling to the floor. So make sure they are out of the way and not next to a light switch. 🙂
The length of time to dry your herbs depends on several things: the weather where you live-if it’s humid (like here) or more dry, how warm your house it, and what herbs your drying. The herbs that are more dainty and leafy like parsley and cilantro will dry pretty quickly, but herbs that are thicker or more woody like rosemary and basil will take longer to dry. I usually just hang mine up and forget about them for a week or so. When I finally get back to them, I check to see if the leaves will crumble or snap easily. If so, they should be dry enough to store. You can then store them still on the stems or pull the leaves off and store only the leaves or go ahead and grind or chop them and store them. It really just depends on how much effort you want to do now verses later. Either way, it’s not a lot of work for the benefits of homegrown herbs!
Happy Drying and Herbing It Up!