Drying Herbs Fresh From The Garden

drying herbs with a dehydrator

Gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby and lifestyle for millions of people around the country. One way to extend your gardens produces is from drying herbs. This is especially important if you live in the North because we have such a short growing season.  By learning how to dry fresh herbs, we can introduce our garden’s produce to our table for a good half of the year when our garden is frozen beneath the snow. This article has affiliate links to produce I recommend on Amazon too.

Drying Herbs

At the end of each gardening season, I always feel like there is so much wasted food from the gardens if we leave it out to freeze. One thing I started to do to put off or save some of this food was to dry herbs in a dehydrator. You will be surprised how much you can save from your garden when fall comes.

If you like our idea of drying your own herbs, you may also be interested in growing your own indoor winter garden too. Otherwise, another one of my favorite ways to preserve herbs is to freeze them in olive oil and keep them in the freezer for later.

If you like this DIY Gardening idea, you may also like these as well:

Drying herbs is a way to put off your garden for later. These other posts are other ways to preserve your garden:

Even from our relatively small suburban garden, we get many of our herbs ready for the winter. one of my favorite herbs is our Basil Blend. It is literally something you cannot buy at the store. It’s basically a dry blend of all of the basil left in our garden. You can see in the pictures we have a Thai Basil, Sweet Basil, and  Opal Basil in this jar. The next time we are cooking and need some dried herbs, this wonderful blend of basil is fresh and waiting for us in our spice drawer. Here’s how we made it:

How To Dry Herbs

Most herbs will not live through the winter. This is especially true in Minnesota where the winters get far below zero degrees. So to use the most out of our garden, we have to dry them.

The first thing you need to do is to take snips, scissors, or just your fingers and pick as many herbs as you can from the garden. Then wash the herbs in your sink removing any dirt or bugs that might still be on the leaves and stems.

Most herbs are best when you just use their leaves. With these, just remove the leaves from any stems or stalks. I like to place the freshly picked herbs on paper towels. This helps remove any water that is clinging to the herbs before placing them in the dehydrator. One exception is the rosemary. The pine-needle like leaves are used off the stalk, but for decoration purposes, I leave them on the woody branch they grow on.

If I can, I will use one tray for each kind of herb. It’s ok to put two kinds on the same tray as long as they are easily separated.

Use a low-temperature setting on the dehydrator and set it aside for a couple of days or until all the moisture is removed from the herb’s leaves.

Finally, I clean and thoroughly dry mason jars for storing and labeling the herbs.

If you are curious, I have a Nesco Dehydrator and I absolutely love it. Weather you are drying herbs or making jerky, it is easy to use, easy to clean and dries very well. You can find it on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/2iPzYQn

How to Store Dried Herbs

Herbs should be stored in a cool dark place. A cupboard is fine and a cellar is best. You want to protect the herbs from ultraviolet light from the sun because this can bleach the leaves. You also want a dry place because you don’t want to accidentally reintroduce moisture to the herbs. This will keep them fresh the longest.

It is best to avoid using the jars as decoration for extended periods of time. Follow these simple rules and the herbs will be fresh for a good year or more. But if you are like me, you will use them all up by the time your garden starts pushing up fresh plants for you anyway.

How To Substitute Dry Herbs For Fresh

Drying herbs actually makes a more potent than the fresh plant. This kind of make sense because a lot of water weight and volume is taken out and what is left is the concentrated oils and leaves of the plant. While the exact measure may change between plant varieties and the potency of an individual plant, you can use a 3 to 1 ratio for figuring out where to start. So in other words, if you need three teaspoons of fresh basil for a recipe, you will only need one teaspoon of your dried basil.

Using Dry Herbs

Tea – Many herbs make a great tea and you can grow them right in your garden. By drying these plants in a dehydrator from your garden, you can make your own tea to sip through the whole next year. Because you are growing and drying your own herbs, you can make your own custom blends. Try using your own herbs as a base and then purchasing additional dried herbs you can’t grow here to make perfect custom teas. A few herbs that make great teas and are easily grown in your garden include:

  • Lavender
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Mint
  • Lemon Balm
  • Ginger
  • Thyme
  • Chamomile
  • Jasmine

You could also buy an herb tea kit like this one from Amazon: http://amzn.to/2zDMcFW

Spices – Dried herbs work great to spice up a meal. For example, our Spaghetti With Fresh Canned Spaghetti Sauce goes great with some oregano, parsley, and basil crushed up in the sauce. We just add it when we start cooking and let the flavors really come out of the dried leaves.

Give as a Christmas Gift to a family member – Homegrown and homemade gifts can be perfect for the right person. The jars can be decorated with twine or bow to make them pretty and they can be put right in a gift bag.

If you like making your own ingredients, you may also like How To Make Creme Fraiche.

Recipes You Can Use Your Herbs On

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