One of the most important parts of growing a garden in the summer is stowing it away for winter. While winter gardens are possible, the produce that can be grown in cold weather is considerably different than what’s available in late autumn or December. Fresh herbs are a warm-weather commodity. Many other herbs, such as rosemary and sage, may hang on during the winter, but they don’t produce nearly the same abundance. So, if we want homegrown flavor in those winter dishes, we have got to learn to preserve our herbs.
Luckily, preserving herbs is one of the easiest homesteading-type things to do. There are several completely safe methods for getting it done, and there is nothing quite like having an abundance of organic, homegrown flavor to put into those wintertime soups and stews. So, for those who are into growing food at home, herbs are a great addition to the garden, a very good companion plant for most vegetables, and an easy store for later. Plus, fresh herbs during the summertime are hard to beat.
Which Herbs Are Good for Drying?
Forget about it! Which herbs aren’t good for drying? Bay, dill, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, oregano, marjoram, coriander, cumin, mustard seed — these are all ideal herbs for drying. Other herbs, such as basil, chives, cilantro, mint, and parsley, are all viable candidates for drying as well, but they will retain more flavor if frozen. However, it’s not a bad idea to dry some as a back-up plan should the freezer fodder not hold out. In short, just about any herb we use regularly — and many others like summer savory, lavender, and fennel seed that we don’t use regularly — are prime crops for drying. And, they are great for keeping us healthy year-round.
The more pertinent question is: How do we do it?
How to Dry Ya Herbs
There are so many ways to dry herbs that, undoubtedly, anyone so inclined should be able to find an agreeable methodology, and many people might opt to try several approaches. For the all-natural type folks, there is the wind and sun. For gadget-lovers, there are gadgets galore. For I’m-just-looking-to-do-this-quick-and-painless types, there is the basic kitchen set-up to work with as well. In general, herbs have so little moisture to start with that the process is nothing taxing however it’s done.
- Indoor Air-Drying: Lasso the stems of the herbs in bundles and hang them upside down. This is best done in a warm, dry spot, such as a sunny window. Some people prefer to use a drying screen to lay them out.
- Sun-drying: Think of a hot spot. Think of one of the less humid days, something under 50 percent. Stick the herbs out on a cookie sheet, either on the porch, balcony or back window of the car. Avoid direct sunlight, but make sure the stuff dries out. That’s it. Or, build an awesome solar dehydrator.
- A dehydrator: For those who are into making fruit leathers and kale chips, a dehydrator might be a good purchase because it can also help with drying fresh herbs. They can be set at the perfect temperature and time for making dried herbs flawlessly.
- Old-school oven-drying: Or, if added gadgetry in the kitchen isn’t your bag, and nor is hanging herbs in a window or putting them on the back dash, there is always the run-of-the-mill oven. Set it at 100 degrees and prop it just open with a wooden spoon in the door.
- The Fridge: For those who like to be neglectful with their preserving, the fridge might be the best option. Just stick the herbs in uncovered. Forget about them for a week, and they’ll dry up all on their own. Some believe this method is better for allowing herbs to maintain their color and flavor.
Dried herbs, admittedly, are not nearly the vibrant flavor sensation of fresh herbs, but they are a great way to enhance sauces and the slow-cooked stuff that so encapsulates warming food for cold weather. This is one of the easiest foods we can grow for ourselves, and they add color, aroma, and pizzazz to the garden. What’s more is that herbs tend to attract beneficial insects like bees and butterflies while repelling pests.
Why dry? Because the garden should have an abundance of herbs growing in it, and our food should have an abundance of flavor. Drying herbs allows us to savor it any month of the year, so it would be crazy to just let those fresh herbs wilt.
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