I have loved cooking with fresh herbs my entire adult life. It has always been so rewarding going into your garden to snip a couple of fresh herbs for dinner each night. What I didn’t know was how easy and affordable it was to grow your own organic herbs to be dried for the winter when those fresh herbs are not at your disposal.
This is the first season that I attempted drying my own herbs and I am very pleased with the success of it. Simplifying steps and thinking through the process has really made this not only a pantry stocker but also a fun new hobby!
If drying herbs is new to you, do not let it overwhelm you. Pick a couple of your favorite herbs to start with and let it grow from there. You will soon know your herbs very well, from where they grow best, to when it’s time to pick them.
I wanted a decorative herb garden this year so I splurged a little and ordered a stackable herb garden container. I have been pleased with it. I started all my herbs early, around March, and have gotten two cuttings off it so far. I planted thyme, oregano, cilantro, sage, parsley, rosemary, and dill in this container. I have lavender and basil growing separate. I ordered my herbs from Rebel Gardens and have been very pleased with the quality. Next year, I will start my rosemary and lavender sooner. I will have a late crop with those two, as we have a short enough growing season here in Colorado.
Knowing when to cut the herbs has been my biggest investigative element to this project. Each herb is a little different so make sure you know exactly when to cut and dry the herbs you choose. For the most part, it is best to harvest late morning after any dew has been dried up. Choose a warm, sunny day. This helps maximize the essential oil content, which is what we want in our herbs anyway. Also, use sharp scissors. This will help with minimal damage to your plant, and in some plants, it will only prune them with continual growth. Some herbs needs the bloom before you snip, like dill for instance. If you are harvesting dill seed, you have to wait until the entire flowering process has cycled, but for me, I wanted dill weed this year so I harvested before any blooms.
My sage, parsley, and dill were the first to be picked this year. They have been grown, cut, hung to dry, stripped, and bottled.
I used an old jewelry hanger to dry my herbs on. It worked perfect and is super affordable. In my climate, which is very dry, it took about one full week for the herbs to dry out completely. Once they were dry I crumbled them off the stem, bottled and labeled them for storage. I LOVE these apothecary bottles I found. I use them for many things and they store nicely in the cabinet. Another great investment is labels with a chalk pen. I have used these over and over. The chalk can be washed off so you can reuse the label over and over.
So, to recap:
1) Choose your herbs you wish to grow.
2) Grow them in organic soil mix and watch the soil pH. You can read up on the importance of correct soil pH in my blog, Preparing Your Garden Soil.
3) Cut herbs at peek time.
4) Wash herbs and hang to dry in sunny, but dry location. In front of a window would work great.
5) Once herbs are completely dry, strip them off stems, crush, and bottle of storage.
Now you have fresh, organic herbs at your disposal all winter long. It is such a good feeling knowing that the foods I prepare for my family have pure, chemical-free herbs to be seasoned with!