Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Time to Gather

It's time to gather in the herbs.

Best time of day: late morning

Best weather: dry and sunny

Best herbs: all the ones you love the best

How to dry: And here is where simplicity ends. Not that drying herbs isn't simple: it is. But there are several ways to do it.

Here are the ways I've dried my harvests:




Method #1. Hanging them up, A and B.
A. pick the herbs, put into bunches using string, ribbon, rubber bands or what-have-you, and hang up in a dry, airy, out-of direct-sunlight place.
B.pick the herbs, put into bunches using string, ribbon, rubber bands or what-have-you, place inside a brown paper bag and hang up in a dry, airy, out-of direct-sunlight place.


Let them hang until completely dry, then either:
A. remove from stems and put into air-tight containers. Place in a location out of direct sunlight.
B. leave them hanging up because they look pretty and use as needed.

(Why the caution about sunlight? The sun will remove color, oils and nutrients from your herbs as they dry, leaving them colorless and pretty much flavorless.)



Method #2. Remove leaves from stems; place leaves in an open, flat basket and put in a dry, airy, non-sunny place to dry. Stir from time to time to allow the drier leaves to speed drying and to ensure even circulation of air. When completely dry, place in an airtight container and store away from direct sunlight.

Method #3. Remove leaves from stems; place leaves on a cookie sheet in a slightly warm oven. 200 degrees is too warm; you want something like 110-120 at the most. Stir occasionally so they dry evenly. Store as above.

Method #4. Remove leaves from stems; place on trays in a dehydrator and turn it on. Watch carefully so leaves don't get too dry and loose all their oils and flavor. Store as above.

Which method do I prefer? I like method 1A because it's simple and the hanging herbs add a beautiful touch to my kitchen. I have an old wood drying rack that is over a window that does not get direct sunlight, but allows plenty of air movement. The herbs dry quickly and keep their color and flavor if I take them down as soon as they are dry and store them properly.



I have been using method 2 this year for my teas like raspberry and blackberry leaves, peppermint and red clover, and I find that the herbs dry quickly and retain more flavor than they do using either method 3 or 4. Heat seems to remove too much flavor and body from the leaves, I think. And there's always the danger of roasting them instead of drying them!

The absolutely most important thing to do when storing your herbs: mark the containers with the contents and the date! I seldom do this, and end up with jars of mystery, green and fragrant but what is it and when did I put it up? Usually the smell is a dead giveaway, but not always--some herbs retain flavor and color pretty well. But if I've got a new harvest, I usually want to give the old herbs to my hens and enjoy fresh new ones. So mark your jars-- there's nothing quite as surprising as lemon balm in the spaghetti sauce (what can happen if an unknowing hubby picks up a jar that looks like oregano...)

9 comments:

Angela said...

Thanks for sharing how to dry herbs with us! I should really do that. I need to get some herbs first.

Happy Gardening!
Angela

Granny Sue said...

Angela, you'd love growing them. Their colors, textures and fragrances just light up a garden. And they don't lighten your wallet! I figured that last night's harvest saved us at least $20--the peppermint alone was enough for our year's supply of tea, and buying it at the store would cost us about $10 just for that tea because we like it in winter before bed. My starts came from Joe's Run--I pulled up some wild ones and planted up here and have been harvesting it fo years.

Jai Joshi said...

Where would we be without herbs? I love this post. I didn't know that the best time to gather them was late morning. I'll be following that maxim from now on.

Jai

Granny Sue said...

Jai, isn't it relaxing to walk through the garden, sniffing the many aromas of the herbs, tasting a few here and there, and just knowing that soon they will be brightening meals, scenting closets and otherwise making our homes happier places?

Janet, said...

You have a lot of herbs, Susanna. I have peppermint and sage. I don't make teas, though, the only reason I have peppermint is because I can't get rid of it :) The picture with the herbs hanging in the window reminds me of a passage in "Lucy" where Emily has her dried herbs hanging in her window.

Robbyn said...

I love this post! We're trying to do more harvesting and using, especially as we learn some of the naturally-occurring plants we have all in our property. I just need to really get out there and harvest the bounty and begin using it in all the ways available. Hope your family reunion this weekend is great :)

Granny Sue said...

Janet, you might want to move Lucy's herbs somewhere else. It's not good to dry them in front of a window. The attic, perhaps, or from beams in the kitchen celing? Somewhere dry and airy but no direct sunlight is best.

Robbyn, we had a wonderful time this weekend--and I dug up starts of two wild mints that do not grow here. I hope they'll take root and give me more variety. One seems to be a spearmint, the other a different peppermint, I believe. I'll be planting them near the creek where they can spread to their heart's content.

The peppermint I dried last week yielded two full quarts of dried leaves.

StitchinByTheLake said...

I've got an herb garden this year for the first time in many years so I was glad to see your post. I'm going to be gone for the next 4 months and since the herbs are still very small won't be able to harvest any until fall. I hope they will still be ok when we get home! blessings, marlene

Twisted Fencepost said...

Thanks for posting this!
I am experimenting with herbs this year and this is something I would have researching. Now I don't need to. You have posted everything I need to know.
Thank you!!!

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