Monday, April 9, 2012

Drying Your Own Herbs

So, you've decided to plant a herb garden this year?  You already know how you'll use the fresh herbs, but what if you're garden's really producing and you just can't use all thos fresh herbs.  Maybe you should turn to drying your gardens.  Not only is drying your own herbs more economical, but it's also much more satisfying to use herbs you've grown and harvested from your own garden.

Here are a few tips to ensure you complete the process correctly and with the least amount of effort.

Harvest your herbs just before you plan to dry them. How can you tell when they're ready for picking?  They should be fully developed, but before blooming starts. Once you've picked your herbs, take the time to pluck off the damanged leaves and pieces of stem that appear dead.

Look over your herbs to ensure they are free of insects.  If you want to wash them, be sure and do that a couple of days BEFORE you pick them.  Spray them off with the hose, let them dry a couple of days and then pick them.

Get all your supplies ready before you pick.  Have everything you'll and the spot you'll be drying picked out.  A warm, dry, dark location is the best place to dry herbs.  A shed, a pantry, a dark garage.

In order for the herbs to dry at a similar rate, tie them together in similar size bunches.  Each bunch should consist of 7 to 10 stems.

Tie the stems together and hang upside down.  For herbs with larger stems, you can dry alone and hang by a hook made of wire.

Hanging your herbs upside down by the stems will allow the oils to drain into the leaves, giving you the best flavor.

If you are drying your herbs in an area where dust or wind can damage your leaves, you may want to place a paper bag over your herbd.  Just tie the top of the bag shut with twine, and add a couple of slits in the back to allow ventilation. 

If all your conditions are prime, then it will take approximately five to six days for your herbs to dry.  If it's under 75 degrees, it can take up to two weeks for your herbs to dry.  85 degrees is optimal!

It is okay to dry different types of herbs at the same time, but don't put two different herbs too close together, and definitely don't let them touch.

When the leaves are almost papery in feel and texture, the drying is complete.  Be careful not to overdry.  If the leaves crumble to the touch, they have dried for too long, and you need to make another effort.

To store your herbs, remove the leaves from the stems.  Gently place them on a surface that will allow you to easily transer them to an airtight container.  Glass is best, and dark glass is even better.

Never store your herbs in the sunlight. 

Do not crush your herbs until just before you plan to use them. 

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