Herbs can be dried no matter where you live, or the climate. Although fresh might be considered the best, it is not always possible, especially if you live in a harsh climate and cannot successfully grow herbs indoors during the winter. Drying what you have grown is a great way to use the very last of what the plant has to offer and to save money.
I have also found that a sprinkle of dry herbs over a fresh pizza gives it that little bit extra. In some pizza restaurants you might find dried chilis or herbs on the table so it is nice to have it at home if you are ordering one in. Another great tip for when you order a pizza online is to search online first, you never know how much you could save.
If drying herbs is new to you, there are several different ways it can be accomplished and differing opinions on how it should be done. I have touched on the most basic methods and given a brief description of how they may be successfully accomplished.
No matter which method you choose, they will need to be cleaned and prepared in the same manner:
Begin by separating a few stalks at a time from the base plant, or you could uproot the entire plant, shaking off the dirt. Remove the root system and any buds now; also discard any yellow or brown leaves. For delicate herbs, lightly mist each stalk with water and for hardier herbs, swish gently in the sink or a basin to remove unwanted dirt, bugs or spider webs. Pat dry lightly.
If you would like to dry herbs the way your grandmother did, then hanging them is the way to go. Consider the space available in your home, for you will want a cool, dry area that is either dark or at least out of direct sunlight. In areas where the temperatures do not freeze, many people will use their attic; while other families use the pantry or designate a small space in a kitchen cupboard. It all depends on the amount you wish to hang and how much room can be freed up.
After the herbs have been cleaned, wrap yarn or twine around the base of the stems, gathering no more than six to ten stalks to a bundle and tie securely. When hanging multiple bundles, space them approximately one foot apart for proper air circulation, labeling each bundle to make identifying each herb easier. Drying time may take from one to three weeks.
The oven is an ideal place for drying herbs and is a nice alternative if there is no room for hanging them. Pick and clean the stalks as described earlier and set the oven on low heat, about 200 degrees. A flat baking sheet or a foil baking pan works best and just as when they are hung, herbs will need to be spaced slightly apart for best results.
When drying delicate herbs like rosemary or thyme, place a paper towel on the bottom of the sheet and lay each stalk in a single row, being careful not to overlap. Lay another row of paper toweling and repeat for up to four layers. For sturdier herbs like parsley and oregano, removing the leaves from the stalk is an option many people prefer, but is not necessary.
Line baking sheet with paper toweling or a baking rack and lay stalks or leaves in a single layer. Bake for three to four hours, checking on the herbs around the second hour and then every thirty minutes to avoid toasting or burning.
In the Microwave
The microwave is perfect for quick drying small quantities of herbs. Prepare the herbs by removing leaves from the stem. Using a microwave safe plate, place a single layer of herbs between two sheets of paper toweling; microwave on high for one minute. If more time is needed, repeat in thirty second increments, checking carefully each time, until herbs are dried.
Once the herbs are dried, remove the leaves from the stems, and depending on how they will be used, leave them whole, chop or crush them. Store in a labeled, airtight glass jar for six months to one year.