If you plan to dry your herbs, don’t take small cuttings because it is easier to deal with long stems or even whole plants. Cut stems that are up to 10 inches long, shake off any insects and remove any diseased leaves.
Most people dry herbs by hanging them upside down in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area so that as much of the nutrients as possible go to the leaves. It is best to hang them indoors so that you know they will stay clean, and do not hang them at a window where they will be in full sunlight.
To hang them, first remove any leaves that are attached to the bottom 2 inches of the stem, then tie your stems together with string or cotton sewing thread. Put each bundle into a brown paper bag that you have cut ventilation holes into. Tie the top of the bag around the stems, so that the ends of the stems stick out of the bag, and use the end of the string to hang them upside down in your chosen spot.
They can take up to 2 weeks to dry completely. It is essential to wait until they are completely dry, because if you store them while any moisture remains in the leaves they will go moldy.
When they are dry, you can strip the leaves off the stems for easier storage and keep them in glass jars or whatever airtight container is convenient for you. If you are using glass jars, choose dark glass that will not allow the light to affect the herbs.
The second way to dry herbs is to spread them out on screens. For most people this is less convenient. You need to be sure the air is getting all around the leaves, and the best way to do this is to strip the leaves off before drying, and spread them individually. So unless you only have a tiny herb garden, you need a lot of space for this method.
Although the plants are very distinctive while they are growing, once they are dry it is much harder to tell one leaf from another. Be sure to keep the plants separate so that you do not risk mixing them up later.
While they do need to be dried in a warm environment, do not artificially heat them to try to dry them faster (e.g. by putting them in the oven). Even on the lowest heat setting, this will destroy some of the essential oils.
Dried herbs will have a stronger flavor than fresh because with the removal of water from the leaves, the essential oil becomes more concentrated.
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