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Last Update 06/03/08

Drying Herbs

Gathering herbs for drying is one of the gardener's most pleasant tasks.Cutting the stalks

When sheared during the growing season, moist herb plants respond by growing bushier and more attractive; plants from which you take cuttings can be used to propagate more herbs. Drying herbs is not hard work, and you don’t need special equipment. A pinch of dried herbs can make a significant difference in stews, sauces, salads, and soups. You might also want to dry some mint or lemon verbena for teas, or prepare jars of dried herbs for thoughtful, personalized gifts.

For best flavor, pick herbs when blossoms first begin to form, but before they open—this is when their volatile-oil content is highest. Wait until late morning on a sunny day, after the dew has dried. The leaves should be dry when you gather cuttings.

Use scissors or pruning shears to clip off the herb stalks. It’s better to cut than to break the stems, because breaking them leaves a harder-to-heal ragged edge on the remaining stem, and tugging on the plant may disturb its roots. In most cases it’s best to remove up to two-thirds of an herb plant’s top growth.

2. RINSE THE HERBSRinsing the herbs
Now’s the time to remove any grit, dust, or other residues; you won’t want to wash the herbs after they’ve dried. Long-stemmed herbs are usually fairly clean, but creeping plants like thyme may have sand or mud clinging to their leaves. Hold sandy leaves under running water for a minute or two. If they’re just dusty, you can plunge them briefly into a bucket of clean water. Then shake off the excess water thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels, or whirl the cuttings in a mesh basket to spin off the water.

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