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Last Update 06/03/08

Drying Herbs

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

The best drying spot is a hot, dark space with good air circulation. Herbs will dry more quickly at temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Likely places include a garage or a shady porch. Even a hot attic, where daytime temperatures might soar into the 90s or 100s, is not too hot. The heat dehydrates the leaves before they rot, darkness ensures good color retention, and moving air carries moisture away while discouraging mold formation. Twiggy or stalky herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, and dill) with small leaves that stay separate even when the stalks are bundled together may be hung in bunches from nails or wire. Working with one or two dozen stalks at a time, tie the stems tightly together with string or fasten them together with rubber bands. String may need to be tightened periodically as the stems shrink in drying, while rubber bands will continue to hold as the bundles lose bulk. If possible, hang the bunches of herbs where air reaches them from all sides—from a rafter or ceiling hook, for example, rather than on a wall.

hanging your herbsIf you don’t have a shaded place in which to hang your herbs, pop a brown paper bag over them. Cut small slits in the bag to admit air. Large-leafed herbs (such as basil or mint) may rot before they dry if they are bundled tightly together. Such herbs will dry more quickly and retain color better if their stems are grouped in small bunches or spread in a single layer on racks or screens, propped so that air can circulate under them. (Avoid using galvanized-metal screens; plant acids may react with the metal to form toxic compounds.)




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