Many people who use herbs prefer to use them fresh. Fresh herbs bring a vibrant, lively flavor to the table and can be used for both cooking and medicine. However, the benefits of dried herbs should not be overlooked.

When it comes to flavor, dried herbs can provide a subtle yet intensely concentrated punch to many dishes. Dried herbs can also be used as ingredients in a variety of medicinal recipes. If you are used to the musty, less-than-fresh taste of commercially dried herbs, take the time to dry your own herbs. Not only is this DIY method easy and affordable, it will get rid of the dustiness that is common to dried herbs.

Air drying herbs doesn’t deplete the herbs of their oils; this slow drying process works best with herbs that don’t have a high moisture content, such as dill, marjoram, bay, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and summer savory.

The Drying Process

  1. Harvest your herbs before flowering, cutting off the healthy branches from your herb plant.
  2. Remove any dry or diseased leaves (yellow, spotted, etc.) – their flavor just won’t cut it!
  3. Since you won’t be giving these stems a thorough wash, be sure to shake off any bugs. If necessary, shake or gently rinse away any excess soil with cool water and pat dry.
  4. Bundle 4-6 branches together and tie. The bundles will shrink and they dry, so check back regularly to ensure they remain tied together in a bunch.
  5. Punch several holes in a paper bag (and remember to label the bag with the name of the herb you are drying).
  6. Place the herb bundle upside down into the bag. Gather the ends of the bag around the bundle and tie closed. Be sure to not overcrowd the herbs!
  7. Hang the bag upside down in a warm, airy room.
  8. After two weeks, check your herbs for progress. Keep checking weekly until your herbs are completely dry.

Storing Dried Herbs

  1. Store herbs in air tight containers, such as small jars or zippered plastic bags, in a cool, dry location away from sunlight. Always label and date your containers!
  2. For the best flavor, store herbs whole and crush them only when you are ready to use them.
  3. At any sign of mold, throw the herbs away.
  4. Dried herbs are best used within a year. Keep an eye on the color – the more color they lose, the less flavor they will have.

Note: For herbs with a high moisture content, like basil, mint, tarragon, and chives, it is better to use a food dehydrator or freezing method.