Made the most of this blustery first day of Fall doing some of my favorite things. I visited the local farmer’s market, hit some garage sales (got 2 boxes of canning jars for $3!), stopped off and bought some straw bales from the local farmer, and then went out to clean up my gardens and pick the last of what is left out there. Since we are expecting a killing FROST in our little part of the world tonight I thought it best to bring in whatever I could and that included harvesting what was left of my herbs and lavender. So while the Hubs took apart and cleaned the heater (can’t believe we already have to turn it on) I went out to the gardens.
Because we experienced a very hot and dry summer, my herbs really didn’t do much early on but once it cooled off and we got some rain, they really took off so I have a LOT of herbs this year. This makes me very happy as it means many a cup of hot herbal tea this winter.
I brought in the bulk of my herbs earlier this week but there was still a bit out there and I decided I’d go out and rescue them before ole Jack gets to them. While freezing is a great way to preserve your herbs, I prefer to dry them. Freezing is great for adding to dishes while they are cooking but I like to used dried herbs for teas, rubs and more.
Since sunlight will deplete the flavor and color of herbs, they need to dried in a dark, dry place like a closet or a shed. Since I don’t have much closet space I dry mine in paper bags! Here’s how:
After picking your herbs, shake them well to get rid of any “hitch-hikers”. Only wash the herbs in water if they are really dirty, otherwise wiping them down with a damp paper towel will do. If you do wash them you need to lay them out on paper towel until they dry out a bit. Don’t forget to pick off any yellowed leaves and the like.
Now it’s time to bundle your herbs. To do this select stems of herbs that are all similar in length and tie them together tightly with some twine. Be sure they are snug as the stems will shrink as they dry, but be careful not to cut through the stems. Be sure to not make the bundles too thick or the herbs may mildew. Here I’m bundling up some of my lavender stems.
Next put the bundle into the bag and tie the top of the bag around the tied end of the stems. Tie this securely so the herbs do not drop to the bottom of the bag while they hang. Label the bag with the name of the herb so you will know what’s in side. Different herbs will dry at different rates and you wouldn’t want to open your bag too early. As a general rule of thumb most herbs will dry in about a week. Thicker herbs with higher moisture levels will take a bit longer. 1.5 to 2 weeks or so.
I simply write the names of the herbs on my bag with a marker but they could be stamped on the bag too if you are so inclined.
Now it’s time to hang your herbs up. I string all of my bags together with the tails of the strings and hang them like a garland over the pass through in my kitchen. It makes me happy to see them hanging there. The bags make me think of Charlie Brown and his ghost costume full of holes. 🙂
When they are all dry I will remove them from their stems and store them in jars. I can’t wait to use them in my family’s favorite dishes this winter or to make mint or lavender (or mint AND lavender) tea. I also have a special use for the sage and lavender this year thanks to a friend who introduced me to smudge sticks! (Thanks Martha!) So I will be using them to make my house smell fresh this winter! Look for a tutorial here when the time comes! 🙂