Why dry and store herbs?
You may have collected more herbs than you’ve been able to use, or you might have plants in your own garden which you wish to harvest before Autumn. Whatever your reason, it is better to be able to store these herbs rather than letting them go to waste.
Cut healthy branches from your plants, in mid morning so that any early dew will have evaporated. Remove any dead or diseased leaves, and shake to dislodge any insects. Rinse quickly if necessary, and pat dry carefully.
Remove the leaves from the last few inches of the branch, and gather 4 to 6 branches together into a bundle. Tie together with string or an elastic band at the base. If the herbs are particularly moist, tie in smaller bundles. As they dry they will shrink slightly, so check regularly to ensure the string or elastic is not slipping.
Find a warm, dark, airy place, such as an airing cupboard or attic. The temperature should be between 21 and 38°C, and there must be adequate air circulation. Tack up a length of string and hang the bundles over it, or hang each bundle individually, ensuring there’s plenty of roon for air to flow around and between them.
Leave to dry for anything from several days to a couple of weeks. Check on their progress regularly, and take down when they’re just about dry – but not so much so that they’re starting to crumble.
When your herbs are dry, take them down and pick the leaves off the stems. Store in an air-tight container, in a cool, dark, dry place. Glass containers are best, as plastic can have residues that will taint the herbs, and they tend to encourage condensation more. Ideally use a dark glass jar, with the kind of lid that has a metal clamp as a sealing mechanism. You can also use wooden containers, provided they are also air-tight.
Don’t forget to label your container with the name of the herb, and the date it was picked. You may wish to include other information, such as the phase of the moon, or the particular plant it came from if you have more than one.
Dried herbs can last for up to a year – check on them often. As the herbs lose their colour, they are also losing their flavour and potency.