Don’t you LOVE those charming photos of drying herbs and bouquets by hanging them in a country kitchen? However, this method is not the best for drying herbs of all kinds. Brittle herbs such as thyme, basil, oregano, etc, would end up sprinkled all over the floor.
Today I want to compare 4 common techniques of drying herbs, which are air drying, in a food dehydrator, oven drying, and microwave drying. At the end I will share my favorite hack: a fun and effective way to dry herbs easily, and fashionably too!
By the way , this method is also a great way to save garden seeds, and attract fairies!
You do believe in fairies, right? =)
Comparison of 4 common techniques for drying herbs.
You can dry herbs indoors or outdoors. No matter which method you use, the two most important keys for success are: low humidity and no direct sun exposure.
There are four common techniques for drying herbs. They are oven drying, microwave drying, using a food dehydrator, and air drying (my favorite).
The main goal of drying herbs
is to preserve them effectively, while losing as little flavor and nutrients as possible. Let’s compare the 4 methods and see the pros and cons of each. ( Some of the helpful resources are affiliate links. Full disclosure here
Technique 1: Drying herbs in the oven.
To dry herbs in the oven, place the herbs on a baking sheet in the oven at maximum 180 °F (82 C.) and dry them for about 2 to 3 hours with the oven door slightly open.
Pros: easy, can be done indoors any time of year in any weather, even in humid climate.
Cons: herbs can become cooked if oven temperature is higher than 180 °F. It is also uses more energy than some other methods.
Technique 2: Drying herbs in the microwave.
To be honest, this is my least favorite method. Pros: It is super easy, just microwave the herbs on high for 2 to 3 minutes.
Cons: The main reason I personally don’t use this method is that it is hard to say whether the herbs are “cooked” or “dried”. You know how when you microwave food, sometimes the food towards the outer edges get super cooked while the center part is still barely warm? I prefer natural low heat drying , which retains the most flavors and nutrients in herbs.
Technique 3: Drying herbs in the dehydrator.
Keep the food dehydrator temperature between 95 °F and 105 °F. Place the herbs in a single layer on the dehydrator trays. It can take from one to four hours to dry the herbs depending on the variety.
Pros: This method is what professionals use to dry large quantities of herbs. It is a very reliable way to produce high-quality dried herbs.
Cons: Need to buy a food dehydrator. It also uses more energy than air drying.
If you are into food preservation, and have room for a bigger food dehydrator, here‘s one of the best designed DIY solar food dehydrator building tutorials. Exposing fruits and vegetables to direct light can cause vitamin loss. This design uses solar-heated air without any electric fans to dry food. All the food ( and herbs) are kept out of direct sun.
Technique 4: Air drying herbs ( my favorite!)
There are many variations of air drying methods. Always dry herbs out of direct sun to maximize the flavors and nutritional benefits. If it’s humid outdoors, you can dry herbs indoors in a room or even in a closet.
Herbs such as bay, rosemary, or lavender do not fall off easily when dried, you can simply hang the herb bundle upside down in a dark and not so humid place to dry.
But many herbs and flowers, such as thyme, or leafy herbs like mint, basil, lemon verbena, etc, become very brittle when dried, and could easily end up all over the floor if they are simply tied in a bundle to dry.
There are many wonderful herb drying rack you can get for under $20 on Amazon. You can also make a DIY version using embroidery hoops or hula hoops, and mesh fabric. ( Source: Herb drying racks 1 | 2 | 3 | DIY tutorial )
Now, are you ready for our simple and easy herb drying hacks for $1?
Use a paper bag, or our magical secret: ballerina tutu fabric, aka, nylon tulle. Both will work in very similar ways. The tulle fabric allows more air circulation, and lets you see the progress easily!
This fabric is not only oh-so-pretty, it also holds its shape almost like a little container so the herbs won’t get compacted.
Its fine mesh keeps the dust out while allowing plenty of air circulation.
To dry herbs, first get the fabric (about $1 per yard at the fabric store) and cut them into 18″ squares. Feel free to vary the size according to the type of herbs you are drying.
Next either tie a bundle of herbs and then tie the fabric around the bundle, or for smaller herbs like thyme, you can put sprigs of them directly inside the fabric, then gather the fabric and tie a string to it.
Hang these little bundles from a branch, make sure they are out of direct sun light, and in a well ventilated space.
In 2-5 days, the herbs will be all perfectly dried and ready for use in the home!
Not only is this pretty fabric a great help for drying herbs, it’s also really useful for saving garden seeds.
Seeds from these beautiful seed heads of cilantro, onion, fennel, and carrots can fall off before we catch them. We can save some for the next season, while leaving plenty for our feathered friends.
To do so, just tie a piece of tulle around the seed head once the flowers finish blooming and seeds begin to form. As thee seed ripens, it will fall into the fabric bundle. How easy is that?
And all our garden fairies will be happy too because they too, love this dreamy fabric! =)
Store your dried herbs in a cool dark place in airtight containers.
More ways to celebrate the garden abundance-
Make a gorgeous herb or flower wreath super fast- a dollar store hack!
Happy growing! xo