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Drying and Storing Your Herbs

Make sure you properly dry and store your homegrown herbs to ensure they stay fresh as long as possible.

| April 2018

  • Using a dehydrator is one of the fastest methods for drying your herbs.
    Photo by Amy K. Fewell
  • Hanging your herbs to dry will add a beautiful aesthetic to your home.
    Photo by Amy K. Fewell
  • Mason jars are one of the best and easiest containers to use for storing herbs.
    Photo by Amy K. Fewell
  • “The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion” by Amy K. Fewell is a full guide to living a more natural lifestyle through herbalism.
    Photo courtesy of Lyons Press

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion (Lyons Press, 2018) by Amy K. Fewell helps beginners and experts alike make the most of their homegrown herbs. This guide takes readers through the basics of using herbs in their home. Fewell speaks from experience, after growing her own herbs for years. The following excerpt is her advice for drying and storing herbs.

Drying herbs is so much fun. My only dilemma is that I often don’t have enough room for the harvest that comes in all at once in the summer months. Oftentimes, you’ll have more herbs than you need to use at one time. I’m pretty sure my family would fire me if I spent an entire week cooking with only the large basket of oregano that I’d just brought inside. We’d be on oregano overload—so much so that we’d probably start smelling like it. Is that pizza I smell? Why do you smell like a lasagna?! I digress, even though I really love oregano and its cute little leaves.

So the option that best suits the homesteader is to preserve the abundant harvest. We can do this in many ways, but it always begins with dehydrating your herbs. This is important because you’ll most likely need these herbs throughout the winter and seasons when fresh herbs aren’t available.

Before you can create any type of tincture or product with your herbs, it’s always best to dry them. Because herbs are a living thing, they retain much of their moisture right after being harvested. It can take days to weeks for them to completely dry out. If not dried properly, the herb can ruin your product due to the moisture buildup. This can cause your remedy to go rancid or have impurities.

Mostly, though, we want to dry our own herbs to make teas and meals. There are multiple techniques and ways to do this, including hanging them to dry, drying them in the oven, dehydrating them with a dehydrator, and even laying them out in the sun to dry.

When to Harvest

Always harvest your herbs in the morning or late evening. Morning is always preferred. Never harvest herbs midday. Harvesting your herbs in the morning after the dew has dried keeps the natural essential oils in the herb intact. The flavor of the herb is also more potent in the morning.

3/12/2019 10:30:57 PM

Because I keg my beer I have compressed Carbon Dioxide gas available. Will filling my herb jars with this gas extend the freshness of the herbs? Captain Suds

4/19/2018 7:56:08 AM

After my herbs have aged and lost flavor, I toss them in the wood shaving in the chicken coop or compost bin. If I have an over abundance of freshly dried herbs they are shared with friends or frozen to keep potent longer. PC

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