Do you have the heat on in your house to stay warm this time of year? If you do, then make the most of that dry air and dry some herbs at home!
All it really takes to dry most herbs is to expose the leaves or flowers to warm, dry air. Gently flowing air and good ventilation will help pull moisture away from the herbs as it evaporates. If you have an accessible heat vent, then near the vent and moving air may be an excellent location to hang or place herbs to dry them — as long as the plants are not actually touching the vent, in order to prevent a fire hazard. You also want to protect the herbs from dust or contaminants coming out of the vents; see below.
There are two categories to apply to herbs for drying purposes: less tender herbs and tender-leaf herbs.
Less tender herbs include rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory and parsley. These are easy to dry by simply tying them into small bundles and hanging them.
Tender-leaf herbs such as basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm, and mint contain more moisture, so they need to be dried quickly or else they could mold. Their leaves and seeds may also fall off the stems, so try hanging these herbs in paper bags to so that they are caught before falling to the ground. Tear or punch holes in the side of a bag then secure a small bunch of herbs inside the bag with a rubber band. For the herbs to dry quickly, hang the bag where an air current will pass through it.
Leaves are dry when they are crispy and crumble easily when handled. Dried leaves can be left whole or crumbled. Place the dried herbs in airtight containers and store them in a cool, dry, dark area to protect their color and fragrance.
Remember that dried herbs are about three to four times stronger in flavor than fresh herbs, so if you are substituting dried herbs for fresh herbs in a recipe then use ¼ to 1/3 of the amount listed.
Read Drying Herbs for more information about drying herbs using a dehydrator and an oven.
Illustration of herbs drying in paper bag is from “So Easy to Preserve”, 6th ed. 2014. Bulletin 989, (c) Cooperative Extension Service, The University of Georgia, Athens. Revised by Elizabeth L. Andress. Ph.D. and Judy A. Harrison, Ph.D., Extension Foods Specialists.