Tips for Drying and Freezing Herbs

Tom Wajda
Adams County Master Gardener

The best time to dry herbs is just before they bloom when they are at the peak of their flavor. It is important to do your cutting in late morning after the dew is off, but before the hot sun draws out the delicate flavors and aromas.

The simplest drying method is to hang your herbs in a dry, well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. Barns, garages, attics, and sheds are good places; basements are usually too damp for drying. Create a drying zone by stringing up some wire or by putting nails in ceiling joists or rafters. If ventilation is a problem, use a small fan to move the air. Avoid direct sunlight as it causes plants to change color and dry too quickly. If necessary, cover windows with curtains.

Gather your herbs in small bunches (the size will vary depending on the leafiness of the product) and wrap the stems with a small rubber band. A half-opened paper clip is the ideal hook for hanging the bunch.

Drying time will depend on humidity, temperature, and the item you are drying. Most herbs will be ready in 10-14 days; they are done if a leaf rubbed between your fingers crumbles easily. Store dried herbs in sealed jars or plastic bags in cool, dark place. If moisture appears in the jar or bag, it is a sign that the herb is not completely dry. Avoid crushing the leaves until you are ready to use them; crushed herbs lose their flavor more quickly.

Drying herbs in a microwave is quick, simple, and gives excellent results. Place two layers of paper towel in the bottom of the microwave, add a layer of herbs, and cover with two more layers of paper towel. Run the microwave on high for two minutes, then check your herbs for dryness. If they are not done, move the herbs around, run the microwave for 30-60 seconds and check again. Repeat the process until the herbs are dry. WARNING: This process requires careful attention. The paper towels in the microwave can catch fire if hot spots occur. This is a good method for preserving parsley.

Dehydrators are good for drying herbs. Drying time will vary depending on humidity so donít expect quick results in wet weather or if you have your dehydrator in a damp basement. Follow instructions for your dehydrator regarding temperature settings.

Some herbs freeze well, including tarragon, chives, dill, fennel, and lovage. Simply strip off stems and freeze leaves in zip-lock freezer bags. Basil can be pureed in a food processor or blender with a small amount of olive oil, then frozen in ice cube trays; freeze the basil cubes in zip-lock freezer bags.

Read other articles on growing herbs or vegetables

Read other gardening Articles by Tom Wajda