I love fresh herbs, but in my climate, they die in the late fall. The moment the herbs are about to go dormant for the winter, or die off until I plant more next spring, I chop them down and bring those precious branches of flavor and fragrance indoors.
If I had a drying room or even a mudroom, I’d tie them together into bunches with twine and hang them upside down from the ceiling. If I were smart, I’d do this all summer, but I’m not organized enough to remember to cut herbs every few weeks, nor do I have a place to dry them where they won’t be infested with insects.
So, I dry herbs the easy way. I wash them to get rid of bugs, then pull the leaves off the branches and let the leaves dry on regular old dinner plates. I put the plates of drying herbs on counters, sideboards, tables, anywhere that’s clean and dry and safe from my dog’s tail swishing them onto the floor.
I wait a few weeks until they’ve dried out sufficiently for me to store them in the old herb bottles I’ve been collecting for this very purpose. I press the herbs into the bottles, label them with name and date and put them in the cabinet with my other herbs. I don’t grind them because I like the texture of herbs crumbled between my fingers. They keep their scent and flavor longer if they aren’t ground.
Some people freeze fresh herbs in ice cubes, but that’s far too much work for me. My easy method provides me with dried herbs from my garden all winter long. If they lose their scent and flavor by spring, I simply compost them and wait for the next batch to come up in the summer.
Here are the herbs after drying for a few weeks:
I remove stems from lavender and put the whole leaves into a clean, empty spice bottle.
I save empty spice bottles, wash, dry, and store them in a cupboard to use for bottling my home-grown dried herbs.
My sage crop was sparse this summer, so I put the few dried sage leaves I had into a small spice canister.
My lemon verbena crop was abundant this year. To preserve the delicate lemony flavor, I left half the leaves whole and stored them in a clean applesauce jar. The other half I crushed between my fingers to remove the wiry spines of the leaves, and put the pulverized lemon verbena into a clean spice jar with a shaker top.
The dried herbs labeled and ready to go into my spice cabinet. Any leftovers next spring will be composted.