You've been spending all this time cultivating and caring for your home herb garden and it's been good to you - providing you with more herbs than you could ever use.
Now that you have an overabundance of herbs, what do you do with the herbs that you don't use?
This is where drying your herbs comes in. Now, to dry fresh herbs isn't difficult, but you should be aware of the drying methods that are available to you and proper harvesting techniques to ensure that the herbs you are drying are the most flavorful.
The right time to harvest your herbs varies depending on the type of herb and the part that is harvested.
As a general rule, the best time to pick your herbs is before they flower because they redirect their energy toward flower and seed production at the expense of their leaves.
Translation: Your dried herbs will lose much of their flavor if you harvest them after they've started to grow flowers.
Now, this general rule is mostly true if you are harvesting the leaves, which is what is used most often for cooking. But this rule goes out the window if the leaves aren't what you're going after.
Stems are best harvested when the plant starts to flower, and flowers are best harvested before they bloom.
After harvesting your herbs, make sure to carefully rinse the leaves and stems, and thoroughly pat them dry before moving on.
Techniques for Drying Herbs
There are several techniques available for drying herbs. The technique that you decide to use will depend on the amount of herbs that you're drying, the space you have available, and the time you're willing to wait for your herbs to dry.
Also known as Air Drying or Bag Drying, this technique is best for herbs that have long stems. What you want to do is gather your herbs into small bunches and tie the stems together with twine. In order to prevent any confusion down the road after your herbs have dried, it's a good idea to label them before they dry so that they're easier to identify. Most dried herbs tend to look the same.
Put each of your herb bundles in their own small paper bag with the top end of the bundle towards the bottom of the bag. Crumple the opening of the bag around the stems and hang the bundle, top down, in a dry airy place.
This method produces the most flavorful dried herbs because it allows all the nutrients and flavor in the stems of the herbs to go into the leaves. On the other hand, this is the longest method for drying herbs because it could take 1 to 3 weeks before they're done drying.
This technique is great for smaller herbs. Place your herbs on a window screen or on cheesecloth stretched over a frame. Keep your herbs in a dry place and out of the sun. Make sure to stir them around every couple days to ensure they are drying evenly. This techniques typically takes about one week for the herbs to dry.
With this technique, you want to take the leaves off the stem and evenly spread them out in a single layer on a baking sheet. Set your oven on the lowest setting and make sure to turn the herbs every 20-30 minutes until they're brittle. If you can smell the herbs while they're in the oven then the temperature is too high. If you can't turn your oven down any further then you may want to leave the door open slightly. This technique can take anywhere from 3 to 5 hours depending on how thick the leaves are.
I'm not a big fan of this method just because I prefer more natural techniques for drying herbs. But, if you don't have a lot of time to wait for your herbs to dry, then this might be the technique for you.
Again, you want to remove the leaves from the stem and place them on a paper towel.
Put them in the microwave and cook them for about 30 seconds at a time. It's easy to burn your herbs this way so be careful to not overcook them. Use your judgment, of course, but your herbs should be dried after about 2-3 minutes.
Storing Dried Herbs
After your herbs are dried, you need to prepare them for storage. Electric coffee grinders are great for powdered herbs. Of course, you don't want to use a coffee grinder that you use for coffee and herbs. Both won't have the taste that you were hoping for. For crumbled herbs, you could either hand crumble them or use a mortar and pestle.
Put your herbs in labeled jars and store them in a cupboard away from light where they can be kept for up to a year.
There is nothing that I take more pride in then using herbs that I grew myself in my [http://homeherbgardenspot.com/]home herb garden in my cooking. I don't like letting unused herbs to go to waste, so drying them is a great option. Whatever I don't use myself make for great gifts, which are always appreciated from friends and family.
If you enjoy cultivating your own home herb garden, then join me and other gardening enthusiasts at my blog at [http://homeherbgardenspot.com]
Article Source: [http://EzineArticles.com/?4-Great-Ways-to-Dry-Fresh-Herbs&id=5260547] 4 Great Ways to Dry Fresh Herbs