Preserving Organic Herbs
You don’t need great kitchen skills to dry organic herbs. It’s easier than you might think!
Why dry organic herbs?
Home-grown organic herbs ensure purity and quality. People who love to cook enjoy using healthful spices as a low-cal enhancement to food.
Why not just buy them?
Organic does not equal pesticide-free. Pesticides may be used in organic products if they are derived from natural sources as opposed to being synthetically manufactured. When you grow herbs (or fruits or vegetables) at home, you know what you’re ingesting.
A big downside of buying organic herbs off of store shelves is the steep price. You are generally paying more for the organic label.
Increasing numbers or people are recognizing the simplicity of growing and drying organic herbs instead of buying them. An indoor organic herb container garden is simple to upkeep. It can yield a decent production of aromatic spices.
Here are some of the best organic herbs to grow/dry for spices:
- Cilantro (Coriander)
Drying herbs can be easily done without a dehydrator. Herbs can be traditionally hung to dry. Do these steps first:
Inspect your plant to ensure it is healthy (free of mold, insects, and disease.) Cut the herbs in bunches, leaving the stems intact in most cases. Proceed to harvesting them. It takes 7 to 10 days for herbs to dry before they are ready to be processed.
10 Steps to hanging organic herbs to dry:
- Shake dirt and indoor dust off of the herbs.
- Rinse them gently under cool water.
- Carefully pat dry.
- Gather a small bundle and tie the ends together tightly with yarn or string. As they hang, herb bundles will dry and shrink. Thus, herbs must be tightly tied when hanging to prevent the stalks from slipping out. Or, use twisty ties and tighten the bundles as needed.
- Hang the bundle upside down in a dry and dark space such as a basement, out of sunlight and away from moisture. Make sure air can circulate around the bundle.
- Allow 7 to 10 days for the plants to hang and dry out.
- Check progress. Inspect the bundles to make sure they are dry and that mold is not present.
- After the 7 to 10 days, when herbs are ready, chop the herbs or strip the leaves from the stalks if applicable; reserve stalks for soup stock or discard. Remove the leaves or needles from the stems by running your fingers in the opposite direction of growth to release the leaves. Then, crumble the spices with your fingers. Or, keep the leaves whole and crumble upon use to release maximum flavors.
- Preserve and store the herbs in labeled mason jars until ready to use.
Note: If your home is too moist, to deter mold growth, use your oven to dehydrate herbs. Place the leaves or stems on a cookie sheet and warm them for about one to two hours with the door open, at 180° Fahrenheit. Keep your eyes on them and take them out once dry. Or, use an electric dehydrator. Microwave is not recommended for dehydrating herbs as it diminishes oil content and reduces flavor.
Bonus information about growing herbs:
- With herbs, it’s often easiest to grow your own from seedlings (starter plants).
- Choose healthy specimens with bright color and plenty of foliage.
- Read up on how to plant them correctly to avoid overcrowding.
- Never expose herbs to anything toxic since you will be eating them fresh.
- Be sure to fertilize plants as recommended using safe products for herbs.
- You’ll discover that some herbs, such as basil and dill, grow quickly.
- Methods of harvesting may vary. Hardy herbs, like chives, are best cut down to the base.
- Water requirements, and plant and soil needs, will vary from plants to plants.
- Most herbs taste best before the plant flowers. Cut back herbs before they start flowering to encourage your plant to grow more leaves.
- Growing organic herbs is an enjoyable hobby.
- Growing them indoors adds greenery to your interior décor.
- It is an affordable and economical way to have healthy fresh spices on hand.
- Organic herbs make great gifts to share with friends.