NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


| Share

Home-grown, Home-dried Herbs

Home- grown, Home-dried Herbs


          0f all the methods of preserving food, drying is the least complicated.   Dried food is preserved by simply removing the water in the food.  Dried food weighs less and takes up less storage space than fresh foods. Drying is also relatively inexpensive and requires little equipment.  A great place to start with drying foods is with herbs.  They’re flavorful when dried, dry quickly and take a bare minimum of storage space.

          No pretreatment is necessary for herbs to be dried. Simply wash leaves, if needed, and scrub roots with a vegetable brush to remove dirt. Pat dry with paper towels.  Herb leaves that dry well include basil, chervil, lemon verbena, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, and thyme.

          Cut the leaves for drying just before blossoming time when the plant’s stock of essential oils is at its highest. Cut them on a hot, dry day as soon as the dew is off the plants. The tip growth is best for drying so cut the stems about 6 inches below the flower buds. Leaves do not need washing unless they are dusty or have been thickly mulched.

          Tie the leaves in small bunches and hang them in the sun just until the water evaporates. Then move them out of the sun to a warm, dry, well-ventilated place away from any bright light. Hang the bunches with the leaves down so oils will flow from the stems into the leaves. To prevent dust accumulation, place a brown paper bag around the leaves. Cut holes in the bag for circulation.

          Leaves are best when dried in 3 or 4 days. If they are not entirely dry in 2 weeks, place them in a 100 degrees F oven until thoroughly dry. When dry, remove the leaves from the stems.

          Dehydrator drying is a fast and easy way to dry high quality herbs because temperature and air circulation can be controlled. Pre-heat dehydrator with the thermostat set to 95°F to 115°F.   In areas with higher humidity, temperatures as high as 125°F may be needed.  After rinsing under cool, running water and shaking to remove excess moisture, place the herbs in a single layer on dehydrator trays. Drying times may vary from 1 to 4 hours. Check periodically. Herbs are dry when they crumble, and stems break when bent.

          Herb seeds including anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, dill, and fennel need a slightly different process.  Harvest the herbs when the seed pods or heads have changed color but before they begin to shatter. Spread the pods in single layers on screen or net trays. When thoroughly dry, rub the pods between the palms of your hands to remove seeds.

          Before storing, all herbs dried in the sun or open air should be heated in an oven to destroy insects and insect eggs. Heat for 10 minutes at 160 degrees F. Cool herbs and package immediately.

           Test herb leaves, seeds, and roots for dryness before storage. Place them in tightly sealed jars in a warm place for about 1 week. Check the jars regularly for moisture. If moisture appears on the inside of the glass or under the lid, remove contents for further drying. Otherwise, there is a chance of mold growth.

          Store dried foods in dark glass jars or in tins in a cool, dry, dark place. Heat affects quality. If dried food is kept cool, it keeps longer.  Do not store in cardboard or paper containers because they absorb oils and leave dried herbs tasteless.  Leaves retain oils better if stored whole and crushed right before use. Seeds should also be stored whole and ground shortly before use.

          To substitute dried herbs for fresh ones, use 1/3 to 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs for 1 tablespoon of fresh as dried herbs are usually 3 to 4 times stronger than the fresh herbs.


Greens with Basil Dressing


          The following herb-flavored dressing can be served with any green or vegetable salad. It will keep, well covered, in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 days.


Serves 6

8 cups salad greens

½ C. yogurt

½ C. mayonnaise

¼ C. buttermilk

⅓ C. chopped fresh basil leaves

½ tsp. dried basil leaves

½ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. white pepper

          Place salad greens in a serving bowl. In a food processor or blender container, combine remaining ingredients. Process or blend until the basil leaves are very finely chopped.  Drizzle dressing over the salad, toss, and serve.




Creative Commons License
Feel free to use and share this content, but please do so under the conditions of our Creative Commons license and our Rules for Use. Thanks.