Storing herbs in dried form is very popular because it is such a simple way to preserve them. Dried herbs can be used straight from their jars just as they are needed for cooking or as a garnish just as fresh herbs are; however, the just-picked herb aroma is lost in the drying process. Marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, and thyme dry well. Some people may prefer to freeze herbs such as basil, chervil, chives, cilantro (large flat-leafed and parsley-like), dill, and parsley because drying them may be disappointing. See Freezing Fresh Herbs chart linked at the top of this page.
Harvesting and Drying
Herb leaves should be cut when the plant’s stock of essential oils is at its highest.
In the leafy herbs (basil, chervil, marjoram, and savory) this occurs just before blossoming time.
Basil, lemon balm, parsley, rosemary, and sage can be cut as many as 4 times during the outdoor growing season.
Cutting should be done in the morning of a day that promises to be hot and dry. As soon as the dew is off the plants, snip off the top 6 inches of stem below the flower buds.
Bunch drying is an easy way to dry long-stemmed herbs, such as marjoram, sage, savory, mint, parsley, basil, dill, and rosemary.
If the leaves are clean, it is not necessary to wash them; some of the oils may be lost during rinsing. However, if the leaves are dusty, or have been thickly mulched, rinse them briefly under cold water. Shake off any excess water and hang the herb, tied in small bunches, just until the water evaporates away. Discard any dead or yellowed leaves.
As soon as possible, take the herb bunches in and hang them in a warm, dry place which is well ventilated and not exposed to direct sunlight. (Traditionally, herbs were hung above kitchen fireplace mantels or in attics.)
Tie herbs and hang – leafy ends down – so that the essential oils in the stems will flow into the leaves. Do not hang the herbs above the stove you cook on; grease and odors can damage the delicate texture, flavor, and aroma of the herbs.
To prevent dust from collecting on the drying leaves, place each bunch inside a paper bag before hanging. Gather the top of the bag and tie the herb stems so the leaves hang freely inside the bag. For ventilation, cut out the bottom of the bag or punch air holes in the sides.
There are other ways to dry herbs: Food dehydrator, tray drying, or microwave-oven drying.
Tray drying works well for seeds and large-leafed herbs. It is the best choice for herbs with short stems that are difficult to tie together for hanging. Dry the herbs on a shallow-rimmed tray covered with cheesecloth.
To dry leaves:
Remove leaves from their stems or leave them attached.
Spread only one layer of leaves on a tray to ensure good air circulation and quick drying.
Place the tray in a warm, dry, well-ventilated area that is not exposed to direct sunlight.
Every few days, stir or turn the leaves gently to assure even drying. Depending on the temperature and humidity, it takes approximately a week or so for herbs to dry completely.
When the leaves are crisp and thoroughly dry, remove them from the trays and store in an airtight container.
To dry seeds:
Spread seeds on trays in a thin layer.
Dry as for leaves. Once dry, carefully hand rub the seed capsules and gently blow away chaff. Store in an airtight container.
Microwave Oven Drying
Microwave ovens can dry herbs quickly. However, extreme caution should be used when microwave drying because of the risk of not only scorching the herbs but also starting a fire and damaging the microwave.
If herbs need to be rinsed, make sure all the excess water is removed; otherwise, they will cook, not dry in the microwave.
Place no more than 4 or 5 herb branches in the microwave, arranging them between 2 paper towels.
Microwave on HIGH for 2 to 3 minutes; remove herbs from oven.
If herbs are not brittle and dry, microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds.
Place herbs on a rack and let cool.
Store in an airtight container.
(This information was taken from Perdue 4-H Education)