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Watching Herbs Dry

It’s the end of summer and along with making jam, canning and other types of preservation, one of the most economical ways to keep food is by drying. If you’ve never dried any type of food before, herbs are the perfect place to start.

The principles are really basic: keep herbs somewhere that’s dry (or at least drier than the herbs are), with good airflow and out of direct sunlight. Airflow is important so that mold can’t get a foothold, and direct sunlight will break down the tasty flavors you’re trying to keep, so no sun! There are lots of ways to do this and below are a few of my favorite methods.

One of the oldest and cheapest methods is to tie up a small bunch of herbs with a bit of string or thread and hang it in the kitchen near, but not over, the stove. A pushpin or cup hook under an upper cabinet nearby works well. That way there’s plenty of airflow, but be aware of keeping bunches away from any boiling pots of water as the high humidity isn’t going to help them dry any!

Another easy way to dry herbs is placing them on a window screen. If you have any extra one laying around, use that (give it a good scrubbing first). If you don’t have an extra window screen, you can attach window screening (you can buy this at any DIY home store) to the back of a large picture frame with staples. Start by stapling on one of the sides, then the opposite side – pulling tightly so the mesh lays flat. Attach the other two sides the same way until the entire screen is tight like a drum. Remove any stems or dead leaves from whatever herb you choose. Lay the remaining leaves onto the screen and then place the screen on top of a few glasses or even a bowl (out of direct sunlight, of course).

The third method I use is with a second-hand electric food dehydrator. It’s easy to pick off the leaves and place them on the various sieve-like tiers, put on the top, and plug it in. By far the fastest method, everything is usually dried within a 24 hour period.

Try one or more of these methods and see how easy it is to preserve your own fresh herbs for winter. Who knows; you might find yourself making fruit leather next!