Drying Herbs

In the herb garden, some of the perennial herbs are showing flower buds, which tells me it is time to begin harvesting for drying. Actually, the sage and English Thyme have been flowering for some time now. I just let them flower away, since the bees love them so much.  But now the oregano plants are budding up, and I want to dry quite a bit of them for later use. So it time for action!

this oregano is ready for drying (click on any image to enlarge)

There are several different ways to dry herbs. One easy way is to tie the stems together in small bunches and hang in a garage, shed or other dry area. That’s how we dry lavender, and small amounts of other herbs. Our garage is usually home to the lavender drying operation. When it’s out there drying the whole garage smells lovely! The lavender is not quite ready yet, but it’s close.

lavender hanging to dry

For the oregano, I’m opting for a quicker method. I’m going to dry that in the dehydrator. Our dehydrator has a temperature control that lets you dial in the desired heat level. For herbs, the manufacturer recommends 95-115°F. The herbs should be dry in a matter of several hours. I’ve got quite a lot of oregano to dry, so I will have to do it in more than one batch.

oregano on dehydrator tray

I harvested the oregano this morning, after the dew had dried but before the sun heated the plants up, which drives off the volatile essential oils. I cut the stems a few inches from the ground, and cut the blossoms off before drying. I’ve got several different varieties growing, including Greek, Hot & Spicy, Sicilian and Italian. Today I am drying the Hot & Spicy. The cuttings from that one variety will fill the dehydrator. I will mix all the varieties together after they are dried, and then store in a jar (or jars). Oregano is one of the herbs I think actually tastes better after drying. And they will make nice gifts if we have enough, which I’m guessing we will.

bucket of oregano for drying

Before drying, this bucket of oregano weighed only 9 ounces. Of course it will weigh considerably less after drying and stripping off the stems. So it takes a lot to fill those little spice jars you buy at the grocery, and explains one reason why herbs and spices are so expensive. Even after allowing for the cost of electricity to run the dehydrator, it’s still very economical to grow your own herbs and spices whenever possible. And of course they taste great as well.

dried oregano is running low

UPDATE: After drying, and stripping the leaves from the stems, the finished oregano weighed in at 1.5 ounces.


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14 Responses to Drying Herbs

  1. Daphne says:

    I totally forgot to mention in my post that I dried chamomile. So much going on. Today I harvested some peppermint. Hopefully I won’t mess this batch up. I need a new dehydrator. The old one is dying.

  2. Robin says:

    I’m also really low on dried oregano. I guess that I better get some drying before we run out! I don’t have a dehydrator, so I hang mine to dry.

  3. Mimzy says:

    Dave, I wanted to brag a bit and let you know that I have already canned 17 qts of green beans. How crazy it that!? With it still being May. Never, never have I had beans ready to can this early in the season.

  4. Lou Murray's Green World says:

    very nice post! I agree with you about dried oregano tasting better than fresh, and yet I never get around to drying any. I have a nice herb drying ring with hooks that hangs by my kitchen, but right now all that is on it is garlic. Time for me to use it to dry oregano and marjoram. Thanks for the nudge.

  5. kelli says:

    great post! you reminded me that i left my oregano in the dehydrator! i usually dry them in brown bags, but i had something else in the d with some space to fill.

    i love drying my own herbs but find it a drag to get all the stems out. of course that would never stop me – home-dried herbs are a thousand times better than store-bought!

  6. kitsapFG says:

    I am quite erratic in my preservation of herbs. Some years I end up with way too much and other years I skip them altogether – just using the herbs fresh when available. I need to actually refresh my herb plants as I lost a few of the older perennials and/or they are looking tired.

  7. First, I LOVE your blog! Second, I LOVE your greenhouse! Third, I just got a greenhouse of my own and I am so excited about all of the possibilities!!! Thank you for the information about drying herbs. I plan to grow herbs in the greenhouse and I had no idea how to go about drying them. Thank you, thank you!

    • Dave says:

      Thanks Audra! Getting the greenhouse has been one of the best things I ever did. There is so much you can grow in there. At this point in summer, I have cucumbers, dill and cilantro in the beds. And I have peppers growing in containers. The peppers and cukes can take the summer heat.

      • My greenhouse isn’t as big as yours…it’s only 6’x8′. I don’t have anything in there yet. I was planning on having a pathway in the middle and growing beds down both sides with two rows of shelves above each grow bed. I think that’s the best way to maximize my space. What do you think? What is too hot for plants? My greenhouse has a vent, but it isn’t an automatic one, so I need to keep an eye on the heat and open it myself. I would like to have some herbs in there and maybe my habanero plants. Your thoughts?

      • Dave says:

        That’s they way I organized mine – a walkway in the middle and bed on wither side, with shelves above. I have a vent and a fan, but it still gets close to 100F in the summer. I just had to experiment and see what would grow in the summer. The rest of the year, it’s easy to grow herbs, greens, and so on.

      • Awesome!!! Thanks for the info! My greenhouse read 120 degrees the weekend we put it up. It’s been reading around 100 since the weather’s been cooler this week. I so envy your farm…hope to have my own one day.

  8. Dawn Miller says:

    What about drying basil – have you tried that with success?
    I’ve read elsewhere that better flavor is had with freezing them in ice cube trays and water.

    • Dave says:

      I do basil both ways – dried and frozen. I think basil dries nicely. It just has a fresher flavor when frozen.

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