If you grow your own herbs, you can easily dry or freeze some for a year-round supply of good quality herbs.
For retaining highest flavour and quality, air drying or room drying is the easiest, most inexpensive method for preserving herbs. Moisture evaporates slowly and naturally during air drying, leaving the precious herb oils behind. Sturdy herbs are best suited for air-drying. Enclosing herbs in a paper bag, with holes for air circulation, protects them from dust and other pollutants. Chives are best frozen.
To air dry herbs, follow the following simple steps:
- Cut large stems or branches from mature plants. Gently shake each branch to remove insects. Remove old, damaged or diseased leaves.
- Rinse each branch in cold water and dry with towels or paper towels to remove all visible water.
- Turn branches upside down and remove leaves along the upper stem. Lower leaves are not as pungent as the top leaves nearest buds. Tie five or six stems together in a small bunch. For high moisture herbs, use smaller bunches.
- Place the bunch upside down in a large brown paper bag. Gather the bag around the stems and tie. Tear or cut several holes in the bag for ventilation. Make sure there is plenty of room inside the bag so leaves do not touch the sides of the bag. Write the name and date on each bag.
- Hang the bag in a warm, airy room or attic. Leave undisturbed for about two weeks or longer.
- When the leaves are dry, check for any signs of mould growth. Toss the entire bunch if moldy and try again. Strip dried leaves from stems and discard stems. Crush the leaves if desired, but keep in mind that whole herbs retain their flavour longer than crushed, ground or rubbed herbs.
- Store dried herbs in small airtight containers away from the light. Dried herbs keep for years but for best results use within a year.