How to Air-Dry Herbs: The Hang Drying Process
I love growing herbs in my garden! Each year, even when the rest of my garden is a bust, my herbs flourish! Rosemary, basil, and mint were my favorites this year. Some of my herbs are used fresh for recipes like my clover mint tea and ginger mint lemonade, but most of my herbs get dried and used to season from-scratch dishes. My favorite way to dehydrate them is to hang dry the herbs. Let’s walk through the steps of how you can air-dry herbs from your own garden!
How to Air-Dry Fresh Herbs
Air-drying herbs is a great way to dehydrate fresh herbs from the garden. The air-drying method is easy and it doesn’t require that you purchase any special equipment. You will need only a pair of scissors, rubber bands, and twine. Nothing more.
This herb dehydration method also preserves more of the oils and flavor than other methods because it is a slow dry.
The whole process may take a couple of weeks depending on the space that you have your herbs hanging in. A space with low humidity will dry herbs more quickly than a space with more moisture in the air.
What Herbs Air-Dry Well?
Herbs with a lower moisture content, like oregano and rosemary, tend to air-dry better than those with higher moisture content, like basil.
High moisture herbs can be air-dried, but they sometimes do better when dried in an oven or a dehydrator. However, I have air-dried every type of herb that I have grown with no issue.
Make this basil pesto with leftover fresh basil!
The Herb Drying Process
STEP 1: Harvest Fresh Herbs
It is best to harvest herbs in the early morning just after the dew dried because their essential oils are the most concentrated during this time. Also, unless you want to harvest the seed head along with your herbs, you will want to harvest before the plant flowers for the best flavor.
Use scissors to harvest your herbs cutting just above a leaf node to encourage continued growth. Be sure to leave a long stem to make it easier to hang them to dry.
If you have a lot of herbs to harvest, take a basket or a gathering apron like this one!
STEP 2: Shake & Rinse Harvested Herbs
You don’t want to air-dry herbs that you wouldn’t want to eat fresh so remove any damaged leaves. Go ahead and pinch off the lower leaves as well so they don’t get crushed when you bundle them.
Then turn your harvested healthy herbs upside down and give them a gentle shake to knock out any insects that may be hiding.
Rinse the herbs under cool running water. If your herbs were grown organically and you don’t have any animals with access to your garden, then you might be able to skip the rinse which will retain more of the essential oils.
STEP 3: Remove Water From Leaves
Shake off the excess moisture leftover from rinsing. Place the rinsed herbs in a single layer on paper towels or kitchen towels. Allow the herbs to dry for a few hours like this. You could also pop them in a salad spinner to speed up the drying process.
STEP 4: Bundle Herb Stems
Separate the dry herbs into small bundles. You don’t want too many stems in a bundle or they won’t all dry equally. Secure the base of the stems with a rubber band.
STEP 5: Hang Herb Bundles
If flowers and seed heads are included in your harvest, place a paper bag with holes over the bundle, turn it upside down, and secure it with a rubber band. This way the seeds will be caught by the bag as the herb air-dries.
Use twine to hang the herb bundles in a warm dry place with good air circulation. Try to keep them out of direct sunlight or the herbs could end up cooking instead of dehydrating.
How to Store Dried Herbs
Once the herbs have finished drying, you can prepare them for storage. Remove any leaves that may have grown mold during the dehydrating process.
Then remove the leaves from the stems by hand or with an herb stripper. Crush them with a mortar and pestle or leave them whole without crushing or stripping.. Since I use them as seasonings, I always go ahead and crush my dried herbs.
Store the air-dried herbs in an airtight container like a mason jar with a lid, a spice jar, or a resealable plastic bag. Be sure to label the container with the type of herb and the date.
Tossing in an oxygen absorber can help to keep the moisture content down in the jars or bags as well.
Keep your dried herb containers in a cool dark space and they can last 2-3 years if you don’t use them all up first!
More Ways to Preserve Herbs
There are several other methods of drying herbs… none as efficient as air-drying, in my opinion, but they are serve their own purposed.
Using a Sun Oven to Dry Herbs
The All-American Sun Oven can be used to dehydrate herbs. You will need to keep a close eye on the herbs when using this method because they can burn. I have used my Sun Oven to dehydrate white clover blossoms for tea.
Drying Herbs in a Dehydrator
Dehydrator drying is the typical go-to for drying anything. Although a food dehydrator isn’t necessary for herbs, it can speed up the process.
Oven Drying Herbs
Oven drying herbs on the lowest heat setting is a fairly simple and quick process. You can see how I dehydrated basil in the oven here. The only real issue with this method is that the oils will be removed at a higher level than air-dried herbs.
Air-Drying Herbs Flat
You can also air-dry your herbs without hanging them. Simply place them in a single layer on a cooling rack so that they have good airflow all the way around and let them sit for a few days. A cookie sheet can be used as well, but you will need to turn the herbs each day.
Drying Herbs in a Microwave Oven
I don’t recommend microwave drying herbs because the herbs will cook to a degree and they will lose their oils and nutrients more quickly.
Herbs can also be frozen in water, oil, or butter.