- How To Dry Herbs – Various Methods
- Hanging Herbs to Dry
- Oven Drying Herbs
- Dry Herbs Using an Electric Dehydrator
- How to Dry Herbs Using Other Methods
- Best Herbs for Drying
- Drying Herbs in the Oven: An Easy Process
- How to Dry Herbs
- Storing Home-Dried Herbs
- Choosing Herbs for Drying
- Sun, shade or oven drying for Artemisia
- How to Dry Lavender at Home
- Storing Dried Lavender Properly
- Drying Lavender for its many uses at home
How To Dry Herbs – Various Methods
There are various ways how to dry herbs; however, the herbs should always be fresh and clean beforehand. Read on to learn about herb drying methods so you can choose the right one for you.
Hanging Herbs to Dry
Hanging herbs to dry at room temperature is the easiest and least expensive way for how to dry herbs. Remove the lower leaves and bundle four to six branches together, securing with string or a rubber band. Place them upside down in a brown paper bag, with stems protruding and tie closed. Punch small holes along the top for air circulation. Hang the bag in a warm, dark, area for about two to four weeks, checking periodically until the herbs are dry.
This process works best with low moisture herbs like:
- Summer savory
Herbs with high moisture content will mold if not dried quickly. Therefore, if you are going to air dry these types of herbs, make certain the bundles are small and in a well-ventilated area. These herbs include:
- Lemon balm
Oven Drying Herbs
A kitchen oven is often used for drying herbs. Microwave ovens can
also be used for quicker drying of herbs. When oven drying herbs, place the leaves or stems on a cookie sheet and warm them about one to two hours with the oven door open at about 180 °F (82 C.). Microwave herbs on a paper towel on high for about one to three minutes, turning them over every 30 seconds.
When drying herbs, microwave ovens should be used as a last resort. While microwave oven drying herbs is faster, this can diminish both oil content and flavor, especially if dried too quickly.
Dry Herbs Using an Electric Dehydrator
Another fast, easy, and effective way how to dry herbs is to dry herbs using an electric dehydrator. Temperature and air circulation can be controlled more easily. Preheat the dehydrator between 95 F. (35 C.) to 115 F. (46 C.) or slightly higher for more humid areas. Place herbs in a single layer on dehydrator trays and dry anywhere from one to four hours, checking periodically. Herbs are dry when they crumble, and stems break when bent.
How to Dry Herbs Using Other Methods
Tray drying herbs is another method. This can be done by stacking trays on top of one another and placing in a warm, dark place until the herbs are dry. Likewise, you can remove leaves from the stems and lay them on a paper towel. Cover with another paper towel and continue layering as needed. Dry in a cool oven overnight, using only the oven light.
Drying herbs in silica sand should not be used for edible herbs. This method of drying herbs is best suited for craft purposes. Place a layer of silica sand in the bottom of an old shoebox, arrange herbs on top, and cover them with more silica sand. Place the shoebox in a warm room for about two to four weeks until the herbs are thoroughly dry.
Once herbs are dry, store them in airtight containers that are labeled and dated, as they are best used within a year. Place them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight.
Whether you decided to try oven drying herbs, hanging herbs to dry, drying herbs in a microwave or dry herbs using an electric dehydrator, taking the time to do this will help save the flavor of summer for the winter months.
I have always loved growing my own vegetables in my garden. I enjoy the whole process from start to finish. Preparing the soil early in the season, planting the seeds or seedlings, watching them grow slowly, weeding, and harvesting! For me, there is no comparison between homegrown and store bought vegetables. Homegrown tastes so much better, even though they often don’t look as perfect!
Over the years though, I have slowly turned my attention to herbs. I find that I get a much bigger return on my investment if I grow fresh herbs instead of vegetables. You can grow a lot of fresh herbs in a small space, and thus grow enough herbs to last you for the entire summer without having to buy any at the store. And whatever I don’t use fresh during the summer, I dry and store for the colder season! It also provides the enormous advantage that you know exactly what goes into your herb and spices mix!
Drying your own herbs is an easy process. There are several techniques (including hanging bunches of fresh herbs upside-down in a cool, dry place), but I prefer to use the oven. It is much faster and I can process a larger quantity in less time than air drying. In the pictures, I am showing you how to oven dry fresh thyme, but the process can be used for any fresh herb such as sage, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, mint, etc.
When to harvest fresh herbs to dry? You can harvest at any stage of the plant’s growing season. As you can see in the pictures, my thyme has little pink-purple flowers! That’s because I was a little bit late harvesting this year. But that’s ok. In fact, thyme flowers are edible and, when dried, add a sweet little touch of color to the mix!
The drying processing.
After you have cut the plants, remove any dead leaves or little spiders who like to nest in fragrant herbs! I usually don’t wash the herbs I grow, unless they are muddy (which is rarely the case in Colorado!) or if they have too many little insects (I often get teeny tiny flies in my thyme). As a rule, I prefer not to wash though as it does remove some of the water-soluble vitamins and volatile oils from the plant.
In any case, make sure the herbs are completely dry before putting them in the oven. If the plants are still humid, it will lengthen considerably the drying time. You can dry them between sheets of paper towel, or use a salad spinner. When that is taken care of, spread the herbs on a baking sheet or the bottom part of a broiler pan in a single, thin layer. Less is better when it comes to drying herbs because you want the dry air to circulate easily in between the plants.
Set the oven to 175° F and place the pan in the middle of the oven. Important: leave the door of the oven slightly ajar to allow the heat to circulate. If you keep the door closed, it will cook the herbs instead of drying them! For a batch of thyme, I leave them in the oven for 2 hours. The drying time may vary slightly for other herbs.
How do you know if the herbs are completely dry and ready? You have to test the herbs for dryness. When fully dry, they will be brittle and make a snapping sound when they are crushed. Once again, it takes me 2 hours to completely air dry a batch of thyme in my oven, but that may differ slightly for you.
Once the herbs are dry, I crush them with my hands so that all the little leaves collect into the pan. Discard the hard stems. At this point, you have to decide if you prefer to just keep the leaves roughly crushed or if you want to ground them. Be aware though that grounded herbs have a shorter shelf life than crushed herbs. I personally prefer to lightly crush the leaves; I like the texture and appearance better. If you decide to ground them, you can do so with a mortar and a pestle, or in your food processor.
How to store dry herbs?
Store dry herbs in a clean, airtight glass jar or container, away from direct sunlight. Paper containers that can be tapped close are good as well. Plastic and metal containers (except stainless steel) are unsuitable. If you wish to store the herbs in a decorative tin, line them first with a paper bag!
Properly stored herbs will keep up to one year. If you notice that the herbs have lost their scent, it is time to prepare a new batch!
To learn more about herbs and spices, check out this book. For a complete list of AIP herbs and spices, click here.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links or Amazon affiliate links”. This means that if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small affiliate commission. As an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Pinterest Facebook WhatsApp Email
An easy guide for drying herbs in the oven. Dried herbs are perfect for making tea, seasoning your favorite dish, or gift giving.
Gardening goals can be challenging. We need all the stars to align and give us sunshine followed by rain. I’ve had many gardening goals that were never achieved…but that’s life. The main goal for my herb garden this year was to grow the plants big enough to harvest the leaves for making tea. I have been drying lemon balm and mint about once a week, but it’s going to take most of the summer to fill even a few jars. I’m learning a lot though and every time I dry a batch of herbs, I feel very accomplished!
Here is a basic list of herbs that can be dried. For tea, I’m drying lemon balm (shown in this post) and mint. For cooking, I’m going to dry basil and rosemary. I also freeze basil to use in spaghetti sauce and soups. The herb drying process explained below can be used for all the herbs listed.
Related: All About Basil (How to grow, propagate, chop, and freeze.)
Best Herbs for Drying
- Lemon Balm
- Lemon Grass
Drying Herbs in the Oven: An Easy Process
- Harvest your herbs. If the plants are homegrown and free of pesticides, it’s not necessary to wash them. Washing can strip the oils from the leaves. If you are drying grocery store herbs, it is best to gently rinse them and dry completely.
- Don’t harvest more than 1/3 to 1/2 of your plant at a time.
- Pinch off the leaves from the stems and lay them out on a cookie sheet. Try to keep them in one layer.
- Turn your oven on to the lowest setting. My oven won’t go lower than 170 degrees F so that’s what I use.
- Dry the herbs in your oven for about an hour, making sure to leave the door ajar. Closing the door will actually bake the herbs, which is not what you want.
- The herbs will look shriveled and they will darken in color.
- Cool completely.
- Store in glass jars.
I’m storing my dried herbs in quart mason jars and they are taking a long time to fill. I hope to get a couple of jars of both mint and lemon balm by the end of the summer. Since I’m drying for tea, I am gently crushing the dried herbs before I put them in the jars. I’ll be back soon with some printable tags in case you want to dry some herbs for yourself!
PIN THIS TO YOUR GARDEN BOARD!
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- Goldtouch cookie sheet
- Garden shears
- blue striped towel (similar)
- blue & white twine
Get a printable copy of this tutorial by joining the OSP email subscriber list. After joining, you will gain instant access to the Members Only Library that contains this 2-page PDF plus DIY wall art, eBooks, recipe collections, gift tags, and more! If you are already a subscriber, this PDF is waiting for you in the library.
How to Dry Herbs
Indoor Air Drying Herbs. Tie stems in bundles and hang the herbs upside down. Use twist-ties so you can easily tighten the bundles when stems shrink as they dry. A warm, dry spot is best; avoid the kitchen. Wrap muslin, a mesh produce bag or a paper bag with several holes around the bundle, and tie it at the neck. Carol Costenbader, author of The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest, suggests making a gift this way by using a decorative hole punch and pretty ribbon.
A drying screen helps dry leaves or sprigs. Make your own from an old window screen or hardware cloth mesh stapled to scrap wood or a picture frame. Lay cheesecloth over the screen, and place herbs on the cloth. Herbs can take a few hours to several days to dry fully.
Solar Drying Herbs. This method is easy if you live in a warm, dry place. The ideal solar food-drying conditions are 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 60 percent humidity or less.
Use the sun’s heat to dry herbs, but don’t expose herbs to too much direct sunlight as this could cause them to bleach. Solar drying can be as low-tech as placing drying screens outside until your herbs are brittle (bring them in at night). You can also dry herbs under the windshield or rear window of your car on a hot day. A DIY solar food dryer with stackable drying screens, a glass top to trap radiation, an absorber plate to transmit heat and a vent for air circulation is useful, too. Find our building plans in Build a Solar Food Dehydrator.
Dehydrating Herbs With a Machine. Any tool that reliably turns out a good product and saves you time and money is worth its cost. Food dehydrators range in price from $30 to $400, with between $100 to $200 being the best choice for most of us. Quality dehydrators have handy features such as timers and adjustable temperature control. If you keep the unit stored in a convenient spot, you’ll use it more often and recoup its cost in a season or two of grocery savings.
Dehydrators have a temperature control mechanism — ideally one you can adjust — and a fan to circulate air. Round models with multiple stacking trays are the most energy-efficient. Box-type models that allow you to remove some of the trays can be handy for drying large items and can serve other purposes, such as proofing bread dough or culturing yogurt. Follow your machine’s instructions.
Oven Drying Herbs. Drying herbs in an oven sounds easy because most of us have one and know how to use it. But this is actually the most labor-intensive, and the least energy-efficient method. Herbs need to be dried at about 100 degrees, but most ovens don’t go that low. They also need air circulation, and some ovens don’t have vents. You’ll need to get an oven thermometer and experiment. Try turning the oven on warm or its lowest setting for a while, then turning it off (while leaving the light on). You can also try propping the door open slightly with a wooden spoon.
Check how long it takes for the temperature to drop to 100 degrees and how long it stays at that temperature.
Herbs are far easier than fruits and vegetables to oven-dry because they dry more quickly and are more forgiving. If you plan to learn how to use your oven for food dehydration, definitely start with herbs. Layer them on cheesecloth over a wire cooling rack to allow for air circulation all around, and place the rack in the middle of the oven when the temperature is about 100 degrees.
Microwave Drying Herbs. The microwave can successfully dry herbs, but note that food-drying experts do not recommend it for drying foods that have more moisture. It’s not as easy as air drying or using an electric dehydrator.
To dry herbs in a microwave, strip leaves off of the stems and place the leaves between layers of paper towels. Begin on high power for 1 minute, allow a 30-second rest, and then alternate between 30 seconds on high power and 30 seconds of rest. Most herbs should dry fully in 10 minutes or less.
Refrigerator Drying Herbs. Another super-simple method of drying herbs basically amounts to neglect. Simply stick them in the fridge and forget about them for a few days. This handy tip was discovered by the late herb authority Madalene Hill and her daughter, Gwen Barclay, who contributed to MOTHER EARTH NEWS 20 years ago.
By accident, they discovered that herbs left alone (out of packaging) in a cold, dry refrigerator dried beautifully crisp and also retained their color, flavor and fragrance.
They even liked this method for parsley and chives, which don’t have the best reputation for keeping great flavor in dried form. The challenge is finding enough room to let herbs sit uncovered for a few days.
If your fridge has available space, by all means, give it a try. To read Hill and Barclay’s original article, go to Dry Your Herbs in the Fridge.
Storing Home-Dried Herbs
Your herbs have finished drying when you can crumble them easily, but don’t crumble them all! Whole leaves and seeds retain oils better in storage than crumbled herbs. Still, having some pre-mixed spice blends — such as those for Italian, Mexican or barbecue dishes — can be a big timesaver. Use a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients. Tea blends are also useful, such as a combination of peppermint and fennel to calm an upset stomach. Store dried herbs in airtight jars out of direct light and away from high heat.
Always label jars immediately with the date and contents. If you grew a particular variety, be sure to include its name so you can pinpoint your favorites over time. Check new jars for droplets of moisture or mold. Throw out anything moldy, and redry anything that created moisture in the jar.
When using dried herbs in recipes that call for fresh, keep in mind that oils in dried herbs are more concentrated. Use about half the amount of dried herbs in a recipe calling for fresh herbs, and about a quarter as much if the dried herb has been finely ground. To use herbs in teas, pour boiling water over a teaspoon to a tablespoon of the dried herb, or more to taste, and steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
— Get more drying tips in Food Drying With an Attitude by Mary T. Bell.
Choosing Herbs for Drying
The following herbs are good candidates for drying. Some herbs, although they can be dried, retain their flavor better if frozen. These include basil, borage, chives, cilantro, lemongrass, mint, parsley.
Seeds: anise, caraway, celery, chervil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, mustard
Flowers: bee balm, chamomile, chive, dill, geranium, lavender, linden, marigold, nasturtium, rose, thyme, yarrow
Sun, shade or oven drying for Artemisia
It has traditionnally been accepted that drying of Artemisia annua should take place in the shade because drying in the sun would destroy many useful molecules. But recent papers have questionned this belief and have studied the effect of ultraviolet radiation on the accumulation or decrease of medicinal compounds in plants (WJ Zhang et al., Fitoterapia, 2009, 80, 207-18). A study in Turkey showed that UV-C radiation had remarkable promoting effects on the accumulation of secondary metabolites in the calli of a grape cultivar (E Cetin, Biological Research, 2014, 47 :37).
Essentials oils : Supposedly it should be preferable to dry at temperatures below 60°C because volatile components might evaporate. But this is not confirmed in the scientific literature. The decrease was even lower for sun drying than for shade or oven drying in the case of Ocimum basilicum. At temperatures of 60°C the composition of the oils however changes. (M Hassanpouraghdam et al., J Essential Oil Bearing Plants, 2010, 13, 759-766). This needs further studies.
Artemisinin: Jorge Ferreira (J Agric Food Chem, 2010 Feb 10, 58(3) 1691-8) evaluated the effect of freeze, oven, shade, and sun drying on the leaf concentration of artemisinin, dihydroartemisinic acid, artemisinic acid and on the leaf antioxidant capacity. Freeze-dried samples had the lowest artemisinin concentrations as compared to the other drying methods.. A significant decrease (82% average) in dihydroartemisinic acid was observed for all drying procedures, with a simultaneous, significant increase in artemisinin. The average bioconversion was 43% for oven- and shade-dried plants and 94% for sun-dried plants, reiterating the hypothesis that dihydroartemisinic acid , not artemisinic acid, is the main biosynthetic precursor of artemisinin and suggesting that sun drying improves this bioconversion. Similar results had been found in Tasmania (JC Laughlin, Proc Int Conf on MAP, Acta Hortic 576, ISHS 2002 315-318). Artemisinin increased in the plants 21 days after harvest, either in the sun or the shade, more than in oven dried samples.
Phytosterols, saponins (H Pham et al., 2015, Technologies, 2015, 3, 285-301 and fatty acids are not much affected by high drying temperatures. Only above 80 °C noticeable decreases are found (M Garrysiak et al., Eur J Lipid Sci Technol 2015, 117, 493-490).
Flavonoids and polyphenols : Only minor and variable changes are noticed. A large study on Mediterranean herbs show that air dried herbs contain more flavonoids and polyphenols (T Rababah et al., 2015, In J Agric & Biol Eng, 8, 145-149). Other authors find that the flavonoid and phenolic content stay constant in Camellia sinensis at 60°C. But diversity in the methods of drying leads to differennt phenolic content and composition (T Hajmepour et al., Int J Pharmac Sci and Res 2012). (S Roshanak et al., J Food Sc Technol. 2015, 53, 721-29). Flavonoids are the main sunscreen chemicals of plants as confirmed by the studies of Pr Gareth Jenkin at the University of Glasgow. Flavonoids are even used as natural antioxidants and UV light stabilizers for plastics like polypropylene (MD Samper et al., J Appl Polym Sc. 2013, 129, 1707-1716). Exposure of plants to UV‐B causes ﬂavonoid productIon. The higher temperatures in sun drying may also inhibit the enzymatic degradradation of flavonoids and other constituents due to the longer period it takes to dry in the shade.
Vitamin C sharply decreases (S Roshanak op.cit.). The same sharp decrease in Vitamin C was noticed for sun drying of apricots (M Madrau et al., Eur Food Res Technol, 2009, 228:441. This may be consisered as a positive effect as Vitamin C is antagonistic with most antimalarial treatments.(see my blog” Vitamin C and malaria beware ! ” on www.malariaworld.org).
UV-LIGHT AND SCOPOLETIN
Scopoletin and coumarins appear to be the only molecules where the content signifantly increases after sundrying. (H Al-Oubaidi et al., World Journal of Pharmaceut Sc., 2014, ISSN 2321-3086). Sun drying is used in Africa for cassava chips. In Benin, cassava is one of the most important plants grown. The conservation of fresh cassava roots is very difficult because they are highly perishable products subject to contamination by fungi, bacteria and other germs (Rafiatou Ba et al., Int J Appl Biol and Pharmac Technol. 20167, ISSN 0976-45550). The study showed that sun drying is a major factor promoting the accumulation of scopoletin. Scopoletin inhibits the growth of Aspergillus flavus and the production of aflatoxin in dried cassava roots (GJB Gnonlonfin et al., J Food Safety, 2011, 31 553-558). More important even, in sun dried chips the scopoletin content stays high after 3 months of storage. UV-C irradiation also is used to induce scopoletin accumulation in oranges to avoid postharvest decay (G D’hallewin et al., J Amer Soc Hort Sci 1999, 124, 702-707). Tobacco plants confronted by contamination in the soil increase the content of scopoletin in stems for protection (Y Cohen et al., Phytopathology, 1981, 71-2:209), (JL Song et al.,J Asian Nat Prod Res., 2016. Jun14, 1-7). Alternaria alternata a tobacco pathotype is inhibited by the fluorescent scopoletin (Huanhuan Sun et al., J Exper Botany, 2014, doi :10.1093/jxb/en). Scopoletin also acts as insect feeding deterrent (A Tripathi et al.,Insect Science,2011, 18, 189-194). US patent 6337095 finds concentration of 0.3 % of scopoletin in the stems and only 0.2 % in the leaves and uses the stems for commercial scopoletin extraction.
All Artemisia plants are rich in scopoletin, with Artemisia annua, afra and apiacea top ranking around 0.1 % dry weight (Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 1996;50:225-30).This is mucher higher than in other plants known to contain scopoletin like Avena sativa, Nicotia tabacum (tobacco), Melia Azedirach, Manihot esculenta (cassava) and even higher than in noni juice (Morinda citrifolia) famous for its scopoletin content.
Scopoletin has anti-nociceptive and antiinflammatory activities (Z Chen et al., J Ethnopharmacol 2013, 25, 501-6). Recent studies have discovered and described its antitumor activities (EJ Seo et al., Molecules 2016, 21, 496).
Scopoletin is known as ion channel opener and has a significant effect on erythrocyte membrane ion motive ATPases. The stimulatorx effect is stronger on Na-K-ATPase, followed by Ca-ATPase and then Mg-ATPase. Ion motive ATPases play a crucial role in malaria (CA Ezeokonkwo et al, Nig J Nat Prod and Med 2001, 05, 37-40).
Scopoletin and other coumarins inhibit CYP3A4. The inhibition of CYP3A4 by grapefruits is mainly related to furanocoumarins (bergamottin, psoralens). Scopoletin can markedly affect the pharmacokinetics of artemisinin and increase the plasma concentration, more than other molecules present in Artemisia like arteannuin-B, artemisinic acid, casticin, chrysoplenol (Chao Zhang et al., Asian Pacific J of Trop Med. June 2016.05.04)
The effect of Artemisia plants on CYP3A4 was confirmed by assays run at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Masterproef. K Lazaridi 2014) in the Laboratory of Pr Kris Demeyer. They worked with Artemisia plants from different origins, including the species Artemisia abrotanum, Artemisia apiacea, Artemisia pontica, Artemisia herba alba, Artemisia absinthium, Artemisia afra. The CYP3A4 inhibition was surprisingly high for all Artemisia samples, up to 6 times higher than for ketoconazol (0.11 µg/mL) or for diluted grapefruit juice. This is surprising because grapefruit juice has the reputation to be the strongest CYP3A4 inhibitor from plant origin. Surprising is also the fact that all Artemisia samples show this strong CYP3A4 inhibition without a particular strength for one of these 7 species.
SUN DRYING AND BACTERIA
But the most important benefit of sun drying could be the killing effect of UV light for bacteria and molds. In other drying techniques, especially at room temperature, they might have ample time to develop.
The thresholds of microbial count of medicinal plant material according to the European Pharmacopeia 2005 are
– For herbal medicinal products to which boiling water is added before use are 10⁷ for aerobic bacteria, 10⁵ for molds and 10² for E.coli.
– For preparations for oral and rectal administration 10⁴ for anaerobic bacteria, 10² for molds and nil for E.coli
Post-harvest processes such as collection of plant material in the field, transport to the farm are often suspected to increase mibrobial contamination of medicinal plants. When the bulk of harvested material is not ventilated, auto-heating provides favourable conditions for micro-organism growth. It is important to reach as soon as possible a moisture content < 10%. in the plants (Rocha RP, J Med Plants Res, 5(33) 7076-7084, 2011),
Immediate drying of the harvested plants in the sun could prevent these problems.
Lavender (Lavandula) has been prized for its aesthetic, medicinal and aromatic values. Ancient people have used them as bath implements and had their blooms scattered inside their homes to ward off disease.
Today, the scent of lavender is still being used in aromatherapy to soothe headaches and to induce sleep. It is also used to ease the pain from burns and insect bites, reduce scarring and as a natural stomach relaxant.
There’s a multitude of ways to handle lavender and here are some tips to start planting, properly harvesting, drying and storing your own.
Planting and harvesting your lavender
There is a selection of lavender varieties for different desired effects. If you’re looking for an energy boost, it is suggested to stick with Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas). It smells like eucalyptus and has an energizing effect. If you’re looking for calm and relaxation, the most popular English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is the best choice.
Once you’ve planted your lavender, the next step is to harvest the pieces when some of its buds are blooming. The best time to harvest lavender is in the late morning. This is when the plant is dry, the sun is less intense and the fragrance is the strongest.
You can opt to cut directly below the blooms to get the blossoms for drying, or cut a little bit lower to include a bit of stem into your cluster. Sharpened pruning shears or scissors are needed to ensure that plants are cut properly.
Cut pieces with stalks on them are best for decorative arrangements while blossoms are used to make potpourri, tea or baking ingredients.
READ ALSO: 6 Food Drying Methods – Pros, Cons and Best Tips
How to Dry Lavender at Home
There are multiple ways of drying lavender. Most lavender drying enthusiasts suggest sticking to the manual drying methods to ensure that the quality of blossoms and plant essential oils are maintained.
Counter drying lavender
Lavender dries fairly quickly, simply harvest a few stalks. The simplest method is to simply lay the cut stalks flat on a dry countertop or table.
You can also spread it out on some old newspaper or a drying rack. You should ensure to keep your stalks are laid flat in the process. The lavender flowers will feel brittle once they’re done the drying.
Cut a bunch of lavender stalks making sure that you leave a few inches of stem on the cut stalk. Group about 15 – 20 stalks together and tie them with an elastic band. This band will make sure that the stalks stick together while drying. You can always decorate it with colorful ribbon bands if you want it to be prettier to look at.
Once set, hang each bundle in a dark, warm, and dry place, like your basement or cellar. Make sure to hang it upside down to help retain its blossom shape. Keeping it in a dark and dry place will help the lavender keep its scent and color from fading fast. It is still important though to leave enough space to allow air to travel between the stalks.
Humid surroundings will cause mold to grow on the lavender stalks, rendering them useless. You can hang it from a wall peg, metal hook or a wire clothes hanger.
Drying lavender in the dehydrator
Here are the steps you need to take for drying lavender in the food dehydrator.
- Snip stems with lavender blossoms that are completely open. Clip off discolored or shrunken leaves and check for insects that might be hiding inside blossoms or leaves.
- Do not wash the lavender. Just place the cut stalks in a single layer on the dehydrator trays.
- Set your dehydrators on herbal setting and let is work for about 2 hours.
- After 2 hours, assess the stalks. If the blossoms, stems, and leaves are brittle and paper, it is done. If it still feels moist, leave it for another hour to dry.
- Once done, remove it from the dehydrator tray and let it cool completely. Once done, you can place the dried stalks in a container and seal the lead tightly.
NB! Food dehydrator can cause your stalks to over dehydrate if not monitored correctly.
READ ALSO: Which Food Dehydrator is Right for You
Drying lavender in the oven
Here are steps you need to take to for drying lavender in the oven:
- Set the oven to low heat at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius. Spread a thin layer of lavender on a sheet tray and place it in the oven for about 10 minutes or until the stalks are completely brittle. Keep the oven door slightly open while drying. This will allow for moisture to pass through effectively. If it still feels moist after 10 minutes, rotate the stalks and then leave it for 5 more minutes to dry.
- Once done, remove the dried lavender from the oven and run your hand down the dried stalks until the blossoms fall into a container. You need to be careful as the blooms can be a bit prickly.
NB!! Processing requires keen supervision.
Drying lavender in the microwave
Similar to oven drying lavender, you need to first de-stem the blossoms. Separate the leaves and blossoms from the stem. Place a small amount of lavender across 2 layers of paper towels, a clean kitchen towel or just the turning tray and lay it in the microwave.
Turn on the microwave and let it run on high for about a minute. Check for dryness. If they still feel moist, continue drying with 20-second bursts until completely dry.
NB! High risk of over drying/ scorching the stalks if not monitored properly.
Storing Dried Lavender Properly
There are various ways to store your lavender. But it is critical to note that they should be stored away from light, heat, and humidity. Exposure to any of these elements risk for the plant color to fade, make it dry faster and make the fragrance fade. Moisture will invite mold to grow and destroy it.
READ ALSO: How to Store Dried Lavender
Lavender bundles can be kept suspended in coat hangers inside closets. It will fragrance your garments while stored.
Dried buds can be kept in zip lock bags or clean and airtight mason jars. Then store in a cool dark place until you’re ready to use.
READ ALSO: A Complete Guide on How to Store Dried Herbs
Drying Lavender for its many uses at home
The ideal time to dry lavender is when the flowering of the plant is in its height. The buds have the optimum capacity to hold fragrance during this period. As you start with your project ensure that it is done in the mid morning. It is preferably the time when the dew drops on the plant have evaporated and the sun is also not so strong as to dry up the essential oil for the day. When you plan for drying lavender you are at your freedom to dry either the buds or flowers or even a bunch of lavender boughs. You need to know some more information on this to be successful with your work.
Some of the primary tools that you need in order to dry and store lavender successfully are gardening shears, sachets, air tight containers, newspapers and rubber bands. You can also go for paper towels in place of newspapers.
One of the common methods is to gather a few lavender stems, tie them up with elastic bands and hang them upside down. Ensure that the room where you carry on with your work is well ventilated with option of electric fan too. The process will get completed faster if you have any these amenities.
If you do not wish to make your lavender stems bony dry then place them flat on a newspaper. Now, let them dry under the fan, in a cool dark room.
You can also dry lavender in your kitchen with the help of your microwave oven. Place the slashed off stems on a paper plate and subject them to low heat inside the microwave. Check them after a minute or two and turn them around if you see that more drying is needed. Next, continue with the process for two minutes more. Finally, when they have dried up to your satisfaction you need to bring them to room temperature and allow cooling. At the end of drying lavender store them in airtight containers.
Uses Of Dried Lavender
The most popular use of dried lavenders is perhaps as herbal tea infusion. The immense therapeutic value of lavender tea is literally posing a challenge to the conventional tea leaves. Dried lavender is immensely beneficial in promoting calmness to the central nervous system. It works wonders when used for inhalation therapy too in curing bronchial congestion, coughs, colds and other respiratory ailments. You need to throw a few dried lavender flowers into boiling water for this purpose and inhale the steam produced. Dried lavenders are also used as natural fragrant and pot pourri arrangements.
You can cure insomnia effectively if you use dried lavender as your regular sleeping aid. For this either you have to take an invigorating warm lavender bath every night before retiring to bed or place a dried lavender sachet under your pillow. Dried lavenders are also widely used as condiments in cookery items, salad dressings and garnishing for confectionaries. You can also include your family in this fun project of drying lavender. There will be nothing more innovative and beneficial than following DIY steps and drying lavender all by your own and gifting the same to your friends and family members.
Hi, this is Tina Fung, an enthusiastic lavender gardener. If you would like to read more Planting Lavender information, please visit my newest site at Planting Lavender , may be you’d like to know about Growing Lavender From Seed , Lavender Pruning, and much more.
Enjoy your lemon balm and lime balm to their fullest. Those of you who have any mint family members growing in your garden know what incredibly tenacious growers these guys are. Even in, Zone 3, my lime balm shot through the ground with strength and determination this spring. And now, June 16, it’s ready for its first cutting.
Having lemon balm, lime balm or both in your herb garden is a tasty treat. Snip a sprig now and then to enhance a cool glass of iced tea or a fruity summer cocktail. Or add a hint of lemon or lime to salad, salsa, chicken or fish dish with just a few leaves. You can also harvest big bunches to dry for use as seasoning and teas throughout the year.
Given its vigorous growth, lime and lemon balm can tolerate one to three heavy harvests throughout the summer. Just remember to prepare it for dormancy over the cold winter months by making your last harvest sometime in mid to late August (later if you live in warmer zones).
How to Harvest Lemon or Lime Balm
For maximum flavor, harvest just before the blossoms develop – late spring/early summer. While this is when the plant has the most essential oils, you’ll still get plenty of flavor at other times too.
By cutting the stems just above where other leaves have formed, (about 2 inches above ground level), you actually encourage the plant to grow two new shoots. In other words, the more you harvest the more you get! How great is that.
By cutting back your balms before they flower, you also prevent seed formation and seed distribution – which you’ll be thankful for next year! As it regrows, you’ll have lovely lush greenery in your garden.
Handle the leaves carefully to avoid bruising them.
How to Dry Lemon or Lime Balm
Gently rinse your lemon or lime balm in a bowl with running water. Remove any blemished leaves.
Dry the leaves by gently laying them on a clean towel to remove any surface moisture. Water droplets will cause the leaves to turn dark brown or black when hung to dry, so try to remove as much moisture as you can.
In a dehydrator…
- spread stems and leaves on the drying trays of a dehydrator. Set the temperature at its lowest setting (95°F or 35°C) and dry for 12 to 18 hours.
To hang dry…
- Gather 5-6 stems and tie together with kitchen string. To allow for good air circulation, do not tie too many stems together.
- Label your herbs and hang in a clean, dry and dark place. Here, my lime balm is hanging from the rafters of our garage (our garage doesn’t actually get used for cars, so no worries about exhaust fumes).
How long it takes to dry your herbs will depend on your humidity level – it could take as little as one week or as long as three weeks. Just be sure that the leaves are completely dry and brittle before you take them down.
To store your lemon or lime balm, keep the leaves and stems in big pieces to retain as much flavor as possible. Store your herbs in paper bags or glass jars (avoid plastic bags as they may lead to condensation). Only when you’re ready to use your herbs should you crumble them up to release their essence.
Use and enjoy as desired.
I’ve been enjoying my dried lime balm with dried rhubarb in a homemade Apple Rhubarb tea blend from my Rhubarb Cookbook. Yummy, home made tea!
Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.
Today I harvested some of the lemon balm growing in our garden. We have two patches of lemon balm that started from a tiny, half-dead seedling I started last summer and nursed all through winter. It was getting way too big for it’s tiny pot when I put it in the ground this spring. Honestly, I thought it would just wither away and die. But true to it’s mint heritage, you just can’t kill lemon balm.
It’s a little late for harvesting and I should have done it before the plant began to flower, but here we are. At least I found the time to take a cutting of it.
How to harvest lemon balm:
Lemon balm is pretty easy to harvest. Like I said, the best time to harvest is right before it flowers because this is when the plant has the highest oil content. The oil is what gives you that delicious lemon scent and flavor. Once you see signs of flowering, grab the scissors. A good pair of strong kitchen scissors or some pruning shears will work well. Lemon balm is in the mint family and you’ll notice it has a tough square-shaped stem. The plant itself with be about 18” or so tall. You can cut all the way down to the ground because it will grow back from the roots.
Once you have your harvested lemon balm inside, lay it out on a towel or sheet to dry overnight. Now, if your intention is to use this for dinner, a quick rinse will be all the prep you need. If you plan on using it as fresh for something like an oil, this is all the drying that will be necessary, but it IS necessary for preparing an oil. Don’t skip the overnight drying when making an infused oil! By drying out some of the water content, you are greatly lessening your chances of ending up with a rancid oil. Lemon balm has a high moisture content so the less water, the better and the less time until dry, the better.
How to dry lemon balm:
With a dehydrator
For long term storage, continue on with the drying process by one of three methods. If you have a dehydrator, move your plant material to screens and place them in the dehydrator. That initial overnight drying will give you a little more room on your screens.
In the oven
You can also use your oven for drying your herbs. Turn the oven on warm and let it sit for about 20 minutes. In the meantime, spread the herbs out on a baking sheet in a single layer. After the 20 minutes of warming, turn the oven off and place the cookie sheet in the oven. Let them sit all day and night. In the morning, if the herbs are not dry, turn the oven back on for the 20 minute warm-up and stick the herb back in the oven for the day. After this, your herbs should be pretty dry.
Air drying herbs
Gather the herb into small bunches evening up the stems. Remove any leaves on the first couple inches of the stems to give you plenty of room for tying. Tie the stems together using some twine or whatever you have handy. Don’t knot the string because you’ll want to tighten it later. Rubber bands make excellent ties for drying herbs because they will automatically tighten as the plant material dries out and shrinks. After you have your bundles all tied up and ready for hanging, choose an airy, dry spot that’s not in the sun. If you’re hanging them on a covered porch or anywhere else outside, check the forecast for the next few days. Make sure you’re in for warm, dry weather. Moisture in the air will only prolong the drying and leave more time for mold to grow.
You can pin the bunches to a line with clothes pins, tie the bundles to the string or use a paper clip to clip them onto the line. If you use metal paper clips, keep the metal from touching the plant as much as possible. If you’ve tied them like bows, you can hang them from the loops with the paper clips.
*note on drying herbs – check your herbs for mold while they’re drying. If you see any sing of mold throw the bunch out. You do NOT want to use moldy herbs!
Once you have your herbs all dried, remove the plant material from the stems and store them in an airtight container. This can be as simple as a paper bag, taped up very tightly to keep the critters out or you can use glass jars or metal tins etc. Just make sure it’s an airtight container and not in the direct sunlight.
Now that you’ve harvested your lemon balm, you can use it to make dinner, tea, popsicles, an infused oil, honey and many other things. Your infused oil can then be used for things like lip balm or salve.
I’ll be making an oil with this batch as well as some lemon balm honey which I’ll share in another post.