Saturday, July 11, 2015

Drying Herbs Without a Dehydrator

Now that I have shown you the edibles/medicinal herbs I have found in our yard, I will demonstrate how to preserve them for future use!  Dried herbs are very handy when it comes to making an extract/tincture/salve for the winter months, when you know the fresh herbs won't be available.
Just follow a few easy steps and you'll have a good supply of medicinal herbs, just when you need them!

Broadleaf Plantain, drying after a thorough wash

The first of two methods for drying herbs is bag drying:

1.  Pick the herb that you will be preserving.  Be sure to harvest the correct part of the plant- for some plants, this may be the leaf and for others, the root!  For some plants, it is your research before harvesting any medicinal herb.

2.  Wash your herbs.  You picked these plants from the great outdoors- be sure there is nothing in your medicine that you don't want in there!  I gently wash my herbs in a colander, making sure each individual picking is washed of any debris, dirt or other organic matter.

3.  Dry off your herbs.  Just place the washed herbs on a paper towel and let the water evaporate.  This will prevent wet spots from getting trapped between your herbs- moisture breeds mold, and you don't want that!

Catmint and Common Yarrow, freshly harvested

4.  When the herbs are dried off, place them loosely in a paper bag.  Do not stuff too many in there or the air won't circulate- once again, you want the herbs to dry, not ferment.  Label your bag before putting it up!

Make sure to label and date your bags of herbs!

5.  Shake your bagged herbs every day to circulate the air and help the plant material dry.  It may take a week or so to completely dry out the plants, so check the herbs until they are crispy dry and ready to put into storage. (I use recycled glass jars, tightly sealed, and store them in a dark cabinet.)

Red Clover, ready to store for future use

The second method for drying herbs is hanging.  This is ideal for herbs with long stems :)

(Follow #1-3 in the directions for bag drying)

4.  When the herbs are dried off, divide the herbs into small bunches.  Secure the stems of the bunches with rubber bands or string, to make sure none of the plant material will fall when hung upside down.
A small bunch of Catmint, ready to hang!

5.  Find a dry place and string up your herbs!  You could hang them from nails in your pantry or a string across your laundry room- wherever they will be out of the way and in no danger of being disturbed.  The first time I tried this, I hung them in my pantry, but quite low.  The ending result was more dried leaves on the floor than left for storage!  Hang the plants well out of reach of little fingers :)

6.  Check the herbs often and store in air-tight jars when crispy dry.

Take advantage of Natures bounty!  Stock up on your local medicinal herbs before the frosts come this fall.  And enjoy your good health all winter long!

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