If you’re like me, you love the idea of using your own homegrown herbs in your rituals, or even just for incense in your home. Not only are they more convenient when you can simply go outside and pick your own, but you can also have easier access to those that are harder to find.
Herbs are generally very simple to take care of. They respond well to a variety of soil types and for the most part are pretty sturdy. They don’t require constant care like a lot of plants do and you can even plant them indoors in containers if you don’t have the outside space.
Of course, if you are going to be burning your herbs, or even cooking with them, you will need to dry them first. So at this point you might be wondering why I am devoting an entire blog entry on drying herbs, but the fact is that drying them out can be a complicated process.
The last time I picked a mess of sage and tried to let it air dry on my kitchen counter in a bowl it took over 3 weeks. No, I am not exaggerating. Not really convenient if you want to do a smudging ceremony in the next day or so.
So what are some better ways to dry out your herbs?
If you have herbs that have a low moisture content such as Marjoram, Bay, Rosemary, Dill, Oregano, and Thyme than letting them air dry isn’t a bad idea. However, for those that are dense in moisture such as Mint, Basil, Tarragon, and Chives the process is obviously going to take a bit longer and therefore might want to be reconsidered unless you have a lot of space and a lot of time (not Thyme!) on your hands.
Personally, I would recommend against using the microwave on them. Although this will definitely dry them out, it will also affect their taste and make them lose some of their nutrients. Freezing them is actually better, although I only use that as a last resort.
I prefer to bundle mine, although this will still take them some time. To bundle your herbs, take around 5 branches together and tie them at the bottom. You might need to pull off some of the bottom leaves first, as well as any diseased leaves. You can use a piece of yarn, string, or rubber band. If the herbs have a high water content then you might want to use small bundles.
I then take a paper bag (saved from the last trip to the grocery store) and use a hole puncher to cut a few holes in it. I always make sure that I write the name of the herb on the bag since I am prone to forget which ones I am dealing with, even after all these years.
Next, I take the bundle of herbs and place it upside down in the bag. Once I have done this, I tie the ends of the bag together and hang the bag upside down.
Of course, you don’t have to use the bag. In fact, you can simply tie the herbs in a bundle, use a clothesline or other long string and tie it around your ceiling, and hang your herbs from there. You want to make sure that you do this in an airy room, however, that gets plenty of air circulation. Keep in mind, too, that the herbs will shrink as they dry so you might have to keep re-tightening your string around them.
If you don’t want to hang your herbs up and instead wish to place them in a bowl and set them out then there are some things to keep in mind. First off, you have to ensure that they are getting equal airflow. This might mean that you turn them over every day and make sure that they are spread out evenly. You also want to ensure that they aren’t retaining water. If they do, then they might mildew and mold and you can’t use those.
Of course, if you really want to speed up the drying process then you can use a dehydrator. These don’t cost too much and they will definitely cut some time off of your drying. It’s also pretty helpful if you are drying a lot of herbs at once and you don’t want paper bag or bundles hanging up all over your house.
You will have to keep checking it and arranging them in order to regulate the airflow, but a good dehydrator can dry your herbs out in a matter of hours-not weeks or days.
Whichever method you choose to employ, I hope you have a fruitful herb harvest and I wish you luck in your own individual growing season.
Your Warm and Caring “Resident Witch In Charge”