How To Dry Herbs From Y​​our Garden For Later Use

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey
Credit: Shutterstock / LN team

Nothing beats fresh herbs when you are looking for a way to boost the flavor and freshness of a dish. Herbs from your garden are arguably the freshest ingredients of all, but for those living in a seasonal climate, an herb garden has a shelf life. While you can’t always grow fresh herbs throughout the year, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to dry and preserve your delicious home-grown ingredients for later use.

When drying herbs from your garden, first wash them and pat them dry using a clean, dry towel. Some of the best ways to dry herbs include using a dehydrator if you own one or letting them air dry. To air dry your herbs, you can hang them in a bundle by the stem and wrap them in a paper bag to avoid any contamination. You can also use a freezer, an oven, an air fryer, and even your microwave to dry out your herbs.

While there is no substitute for fresh herbs, there are still some ways to preserve lots of the delicious and subtle flavors from your herb garden by drying your plants at home. There are several methods, with some working better than others. Some methods of drying herbs at home require special equipment, but other means of drying involve items you already have in your house. Keep reading to find the best home herb-drying method for you.

Six Great Ways To Dry Herbs From Your Garden

1. Use A Dehydrator To Dry Your Herbs

One of the most effective ways of drying the herbs from your outdoor garden is by dehydrating them. This is accomplished using a dehydrator. If you don’t have one of these amazing (but bulky) machines, don’t worry, there are five other methods listed below. For those of you looking for reasons to dust off your dehydrator, consider using it to dry your herbs.

To dry herbs using a dehydrator, set the machine to its lowest temperature (around 95 degrees). First, remember to wash and dry your herbs. Next, place the herbs on the provided rack, and try to spread the herbs out so there isn’t much overlap. Your herbs can take anywhere from 3 to 15 hours (or longer) to dry out. This depends on the specific herb, its thickness, and moisture content.

2. Air Dry Your Herbs

One method of drying the herbs you planted in your garden has been around for centuries and can be done by anyone with a bit of patience. That is, of course, the air-drying method. To air dry your herbs, you first need to give them a good rinse and dry them.

Next, you need to bundle your herbs like a bouquet, and then secure them with a rubber band or a bit of twine. Try not to make your bundles too tight or large. The larger and tighter the bundle, the longer the herbs will take to dry.

Next, you simply hang them upside down in a dry place. This can be a screened-in porch, or even in your kitchen. To avoid your herbs falling on the ground or getting dirty, cover them with a paper bag. The paper bag can breathe but also provides enough protection. Herbs will dry this way in as quick as one week, but it can also take upward of a month depending on your climate and the herbs themselves.

3. Dry Fresh Herbs Using Your Microwave

Believe it or not, you can dry your herbs in the microwave. This method is a bit labor-intensive, but it is also very fast. To dry your herbs in the microwave, you'll first want to remove the herbs from the stems. You only want to microwave the part of the herb you plan to use. It also helps to chop the herbs up a bit.

Use a microwavable plate and place one layer of herbs. It sometimes helps to place them in a wreath shape, with a space in the middle. Microwave the herbs for thirty-second bursts. After each interval, mix up the herbs and check the progress. Once the herbs are dry and crumbly, they are finished. Keep in mind, as the process progresses, you may want to use shorter bursts to avoid burning your precious ingredients.

4. Freeze-Dry Your Herbs

If you have room in your freezer, or even better yet, a deep freezer, then you might want to think about freeze-drying your fresh herbs for later use. While a freeze-dry machine works best, you can use any freezer as long as you have space and time to spare. This method takes a long time — sometimes a month. The good news is it takes very little work.

Like with any other method of drying, you first need to rinse and dry your herbs. Next, use a baking sheet, and place a piece of parchment paper on it. Spread a layer of the herb of your choice on the baking sheet and place it in an out-of-the-way area of the freezer. You will notice the herbs will freeze within hours. But the herbs need to sublimate. This is the process in which the moisture escapes from the plants. Once your herbs are crumbly to the touch, they are ready to be stored in your kitchen pantry.

5. Dry Your Fresh Herbs In The Oven

Another method for quickly and effectively drying the herbs from your garden is to put them in the oven. This is a great method, but only if you have a reliable oven. You want to cook your herbs at the lowest possible temperature. If your oven does not cook below 180 degrees then this method is not for you.

Ideally, you will cook the herbs at about 150 degrees. This process takes between 2 and 5 hours. Keep in mind that the longer you leave the herbs in the oven, the more “toasty” they tend to be. While this may add a light toasted flavor to some of your herbs, it will also remove some of the flavor and the nuance. It helps to shift the herbs a few times by giving them a shake. This helps them cook more evenly.

6. Use Your Air Fryer To Dry Herbs

Lastly, if you have an air fryer ,you will be happy to know that you have yet another possible task to use it for. Air fryers can be highly effective at drying herbs, but you need to take a few extra steps to ensure safety.

Like with all other methods, you should wash and dry the herbs before placing them in the air fryer. Next, you need to make sure they are weighted down. It is helpful if you have a screen or metal grate (many air fryers come with something like this). This is because the fan inside the machine will otherwise blow the leaves around. This can cause smoke and fire. It can not only damage the herbs, but it can damage the inside of the machine.

Different herbs will take different amounts of time, but many herbs can dry as quickly as four or five minutes. Check the herbs every few minutes. Depending on the herb and how much you dry at once, you may want to give them a shake or shuffle them around so everything cooks evenly.

Wrapping Up How To Dry Herbs From Your Garden

Fresh herbs are usually the best option, but when you dry herbs from your garden, you can preserve and lock in a lot of that amazing flavor. This is especially true if you take the time to do it correctly and use a proven method.

Dehydrating and air-drying herbs are both great ways to effectively preserve herbs for later use. You can also use your air fryer or a freeze-dry machine. If you don’t have fancy kitchen gadgets, don’t fret, you can use your oven, freezer, and even your microwave to dry the herbs from your garden.

Related Guides:

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

More by Tom Gaffey