There is no greater pleasure than growing and using your own herbs. Harvesting and drying your herbs and edible flowers in the fall can ensure you still get quality, organic, locally grown herbs throughout the winter. But how do you make sure they don’t mold? Here is what you do:
Pick your herbs or flowers when you have time to process them right away. If something comes up, place them in your refrigerator with a damp paper towel over the top of them.
Know your herbs. Smaller herbs and flowers can be dried whole, while thicker or larger flowers may need to be separated before drying.
Dry flower clusters, like elderflowers and lilacs, upside down on a towel to help preserve some of the shape. Small branches of leaves that easily lay flat when placed on a surface, such as elder leaf, can stay together while drying. Leaves that cluster together, like lemon balm and mint, often do best if you detach each leaf before drying.
There are two ways to dry the flowers. You can tie small bunches together, making sure there is plenty of air exposure for each leaf or bud, and hang them upside down in a cool, dry area of your house. Or you can spread your flowers and herbs out in a single layer over a clean dish towel or several paper towels. Check twice a day and rotate so they dry evenly.
Try to choose an area in your house with good air circulation and where the collected plants won’t get disturbed or exposed to long stretches of direct sunlight. (Indirect sunlight is okay.) The kitchen table or empty spots on the counter seem to work fine. Once or twice a day, check how everything is drying and turn over individual pieces so that they dry evenly on both sides.
If you own one, a dehydrator is also a great way to dry herbs, especially if you’re in a hurry. Follow manufacturer’s directions, or dry on the lowest heat setting, checking every hour or so.