Herbs typically refer to a plants leaves and can be used fresh or dried. Spices come from the bark, berries, root, stem, seed or other part of the plant and are often used dried and powdered. Almost any herb or spice can be dried at home to preserve it for up to a year, a great way to ring the most use out of them.
It is best to harvest in the morning before the sun has had a chance to affect the plant and its beneficial oils. Look for fresh leaves, while discarding any that are brown or discoloured.
2. Drying Method
- Air Drying
- Gather herbs in small bunches of 4-5 stems per bunch and secure the stems with a twist tie (or piece of string).
- Loosely wrap the bundles in a breathable muslin cloth or paper bag, and hang in a well ventilated indoor space out of direct sunlight.
- Use pegs to hang the bundles easily. Drying typically takes a week. Once dried, remove leaves from the stems and store.
- Oven Drying
- This method is more suitable if you need to use the herbs soon.
- Preheat oven to lowest setting. Remove leaves from the stems.
- Place leaves on a baking sheet in a single layer.
- Prop oven door open with something. This allows air to circulate. Check regularly as this method dries quickly. Remove them as soon as the leaves start to crumble and no longer bend without breaking.
Store the leaves of dried herbs in clean class jars or airtight containers. Label the jar immediately since many herbs look the same once dried.
They can now be used when you need them in recipes. Remember that dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh, so adjust amounts accordingly.
Pro Tip: Basil, Cilantro, Mint, Chives, and Parsley can be easily dried but their colour and flavour are better if they are frozen. To freeze easily , finely chop fresh herbs and pack into ice cube trays. Cover with water or olive oil and freeze until solid. Pop out herb cubes and store in an airtight container until needed. These are excellent to add to soups or cooked dishes as needed.