Today is Monday, a perfect day for a harvest. This is one of those things that is dead easy, and for whatever reason, I have a hard time ever getting around to this most summers. I don't know why, it's really so quick and again, big bang for your investment/buck/time. Let's keep this one short and sweet kids. Hanging herbs to dry. It's really just what it seems: you pick herbs, and tie them together, and leave them to dry. Done deal.
Truly. There are a few herbs I prefer to harvest in other ways, and so I'll also add this one here. I just went outside to pick a few bundles of herbs for today's post and harvesting, and I remembered that I prefer sage in its fresh format, for those delicious pork dishes you'll be making come cooler times.
I trimmed a few stalks off my plant, leaving some on the plant so that it can keep doing its thing. My sage plants have been coming back for a few years now (not always the case in Calgary, depends on the winter) and so I tend to have a lot of leaves, so I usually harvest on a regular basis and offer bundles to friends or leave them on the table for my husband's co-workers in their lunch room. I prefer to freeze some of my sage, again because I like the fresh taste so much: it's great to pair with pork, or with chopped up pancetta on top of your next turkey, or wherever your imagination takes you. I don't wash it, seeing as it comes from my garden, but you could wash it first. I'd let it dry thoroughly first if you do though. When it's ready, tuck the leaves in a clean freezer bag and label the year and herb, and you're done. Tuck it in the freezer. So stinkin easy. I do this with chives as well, and lovage leaves too.
As for the other herbs I gathered this evening, I trimmed them of dead leaves and such, and gathered all of the stems at the top, one type of herb at a time. I wound some kitchen twine around the top and made the tie a little long so that I could hook it on tacks on my kitchen cork board, and made a quick label for each herb, in case I'd lose my sense of smell and be unable to i.d. the herb later on down the road. My herbs today include, from left to right, oregano, strawberry mint, rosemary and regular mint.
The trick here is to make sure they're dry, so no dew left on the leaves; hang them loosely enough to allow air flow in and around the stems and leaves; and use some sort of twine you can tighten as the herbs get drier, because they will lose some of their girth. I plan to use twist ties on the tops of the bundles the more they dry. The length of time it takes to fully dry is quite dependant on where you're hanging the herbs, and the humidity in your area. Check on them when you think of it, and when they're nice and crisp, they're ready to crumble and tuck into glass jars (labelled!) for the winter.
I like to dry all kinds of things, sometimes hanging like this or sometimes in my dehydrator. Herbs like this I find are a bit easier to hang dry, as you can easily crumble the leaves off of the stems once they've really lost all of their moisture. Having to pull all of the leaves off first to pop in your dehydrator is a bit more time-consuming. And hey, I'm the first to admit, I'm kinda lazy. (Frugal with my time, shall we say.) You can also dry flowers from your garden like this (calendula! so delicious on so many things, and fabulous anti-inflammatory powers!) to use in potions, cheeses, dusting as garnishes, whatever the case may be. I did the two mints for copious pots of tea, and of course the oregano and rosemary for the cooking ahead. In passing, if you're just starting a garden and would like perennial herbs so as to cut back on the amount of work you have to do each year in your garden, may I suggest oregano? It's a perennial herb that flowers like MAD and will re-seed like gangbusters; it is also the most butterfly/bee/moth friendly plant to have out there. I swear half of my neighbourhood population of bees is spending their days in my back yard.
If you're looking for a more scientific approach to drying herbs, or solar dryers, screen drying, or other clever ideas and hacks, may I suggest checking this post out from Mother Earth News. They know what they're doing over there and have tried quite a few different ways. Go grab some herbs right now, and get to work! And in five minutes, when you're done, go make a good pot of tea. And know that come winter, that pot of strawberry mint tea will be that much more tasty because it came from your patch.