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spencanoe
How do I dry my own herbs such as basil and cilantro?
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Herb drying methods will depend upon some variables > 1. Temperature & humidity. Air drying in the shade is best for preserving flavor & nutrition & herbs dry quickly if your temperatures are warm, air is relatively dry & you have some natural air movement. I have dried a lot of herbs in these conditions. In humid conditions you may need to add heat or air movement & even use a dehydrator machine. Some small experiments will test your conditions for drying in a few days. Someone else will know more about dehydrators than I do. You want to avoid excess heat, so oven-drying would be a last resort in a humid climate! 2. What volume of herbs do you want to dry?  Traditionally, small amounts of herbs are pictured tied in narrow bundles & hung from a shady line to dry. Bundles can be very pretty. We have produced many apple-boxes of dried herbs by spreading the harvest in a thin layer - one or two branches deep - on a sheet in a dry, shady place with air movement. We turned the herbs by hand a couple of times & they were fully dry in a few days. The aroma is wonderful, especially if indoors! A big dried herbs harvest can be stored in clean boxes - mine are from the Post Office - & stored in a closet until you are ready to process the dried herbs for your pantry or gifts. For me that is usually after Thanksgiving & we make a day of the project with children who have helped harvest. Why clean boxes? We found that free produce shipping boxes sometimes brought us unwelcome insects. And I wouldn't trust plastic with volumes of dried herbs because of existing or reabsorbed humidity. 3. When harvesting mint ... we have two full harvests per summer by cutting the mint back 2/3 when it is about a foot+ tall. After a cool spring, we are just starting the first harvest of a big Peppermint patch that wants to grow along the banks of the irrigation canal. My friend spread the first cutting on a sheet on her sunny deck & folded the cloth over for shade. We will see if that works in our dry climate - or if the cover slows the drying. The next cutting will be spread on a sheet indoors & i am looking forward to the aroma!  :-) 4. When harvesting basil, cilantro & other herbs ... you should cut what your plant can spare & still look nice - or harvest ~ 2/3 if it's early enough to expect a second-growth harvest. 5. Maximum flavor ... probably results from harvesting early in the day, as soon as the dew is off the herbs. But i don't recall being picky about time of day & the preserved flavors have always been very rewarding. Update: Folding a sheet over herbs for shade in the sun does not work - they need more air movement, even though plenty hot. Drying herbs on a sheet indoors is working normally, even though this floor is carpet rather than tile. Just the refreshing aroma would make a small herb-drying project worthwhile.
I dry all my herbs etc in large paper bags in the house - nettle, epazote, mint, oregano etc.  Fill about 1/4 the 1/2 full, depending on leaf thickness, lay it on it's side leaving top just loosely closed.  Shake bag and turn over a few times a day, dry until crumbly and store in darkness.
I've used the dehydrator once in a while when it's running on low heat for something else, such as red clover blossoms, but I've had great luck just stuffing them in a paper bag, folding the top over, and putting them in our (dry) basement.  This has worked well for mint, oregano, basil, nettles and sage so far...  With some herbs, such as oregano, that come in from the garden pretty dirty, I will rinse it off first, let it air-dry on the dish rack, and then put it into the paper bag when it's no longer wet.  It seems to work.  Any dark space will work, from basement to attic, as long as it's dry and dark with good airflow. 
I never I use herbicides for plants. It's not environmentally friendly and does not protect nature. I prefer to remove them from the hand, and my plants are doing well
I typically dry basil and mint by 1st bunching some branches together. I take a string approximately 18" long and tie it into a loop. I slide the loop into the stem end of the bunch of herbs. I then wrap an elastic band around the very end of the stems making sure the string is toward the leaf side of the elastic band. I hang the bunch by the string leaves down. The elastic band tightens on bunch as the stems dry so it holds the bunch together as the stems shrink. It takes a couple of weeks for the bunch to dry all the way. P.S. My grandmother nukes mint to dry it. It works really well, but I'm not a big fan of the microwave.
I have not used this technique yet, but I have read in other posts that you could use your attic for drying herbs. Usually they are vented, and you have shade. Another place one often forgets about is utilizing your car which turns into an oven when sitting in the sun. Just make sure you keep the windows open at least part way for some air circulation. I have used both window screens and paper bags for drying herbs with success.
How do you all use nettle? I have it taking over my 2 acres! It would be nice to be able to do something with it other than fight with it.. it seems indestructible.
Here is my previous post under Herb group Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) builds energy, strengthens the adrenals, and is said to restore youthful flexibility to blood vessels. A cup of nettle infusion contains 500 milligrams of calcium plus generous amounts of bone-building magnesium, potassium, silicon, boron, and zinc. It is also an excellent source of vitamins A, D, E, and K. For flexible bones, a healthy heart, thick hair, beautiful skin, and lots of energy, make friends with sister stinging nettle. It may make you feel so good you'll jump up and exercise.  I dry mine by stripping the leaves (wear gloves!!) and filling a large paper bag about half ful , closing the top loosely and shaking the bag a few times a day until leaves are crispy.  The won't sting after that so I crumble them and place in a container in the dark.  I add to soups, beans, stews, all for nutrients of "greens" in the winter.  They also make a nutrient (fresh) for plants by filling a bucket , then adding water fo fill, soak for 24 hours and apply to leaves or soil.  If you have comfrey and mugwort to add with the nettles even more nutrients are available and the mugwort aids in pest protection.  You sure don't need 2 acres of them but I think chickens eat them and wow, what great nutritious eggs you would have!
Great Nettle info, Maxine! This adds some key points to my files! While researching, I read that in England, owners of fine horses add Nettles to their diet to make their coats very shiny! I wonder if that means fresh or wilted Nettles? or dried Nettles crumbled into their oats? I also wonder what quantity it takes to make a difference in horse-coats! A lot? Would the main shiny nutrient be silicon?  SharG, what is your ~climate zone?  Is it warmer or colder than England? Here in the zone 4 mountains of central Idaho, our Nettle patches are usually limited to roadside/fencelines. I will check out the one spreading-complaint I've heard & report back - on a lovely well-kept farm ... But I think you are right to intuit that you could have a valuable harvest crop. What kinds of commercial or co-oop outlets do you have in your region? Any high-end horse farms?
I am in San Diego and we have it growing prolifically and is a real nuisance in areas where you don't want it. We have LOTS of high end horse ranches and training facilities in San Diego. My horses avoid it while they graze so I'll have to do some research into its benefits to them. I was under the impression that it was hard on their kidneys. I'll check with my vet. Thanks for the info.
Thank you Maxine..I have just a small problem. I have lymphoma, and in my geographic area we do not have Stinging Nettles. If anyone has a solution...I am open to it. I am very aware of that plant I grew up in MI. we have plenty of them up there. LOL
Plants may be available but since nettle grows in a temperate climate it probably would not do well in Florida.  My trusted source for bulk herbs is Mountain Rose Herbs and they have dried nettle leaves for $9.50 a pound which isn't too bad.  I don't know what qualities it has to suggest it might be helpful to you but it is an excellent tonic and purifier of the bodily systems.
Wow! Thanks for the great info, Maxine. I feel like going out and grazing! haha My horses do not eat it fresh and I was under the impression that it was dangerous for horses' kidneys but another post here mentions that they feed it to them in the UK. I'll have to start viewing it as more valuable. Do you know how to propagate Stevia? I have grown it but it died out during the winter and I learned yesterday that it does not like any cold weather and should be protected during the winter... though we have mild winters here in San Diego. I'd like to learn how to propagate from the plant I bought yesterday. My grower would not divulge her secrets. Thanks, again.
If you need any help using it, I would be glad to oblige! My nettle mysteriously disappeared last year- the whole patch- along with daffodils, golden seal and black cohosh. Found one plant growing yesterday and quickly dug it and moved it back to my home space, where I can keep an eye on it. Hoping the nettle bed will have increased from the seeds Maxine send me a few years back! Does anyone have experience with deer eating nettle? Happy gardening! Susan
If you don't have nettles growing in your area, count yourself lucky when weeding :) You can buy them - try your local health food store.  If they don't have it, they'd probably be happy to order it for you, or you can buy dried nettles online:  http://www.google.com/products/catalog?q=nettle+tea&hl=en&safe=active&prmd=imvns&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.,cf.osb&biw=1537&bih=846&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=16628130219154030467&sa=X&ei=26wJT4mUG8i42QXs2-iSAg&ved=0CK8BEPMCMAE   Or, you could try to plant them:  http://www.johnnyseeds.com/p-6898-stinging-nettle.aspx
Thank you so much Merryj! I am very familiar with stinging nettles...not sure I want to grow them. But I sure appreciate your prompt feed-back. I love this site and i have gained quite a bit of knowledge in 1 day+ that I have been a member.
These tender, annual herbs don't dry well. Their essential character is lost if they are dried, unlike perennial woody herbs such as rosemary, lavender or thyme, whose tough leaves have natural oils which retain the scent of the plant. Cilantro and basil are best used fresh, of course, but if you have a bumper crop, you can try freezing them or making them into something else--like pesto or chutney--which allows the true scent and flavor of the herb to be preserved, frequently under oil.
Super easy to dry basil, tarragon, oregano, etc. - spread over a cookie sheet and bake on the lowest temperature your oven has for 8-10 minutes. let cool and voila - done. much faster than dehydrator and same taste.

 

 

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