A Lesson in Herbs
Written by Laura Bissessar.
Herbs are the first thing you grow as an adult who's finally confident enough that they might not kill their potted friend. And maybe that adult will make use of the delicious, fresh herbs to level up their culinary game. But what do you do when you realize that the mint in your garden has absolutely no chill whatsoever and you cant exactly makes mountains of pesto with it?
You dry it, of course!
And with those dried herbs you can refill your empty, $7, half-ounce container of organic dried oregano. Or you can store the herbs in big batches, purchase a handy device that steeps tea, and make your favorite chamomile and spearmint herbal infusions all day long, or whatever... there are lots of options when it comes to infusions.
So here's my preferred way of drying and storing my herbs. It's rather simple, and you'll inevitably start to count all of the dollars you're saving by not paying bank for a handful of tasty leaves from the grocery store.
Note - there are a few ways to dry herbs. It all depends on your living space and resources. This is my method based on having the space to hang herbs and having an obscene amount of twine leftover from an old craft project.
Step 1: Gander and gather
Admire your beautiful bounty. Do some quick research to determine the best way to cut down your specific plant to ensure that it regrows. Unless your intention is total annihilation. That works too.
Step 2: Rinse and Dry
Unless you want dirt that's forever stuck on your dried herbs, rinse your plants. Spread them out on whatever surface you see fit, and allow the herbs to dry completely.
Option 1 - Herbs That Can't Hang
Not because they're not chill enough, but some herbs, like oregano, are too stringy and intertwined to try and string up to dry. So, once they're air-dried from rinsing, spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or paper towels and store them in a cool, dry place. In my case, it's inside a repurposed Ikea closet that we use as a storage space.
Option 2 - Herbs with Hearty Stems
This part is fun for me. I love the look of herbs hanging from the ceiling, creating a floating forest in my workspace. I pretend that they're creating magic as they softly sway back and forth from the strength of the A/C vent. And by pretend, I mean believe.
Get a firm, heavy string to tie your herbs. I wasn't kidding when I said I had an obscene amount of leftover twine, so that's what I use, and it works pretty well! When bunching herbs, grab whole stems and bunch together enough stems to tie together, while also making sure that the bunch is not too tight, thus ensuring that air can flow through your bunch. Otherwise you'll end up with leaves that don't dry and may even spoil. Secure the string firmly around your bunches (with a knot, bow, or some kind of sailor's trickery) and find a well-vented spot in your living space that does not get any direct sunlight to essentially store your herbs while they dry. Hang your string o' herbs by the method of your choice and enjoy their scent and high-bohemian factor for a few weeks.
Warning - I chose to hang some of my herbs from an A/C vent. Now, I don't actually know whether this is structurally sound, but it works in my case. I recommend that you choose a place that you absolutely know is secure and safe to bare even the smallest amounts of weight.
Drying time will depend on how much moisture is in the air and on the delicacy of your herbs, so check your herbs every couple of days to inspect for anything that looks like anything but drying flora (ex: funky smells, unusual growths). In 1-2 weeks, you should have leaves that are crunchy and crispy to the touch! They should also come off of the stem with ease.
Step 4: Remove and Store
Using your forever-washed hands, remove the herbs from their drying area and pull the leaves from the stems. I do this part over a large bowl because crispy, falling-apart leaves can get messy.
Once everyone is in the bowl, use your fingers to break the leaves apart into smaller pieces. The final size is up to you. I prefer smaller pieces if I plan to use the herbs for infusions, but I'm less picky about strictly culinary herbs.
Store the herbs in an air-tight container. Dry, dark environments are the best place for them to reside. And label those suckers! Sure, you can rely on your sense of smell, but why?
That's it! I hope this was an easy tutorial on how to make the most of your herbal friends. But if this seems like too much of a hassle, remember, sharing is caring!
All photos and content are original by Laura Bissessar.
Please do not use without my written consent. Or I will find you. Thank you!