Well, it is finally here. The temperature has begun to drop, school has started again and the PSL is back at Starbucks. Ladies and gentleman, it is officially fall. Fall is definitely my favorite season, I can finally wear the 97% of my wardrobe I haven't been able to all summer and all the best candles come out at Bath & Body Works. However, there is definitely one aspect of fall that I don't like and that is that my garden starts to die.
As an avid cook, I love having fresh ingredients to add to my meals. When I was a kid, we had a small garden in our backyard that was full of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and herbs. I always remember the best days were when we could pick juicy fresh tomatoes right off the plant as a snack.
Now that I live in a small apartment in the city, I try to grow a collection of herbs on my balcony so that I can still have fresh ingredients to incorporate into my cooking. This summer I had mint, tarragon, and basil. Sadly, as the summer has come and gone, my herbs are starting to die. Instead of letting them go to waste, I decided to dry them so that I can keep using them through the colder months.
You might be thinking: "Drying herbs? that sounds difficult and time-consuming". Well, I am here to tell you that is is actually really easy and totally worth it because freshly dried herbs taste so much better than store-bought ones.
Here is how you can dry your own herbs right at home in 5 easy steps! I will be demonstrating with my tarragon plant but the same process applies to dry most herbs.
Fresh Herb Plants
Step 1: First off you need to harvest your herbs. For the best results, you should do this before the plant flowers. To harvest your herbs cut off large branches of similar length. Don't cut more than 1/3 of the plant's branches unless you plan on discarding it afterward.
Step 2: Bring your cuttings inside and lightly shake them out for bugs/soil. Then run them under cold water and pat them off with a paper towel. Remove any rotting or yellow leaves from the plant as they will not have a very nice flavor.
Step 3: Bundle your branches together and wrap an elastic band around the very bottom of your bundle to hold them together. Now, take a piece of string about 1/2 a foot long and attach it to your elastic band.
Step 4: Find a cool, dry place with good air circulation where you can hang your plants to dry. I hung mine on the railing of my staircase but basically anywhere will do. Just make sure that you are not leaving the herbs to dry somewhere damp as they will mold and rot.
Step 5: Now all you have to do is wait! Depending on how leafy your plant was, drying can take anywhere from 2 days to 3 weeks. You will know when your herb is dry because it will be shriveled and dark and it will fall apart when you try to touch the leaves.
Storage: To store the herbs, remove the leaves from the stem and store them in an airtight container like a small jar or plastic bag. When you want to use the herbs just take some out and crush them into your meal for added flavor and complexity.