Don't let your garden go to waste! Here's how to dry your herbs for money-saving eating all winter long

September 19 |

If you've been growing herbs 'round your place, now's a really good time to start drying them so you'll have fresher herbs all winter long. Save them now, before their herby oils begin leeching out (though if you dawdle for a few weeks, you'll be okay too — as long as you get to them before frost hits.) When dried or frozen correctly, you'll have herbs for a very long time — to use for cooking, tinctures, or magickal rites. It is so, so easy. Here's what I did to save my herbs — cilantro, sage, oregano, chives, and more.

Start with dry herbs — i.e., not dew-covered ones. Leafy herbs like basil should be frozen, and sticky, drier herbs can be hung and dried. In my experience, if you aren't sure which is right is just pick as best you can and you'll probably be fine.

Cut each herb as close to the base as possible. For the herbs you plan to hang and dry, this is especially important because you must strip some of the stem so that you may bundle it with other herbs and tie them off.

I cut my samples of each herb: chives (above), oregano, rosemary, peppermint, lavender, and sage. Some I set aside for drying. Some I laid into single layers in freezer bags, and those were done.

For the herbs-to-be-dried, cut holes in the sides of paper bags, to allow circulation.

Insert bundles of stems, and tie off the bags. I packed the Ziplock bags away in the freezer and hung the paper bags in the corner of my studio. It's important for the bagged herbs to have an airy, dry room with some circulation. The bags keep the herbs dark and potent.

After two weeks, your herbs are sufficiently dried and can be stored more permanently. I still have herbs from last winter — when stored properly, they're good for it.

This whole process took me 30 minutes exactly, and that was with a bunch of running back and forth from the kitchen to the garden with forgotten supplies. Herb gardens are so easy to grow — and can cut down on your grocery bill in a huge way.

  1. Between clipping/drying herbs and attempting to keep potted herbs active indoors all winter, which would you recommend?

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    • Well. There's no doubt fresher herbs are better — but me, personally? I can grow things like MAD — if they're outside. I have yet to be terribly successful with indoor plants, though I'm hoping Derek Powazek's advice will be helpful this winter.

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  2. Most times, we'll cut up the leaves ahead of time and just place them in a bowl on the table to dry. It doesn't take long. I recommend cutting up the chives first anyway, as mine always dried better.

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  3. My mother taught me to snip fresh herbs into special ice cube trays (read separate from the ones you use for ice). Then you can drop them into any dish you want fresh herbs and it won't matter if there's a little water. You can also mix your herbs in the trays and make "Italian" ones etc.

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