How to Dry Herbs and Store Them for the Winter

In case you missed last week's surprise snowstorm (Dreaming of a White Halloween?), you probably still have plants in the garden that you'll want to use before winter's first frost. Don't let them go bad! Instead of wasting money on fresh herbs that have been shipped in during the winter season, you can follow these tips for storing herbs by drying or freezing them.

Lavender
Lavender | Source
A bundle of fresh thyme ready to dry
A bundle of fresh thyme ready to dry | Source

Hang them upside down and let them air dry.

This method takes a bit longer, but it is the best for retaining the flavor and essential oils of your herbs.

1) Wash your herbs and pat them dry with paper towels. Spread them out on a flat surface and let them dry for another hour or two.

2) Tie them into small bunches and hang them upside down in a dark, dry place that is warm and well-ventilated. This is difficult for many homeowners to do because they may not have the space. This method may not work in very humid areas.

3) This will take 2 weeks to a month. You'll know that the herbs are ready when they crumble easily. Store the herbs in mason jars, spice jars, or zip lock plastic bags.

Insider's Tip: Flowers

Use these methods for flowers, too. Many flowers, like rose petals, can be a lovely addition to sauces and other foods after they've been dried out. They also make nice decorations, and look better than fake flowers.

Dried Roses and Rose Petals
Dried Roses and Rose Petals | Source
Blooming Rosemary
Blooming Rosemary | Source

Dry them with a microwave.

1) Wash the herbs well, pat them dry with paper towels, and spread them out on a flat surface to dry for about an hour. Make sure that all of the external moisture is gone.

2) Arrange the herbs in a single layer on a paper towel and cover them with another paper towel.

3) Put them in the microwave and cook them for 2 minutes. Turn the paper towel and cook the herbs for another minute. Continue microwaving the herbs, stopping every twenty or thirty seconds to check that they are done.

4) Keep the herbs in a sealed zip lock bag that has no extra air in it.

Fresh mint plant
Fresh mint plant | Source

Dry them in the oven.

1) Preheat the oven to 175° F (80° C)

2) Spread the herbs out on a cookie sheet in a single layer

3) Put the herbs in the oven for 4 hours. Leave the oven door cracked so the moisture escapes.

4) Store the herbs in sealed zip lock bags, plastic containers, spice jars, or mason jars.

Obviously, this method is not optimal for saving energy.


Insider's Tip: Moisture

When you store the dried herbs in their sealed containers, make sure there is no moisture in them at all. This will cause mold to grow.

A perfect red rose
A perfect red rose | Source

Freeze your herbs for storage.

While the herbs are still fresh, wash them, chop them up and divide them into ice cube trays. Fill the ice cube trays with water, and pop in the freezer. Whenever you need fresh herbs, pop out a few cubes and voila-- just like new!

These can also be fancy ice cubes to serve with cocktails (fresh mint mojito with minty ice?), iced tea, or lemon. Use this method to store flowers for added elegance in your drink.

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Comments 19 comments

InTuneWithCooking profile image

InTuneWithCooking 5 years ago from Australia

Fantastic! I love the freezer tip. I will definitely be doing that one, it's coming up summer here and a nice cocktail in the shade is most needed in the hot Aussie summertime. Voted up and useful :)


debbie roberts profile image

debbie roberts 5 years ago from Greece

I have one healthy parsley plant left after a long dry summer. Which I had planned to cut back and freeze before the winter gets hold of it...But I may try drying it, didn't cross my mind before reading your hub. Great stuff and all before I've finished my morning coffee. Handy hub.


carriethomson profile image

carriethomson 5 years ago from United Kingdom

what a great idea!! going to pass this on to my mother!! shell definitely love this!! shes a great cook and loves using all the spices while cooking.

carrie


SanneL profile image

SanneL 5 years ago from Sweden

I dry or freeze my fresh herbs all the time. It's great to be able to use them all year long in my cooking. Thanks for a very useful and interesting hub!

Sannel


brandasaur profile image

brandasaur 5 years ago from Planet X

Great! There's a lotta herbs in our Garden right now. This hub helped me. Now I have something to do with those. Thanks for sharing. :)


Julz09 profile image

Julz09 5 years ago

Excellent! Well worth the read.


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 5 years ago from Indiana

Thanks for these tips - I've always wondered how well might work freezing them.


bell du jour profile image

bell du jour 5 years ago from Ireland

Very nice hub, thanks for the tips. Voted up and useful:-)

Bell


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

This was great hub from you. I love your tips. But unfortunately there's no winter in my country. Thanks for writing and share with us. Well done and vote up!

Prasetio


Cresentmoon2007 profile image

Cresentmoon2007 5 years ago from Caledonia, MI

Great information. It was a wonderful read. Voted up.


stephaniedas profile image

stephaniedas 5 years ago from Miami, US Author

@InTuneWithCooking- First of all, thanks for visiting my hubs, I will be over to check yours out shortly. Also, I wasn't thinking of our Australian hubbers when I wrote this! Of course, you can keep this hub stored til summer ends. And I'm sure you could come up with some fancy cocktail that would go nice with a cold drink this summer. I like to make lemon balm ice to put in lemonade.

@debbieroberts- when you freeze your plant, do you just pop it in the freezer, or do you use a special method? I am interested because I want to know all sorts of ways to preserve herbs through the winter. Maybe you'll like drying it more. Each method has it's ups and downs, though freezing it generally keeps more of the flavor. Thanks for commenting!

@carriethompson- Does your mother have her own garden? My grandmother passed these tips on to me, and she doesn't have a garden, but all of her children and grandchildren give her plants from our gardens! If she loves cooking, I'm sure she'll appreciate these tips. Thanks for commenting!

@Sannel- I'm glad that an experienced herb preserver agrees with my tips! Thanks for the comment.

@brandasaur- I'm glad you found this helpful :) Thank you for the comment. Good luck!

@julz- Thanks for commenting!

@Krisheeter- I'm not sure how freezing them with other methods works, but the ice cube tray method works really well. The herbs are like new when you take them out. I appreciate the comment :)

@bell du jour- Thank you for the vote and the comment, I really appreciate it.

@Prasetio- Thank you for commenting and voting, I'm glad you enjoyed it! But why do you say "unfortunately there is no winter"?? You should say, "Fortunately, we have fresh herbs all year round!" You are lucky to live in a climate like that. Here, we import our produce in the winter and it never tastes as good as it should.

@cresentmoon- Thank you for commenting and voting!


dinkan53 profile image

dinkan53 5 years ago from India

Herbs are magic things which can change simplest meal into something special and brimming with health because herbs are a potent source of healthy and complex ingredients. What we do is just fold them in newspaper and leave them out in sunlight for about a week. thanks for these tips.


debbie roberts profile image

debbie roberts 5 years ago from Greece

Hi, when I freeze herbs I wash them, lay them on kitchen paper and blot them dryish, then roll them up in a dry piece of kitchen paper. Pop them into a plastic bag, suck out the air and pop them in the freezer. Then when I want some I just break off what I need. It works, I'm a great fan of fresh basil and usually have ten or so plants in the summer. It would be nice to try to dry some for the winter next year.


icciev profile image

icciev 5 years ago from Kuwait

thanks my friend for this well written and easy instructions to follow and use, thanks for sharing and voted up.


stephaniedas profile image

stephaniedas 5 years ago from Miami, US Author

@dinkan- The idea to wrap them in newspaper is another great tip! Thank you for sharing that with me. Do you mind if I include that in a hub in the future? I agree with you...herbs are magical!

@debbie roberts- By kitchen paper, do you mean regular old parchment paper? Or paper towels? That is a good idea, looks more convenient than the ice cubes. I'm going to do some comparison over the next few weeks to see which of these methods is best. Thank you for the tip and the comment.

@icciev- no problem, I am always happy to write hubs about food! Thank you for the support!


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 5 years ago from The Beautiful South

I cut a lot of my rosemary and washed and dried it and spread on a pan til I found out what to do next and by the time I remembered them they were perfect! I just crushed them up and bottled them.


stephaniedas profile image

stephaniedas 5 years ago from Miami, US Author

@Jackie Lynnley- You mean they just dried up on their own? Can I ask what kind of climate you live in? I live in a valley on the Maryland coast...it is far too humid here for that to happen! I've had bad luck air-drying herbs and flowers because the moisture never leaves them. They tend to get brown and mushy, unfortunately. Thank you for the input :)


formosangirl profile image

formosangirl 5 years ago from Los Angeles

Good hub. Fortunately, I have a dehydrator. My mint and thyme grow like week. I will have a project coming up. Thanks for sharing.


stephaniedas profile image

stephaniedas 5 years ago from Miami, US Author

@formosangirl- I need to buy a dehydrator! I know people who make all sorts of good stuff with it, and yes, it would be an easy way to store these herbs! Thanks for commenting and checking out my hubs!

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