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Dried Herbs for Soapmaking
Do you have an herb garden? Perhaps you love to wander through fields and forest to wildcraft. Did you know that you could use all of those plants you are gathering for making soap? Yes, you can!
Gathering Herbs for Drying
When you are cutting or picking the herbs you want to use, choose the best. Those that are free of spots (which can indicate plant disease), withering, and insect holes. For your drying, you'll want the very best herbs.
The quality of the plants you choose will come through in your final soap. Each herb has different properties that will shine through in your soap. Certain properties will not survive the drying process, depending on which method you use to dry the herb. Volatile oils are destroyed by high heat, so avoid using the oven method or high heat dehydrators for more delicate plants.
This is one of the fastest ways to dry a plant. Place your herbs on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Heat to 200 degrees (F). Put the herbs into the oven and allow to sit for 20 to 30 minutes, then turn the oven off. Check the herbs periodically during the process, as some will dry faster than others. When they feel 'crispy', the herbs are dry enough. Do not allow to become brown! If the herbs turn brown, they’re scorched. The burn smell will ruin the finished product. If you are worried about burning your herbs, turn your oven to the 'warm' setting until you are more comfortable in the drying process.
Commercial dehydrators are safer for drying herbs than the oven method. The heat is low and controlled, along with providing plenty of air circulation. Loosely layer the herbs on the dehydrator trays, then plug in or turn on the machine. It can take several hours to overnight for the herbs to dry. As with the oven method, a 'crispy' feel indicates the herbs are dry enough.
Old Fashioned Drying
This is my personal favorite. After you've found all of your herbs, tie them together at the bottom of their stems, then hang in a dry area. You can hang your herbs in an attic, in your kitchen, or even on your front porch if there is no rain. If you live in an area with high humidity, hang your herbs indoors. Keep an eye out for mold!
It takes a few days for the herbs to dry, but this method preserves the most natural oils and fragrance from the herbs.
My Favorite Commercial Soap
Saving Your Herbs
Once your herbs are dry, pack them loosely in an airtight container. You can place a moisture absorber inside the container, I've used the ones found in vitamin bottles. Don't crush your herbs until you are ready to use them. Whole flowers can be gorgeous in soap!
Don't despair if you don't have herbs growing around your home. You can use herbs and spices from the grocery store, whether they are already dry or not. For fresh herbs, just follow the same steps above. You'll be adding your own herbs to your homemade soaps in no time!