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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.