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Herb & Spices Drying Tips

New Techniques For Preparing Herbs

Drying Herbs - Tips For Lake Kiowa Gardners

All you gardners out there should have your pre-fertilizers complete, and hopefully you have started looking for the next round of beautiful tender plants, herbs and spices you will be growing this fall. Pay particular attention to the plants to see they are well branched, full, and a lovely green color. And, remember to continue to fertilize with appropriate kinds of fertilizer for a more robust harvest this year.

Many of our residents here at Lake Kiowa already have beautiful gardens. Most of these families have fabulous cooks that are also growing herbs and spices, then drying them to have all year long for those special meals. We  have events with options to sell your products at any of the booths that support many of our organizations here at Lake Kiowa if you have an overstock of products and so desire.

If you are interested in starting to grow herbs and spices, or have never dried them before, please take note, and yes take notes, while we challenge you to do your thing. Drying herbs is a great way to preserve them to use in your recipes into the fall and winter months.

For many of us who do not garden; store purchases are great options for purchases of herbs and spices are both fresh and dried. The selections are varied and have in recent years been stocked in most leading grocery stores. If you just want to grow your own, save some money, and have huge quality product, you will only have a one-time expense, with a fresh homegrown supply of herbs year after year. Also be aware that most store bought herbs also have been irradiated, similar to the pasteurization process done with milk. This means that they are exposed to gamma radiation in order to destroy possible microbes or pathogens, also killing a lot of the nutrient content and vitamins. Drying your own herbs is not only inexpensive, but you also preserve the quality of the herb.

Now, if you don’t have much of a green thumb, you can often find fresh organic herbs at the farmer’s market. With a little bit of work and time you will have a good quality, organic herb, bottled and ready for year round cooking. There are options in North Texas for those purchases. You may also want to learn about your neighbors out here who do grow and maybe work out a deal with them.

Tips On Drying Your Own Herbs:

  1. Be sure to pick them early: Remember to pick your herbs prior to overgrowth and flowering. Plants will continue growing throughout the season and prevent them from getting too leggy and overgrown, harvest and cut the plants back, leaving a few inches of stem on. Try harvesting your herbs in the morning, after the dew has evaporated, but before the afternoon Sun has drained color and flavor. If drying will happen later, you can store them in jars of water, just as you would fresh flowers. Try to not harvest your herbs too late in the growing season after the Sun has started to dry and wilt them. It is best to harvest them while they are plentiful and lush. Sage, parsley, rosemary, and thyme grow well into the fall. That means that you will be able to use these fresh until the first frost comes and still before they need to be harvested and dried.
  2. Be sure to wash the stems completely: In growth if you keep them free of dirt you can gently shake them to remove any residual dirt or dust. If you choose to wash your herbs, carefully swish them in a bowl of cool water or you can gently pat them dry with a towel or allow them to air dry on a cooling rack. Make sure you remove any leaves that are discolored or spotted.
  3. The drying process: Herbs that have a lower moisture content such as thyme, rosemary, oregano, and sage can be air-dried. To air dry, simply divide your herbs in small batches (about 3-6 branches) and bind them together at the sturdiest bottom stems and the main stem. You can use light twine, twist ties, or tender rubber bands for kids work well for binding. If you use string to tie, be sure toleave a good length of string at the end to use for hanging. Hang the stems upside down in a dry, dark place with some air circulation; and not in the sun. Sunlight will reduce the color and flavor. A well-ventilated garage, attic or basement will work. If you have no place to hang them, you can also lay your herbs on a screen to dry. Be sure to check on them frequesntly and not allow moldy leaves, or pests to gather. Air-dried herbs should be ready in a few weeks, or when they become brittle.
  4. Storing your herbs: Once herbs are dried and crisp they are ready to be stored. Remove the dry leaves from the stems and store them in a small airtight container. You can store whole leaves or crush them between your fingers before storing. Old spice bottles, Mason jars, or even plastic baggies work really well for storage. Be sure to label your herbs as many look similar when they are dried. To keep your herbs fresher longer, store them in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and away from steam.

Now, you are ready to begin your fall project in growing and drying herbs and spices. Enhancing your family favorites, or trying brand new recipes using these fresh and dried herbs will be a delight. Both for you cooking and for friends and family tasting your wonderful cooking. Enjoy the fall season.

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