Homegrown, Homemade Dried Herbs
A lot of people in the US have taken to growing fresh herbs in the summer but very few of them dry their herbs for use later in the year. Instead they buy packed products sold by spice and herb companies that charge an arm and a leg for these dried herbs. Often these packaged dried herbs like oregano, basil, or thyme are so old that they have a very faint flavor effect when they are used in a dish.
Like a lot of my friends, I too grow my own fresh herbs every summer. This year I planted basil, Thai basil, thyme, rosemary, mint, apple mint, sage, chives, dill, oregano, lemongrass, lemon verbena and lemon balm. But when the cold starts to set in the fall and the herb plants start to die out, I cut the plants down and I dry the herbs by hanging them in a cool part of the house and then use the dried herbs during the rest of the year (when fresh herbs are in short supply at the supermarket or are too expensive). I find that these homegrown herbs are very flavorful and I use them in a lot of my dishes. I also use dried lemon verbena and lemongrass to make my own teas. The combination of green tea with these two herbs is excellent. Dried Mint makes for great Raita or also Pudina Parantha (the unleavened Indian flat bread).
Directions for Drying Herbs:
1. Chop all the fresh herbs plants from the very base of each plant.
2. Wash the bunches of herbs under a stream of cold water.
3. Using kitchen towels or paper towels dry the herbs as much as you can.
4. Spread them out on a kitchen counter or a table where there is good air flow. You can also use a fan to air bunches out.
5. When the moisture (from the washing process) seems to have dried out, tie the bunches with a kitchen twine at the base of the bunch.
6. Hang the tied herbs in an upside position from the ceiling in a cool dark place of the house.
7. Let the herbs hang there for 2-3 weeks or until the leaves seem completely dry.
8. Remove the herbs from hanging position and remove the twine. Place the herbs on a large piece of paper and gently remove the hard stems from the leafy part of the herbs.
9. Discard the stems and crumble the leaves with your hands.
10. Store the crumbled leaves in a jar or container that can be sealed tightly. These herbs retain their flavor for at least a year or two and can be used in cooking or for making tea or even a potpourri.