fresh herbs, dried

In an ideal world I’d grow the herbs I need and they’d be available year-round. Reality means I kill indoor plants no matter the watering tricks I utilize. I therefore buy fresh herbs at the store and always have leftover. What’s the solution? I dry them and refill my dried spice containers for a budget bonus!

how I store fresh herbs

It depends on the herb, but primarily I take them out of any plastic, wrap them in a damp paper towel, and put them in the crisper. Most last about a week. Some people say to snip the stems of and put them in a glass of water. That’s never worked for me, I’m not sure why. Perhaps I should reread On Food and Cooking, apparently McGee has information about storage that I’ve forgotten.

img of fresh tarragon on paper towel and store bought container of tarragon

how I dry herbs in the oven

I try to time the herb drying for when I’ve used the oven for dinner and then I use the residual heat to dry the herbs.

Once upon a time I used a dehydrator. I still have it, but it’s big and annoying and is gathering dust in the basement. I’ve found that the oven works very well and it’s one less appliance I need to maintain, clean, or store.

If I buy the herbs in a store, I wash and blot them dry. If they’re from my garden, that step is optional as I know where they’ve been.

I then lay them out on a baking sheet in one loose layer. It’s easier if you line it with parchment paper or foil, but sometimes I forget (like tonight).

After I take dinner out of the oven, I turn the oven off and put the herbs in while it cools off. Most tutorials I’ve read say you should prop the door open but I never have. Every 15 to 30 minutes I try to remember to stir them so they dry evenly.

Generally by the time the oven has cooled off, the herbs are dry! If they aren’t, I turn my oven to a special setting “warm” and I continue to check them until they’re dry. If your oven doesn’t have that setting, then I’d suggest setting it as low as you can.

how I store dried herbs

After they’re dry I then scrape them off the stem and into a container. Yes, you could do this step first, but I never remember to.

I often reuse the original store-bought container. It’s already labeled! Sometimes I have more than my containers can hold and I reuse whatever I can, from tupperware, to glass jars. Whatever I have available.

In my experience it makes a mess so I try to do it over a baking sheet so it’s easier to clean up.

img of reusing storebought container for tarragon with hand adding leaves. container is on a baking sheet strewn with tarragon leaves