Hanging Herbs

Hanging Methods

Growing and drying herbs is one of the most satisfying activities a gardener can do.  Herbs are easy to grow, and they require so little effort to preserve compared to canning and other types of food preservation.  Herbs are essential to the art of cooking and enjoyment of eating.  If you grow your own herbs you can save money and the quality should be better than store bought if dried and stored correctly.   

I’ve come up with several ways to hang my herbs inside my house in a spot that seems to dry them fast while still retaining a strong flavor.  They hang above my south window, and even though it’s quite light in my back entry, they don’t get direct light because they are up higher, close to the ceiling.  I’ve found that the herbs hold their aroma wonderfully as long as I follow some basic rules.  In this post I mainly want to show the different methods I use for hanging.   When it comes to rules and instructions for growing, harvesting, drying and using herbs in a variety of ways, there are plenty of wonderful books out there, and many a good website with the instructions you would need.   Below are a few that I’ve found online that I like:         

http://extension.oregonstate.edu/fch/sites/default/files/documents/sp50921_drying_herbs2009.pdf           

http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/how/dry/herbs.html           

http://www.herbal-howto-guide.com/drying-herbs.html           

http://herbgardens.about.com/od/indoorgardenbasics/a/GrowingIndoors.htm         

 http://www.veganpeace.com/recipe_pages/herbs/dryingherbs.htm          

Hanging High

For the best results, herbs should be picked before they bud out completely, yet they are the most aromatic when beginning to bud because they contain the most oil at that point.  That is what I’ve read, and my own experience seems to confirm that.  When I’m ready to pick my herbs, I get out in the morning while it’s still cool.  If the herbs are clean, I’ll just hang them up immediately in small bunches to dry.  I leave plenty of air space between sprigs of herbs.  If the herbs are dirty, a quick rinse under the faucet doesn’t seem to hurt.  Tarragon, thyme, oregano, and marjoram have a tendency to gather quite a bit of dirt and debris out in my herb garden, so sometimes I have to rinse them off a bit and give them a good shake before hanging.  I haven’t tried hanging basil yet, but I did dry basil leaves out in my dehydrator and got great results.  The dehydrator works well with parsley and chives as well.  That will be a later post.  Rosemary is probably the easiest herb to process.  When the sprigs are all dried out the thin hard needles are easy to strip from the twig.  Then you can chop them up finer in a blender.   Or, to preserve flavor, keep the herbs unground and chop or grind as needed when cooking.       

Budding Marjoram & Oregano

 Even though fresh herbs may be considered superior to dried, many herb plants don’t make it through the winter when they’re outside, and those that do can be in very bad shape, so it’s good to always have the dried varieties on hand.  If you’re like me you don’t always want to have to go out into the garden to pick fresh herbs in the cold, wet winter anyway.  I’ve found that some dried herbs add more flavor to certain dishes anyway.  Also, if you have too much dried herbs left over, they make great gifts.  You don’t want to store your dried herbs longer than a year, anyway, and do not place them above the stove under the overhead lighting even for a couple weeks.  That is a sure way to destroy the flavor and color of your herbs quickly.  I keep mine on a bottom shelf in a darker area of my kitchen to preserve their flavor and color.  Of course the dark cupboard would be best if you have the room.   I throw my old herbs out the next year when I’ve got fresh ones to replace them.      

I hope these photos give a clear picture of my method for hanging.  In my next post I’ll write about my experience with the actual processing of the herbs from my garden.          

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