Drying Herbs and flowers
Here in Santa Barbara gardens grow year round. Not everything blooms all at once, though, and I like to rotate what I grow, so I always take the time to preserve as many flowers and herbs as I can. This ensures I'll have what I need for my teas, tinctures, oxymels and oils all year long.
When it comes to drying herbs, you will want to keep in mind that direct sunlight and an environment that is too hot will make for herbs which are not brightly colored, and much less potent. There are two ways I dry my herbs. One is by using a plug-in dehydrator such as this to dry my herbs in trays. I use the lowest setting on our dehydrator, which is 95°, but as long as you keep the gauge under 110° your herbs should retain most of their nutrients.
Another method I use to dry my herbs is to hang them in bundles. After I cut the portions of the plant I would like to dry I leave them lying on a shady table outside for a couple of hours. This allows all of the little bugs to crawl off, so I don't bring them into my house, and also wilts the plants a little bit.
Next, I gather the stalks into bunches and secure them near the cut ends with a rubber band. I use a rubber band rather than string for this part, because as the plants lose their moisture they will shrink in size, and tying them with string will result in many of the plants falling out of my bundles onto the floor.
Once my bundles are secure I string a line of twine up in a dry and not too bright room, and secure the bundles to the line with clothes pins, or tie them on with twine.
You will know when your herbs are dry by feeling them. If they crumble in your hands, they are dry, and ready to be stored in airtight glass jars. Most herbs when stored this way will last around one year, and by then you will have a whole new crop to harvest.
Photos by Lauren Ross