Herb Drying Rack
Answered by: Cathy Avery
Question from: Shirley Bouffard
Posted on: December 11, 1999

I am looking for an herb drying rack to buy. Can you advise where I might be able to buy one?

Herb drying racks come in various sizes and styles. Richters gift shop will have a selection sometime in the new year. For now, I can recommend the following: If you like to dry herbs by hanging in small bunches, a good "device" is the old fashion wooden clothes drying rack. Be sure bunches are small, the room has good air circulation and is not in direct sunlight. Depending on the herb, most are dry in 7 to 10 days. Herbs drying this way tend to become dusty...they can be covered with paper bags, with the bottom end open. A better way is to strip off the leaves from the stems, and place the whole leaves on a nylon screen. You can make a 3 or 4" frame for your screen which could measure l8 x 24 ". One or several of these, stacked in a warm, dark cupboard, the leaves checked daily, should dry in 5 to 7 days.

An electric food dehydrator is excellent for drying small amounts of herbs. The important thing to remember is that excessive and prolonged heat while drying your herbs can result in loss of flavour and fragrance due to the dissipation of the essential oils contained in the leaves. This is why microwaves are not recommended, due to their action on the plant molecules as the moisture is removed... so is the essential oil content diminished. A good example is parsley, dried in a microwave... the colour is very good but the quality of the product is in question due to the loss of plant nutrients and flavour from the extereme heat applied to dry the leaves.

In a nutshell, strip leaves from plants, air dry in warm, dark area with good air circulation, toss leaves daily. To ensure they are ‘crispy’ dry before packing into jars, you can prewarm an oven to no more than 95 degrees, place herbs in oven for a minute or less, checking often. When dry, cool and store. Remember, if you can smell the aroma of your herbs drying, that is the sign that the plants essential oils are being released and you could be "cooking" them!

For more information on herb storage and drying, I recommend the following excellent books (available from Richters):

* "Herbal Tea Gardens" by Marietta Marshall Marcin

* "Living with Herbs" by Jo Ann Gardner

* "Growing and Using Herbs Successfully" by Betty Jacobs

Richters also sends out a pamphlet with every plant order called "Growing Herbs Indoors and Out" with a section on harvesting, drying and storage"

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