Drying herbs is not very difficult considering that it's the best way to save the herbs you've spent all summer growing. There are several methods you can use to dry herbs, from leaving the herbs undisturbed for a few days to speeding up the process by using a microwave. Herbs that have a low moisture content to start with, such as oregano and sage, dry the best. If you try to dry herbs such as basil or cilantro, you may be disappointed with the loss of flavor.
To get the most flavor from your dried herbs, dry varieties that have long stems, such as sage, oregano, mint and thyme. Pick the herbs in the morning, which is when the plants have the greatest amount of essential oils. For best results, don't pick the herbs on a day that is cool or humid. You want a hot, dry day for harvesting the herbs. Pick the leaves before the plant has a chance to produce blooms for the best flavor.
Don't let the leaves of the herbs bruise or become damaged when you pick them. Rinse the just-picked leaves under water, then use a spinner to dry or gently shake to remove the excess water. Don't let the leaves sit around for a long period of time after picking and don't leave them in direct sunlight.
The most hands-off method of drying herbs is to gather them into a bunch and place in a paper bag. Leave the herbs on the stems and tie the stems together with a piece of twine or an elastic band, as if you were creating a bouquet. Hang the paper bag in a dark area to dry the herbs. A kitchen cabinet works well, as does a dry attic. If you have a fireplace, hang the herbs there, as long as it is not in use. You can try to dry the herbs outdoors, but they retain their flavor better when dried inside.
You can also use a standard oven to dry herbs such as mint or oregano. Separate the herbs from the stems and spread the leaves on a paper towel-lined baking sheet. The leaves don't have to be in a single layer. Cover with another towel, then place in a warm oven overnight. Use a pilot light or the light bulb in the oven to provide some heat. You can also turn the oven on to 250 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour before you put the herbs in. Turn the oven off, then place the herbs inside.
Microwaving herbs is the fastest way to dry them, but also has the greatest risk. The herbs can burn or even cause a fire if you do not keep an eye on them. Place a few stems of herbs on a paper towel-lined, microwave-safe plate and top with another paper towel. The towels help pull moisture away from the herbs. Microwave for 30 seconds, then feel the herbs. Keep microwaving for 30 second intervals until the herbs are crispy and dry.
Dried herbs keep for up to a year. To preserve the flavor, store them in a cool, dark place. Don't crumble the leaves until just before you intend to use the herbs to lock in the flavor.