Drying times do vary massively for each herb and this started out as a scrap of paper I kept inside our dehydrator. Well that has grown as our range of herbs we harvest has grown too.
By using a dehydrator you can cut back on the time it takes for drying your herbs. You are looking at on average between 1-4 hours. All of the times we are looking at are with a model that allows us to vary temperature and set a timer. This is key to retaining flavor and not burning your herb leaves. There is a balance between speed and quality.
I want to make a resource that I can refer back to from time to time too. Let me go through each step, before getting on the timings.
Choosing Your Dehydrator For Drying Herbs
There are lots of variables that you want to consider when choosing your first dehydrator. We use the Cooks Professional dehydrator and have a full review on why, available here. You may have other requirements but for herbs these are the important factors to deciding.
- Timer – you need a model that will switch off once the timer has gone as well as beeping to let you know. We are looking at various lengths of time for drying and the moisture in the leaves will have a very unpredictable effect on timings, so being able to check on the herbs every few hours is perfect. It will allow you to check it is still drying and not burning your herbs to a crisp.
- Five trays, or more- is ideal as you will be able to layer your leaves and still have plenty of air circulating to dry them out. Our one has the same drying time for herbs on the top as the bottom. The number of layers of trays should not affect air movement.
- Ease of use- I went from air drying all of our herbs in a large wood shed to using an electric dehydrator. I didn’t want to have to sit for days to read through an instruction manual. Now it works well if you have even a few bunches of leaves leftover. You can pop them in and set the timer and carry on with your day. Store them and when ready you can then use in your herb mixes and cooking.
- Affordable – I was reluctant to move from air drying, so wanted a budget friendly option to try. The model you choose should have all of the above qualities and be affordable really. Ours was less than £40 available from Amazon here and it has served us well. You can also share with friends and neighbours too. Meaning it is quite busy in the height of Summer. However you will get some dried herbs, fruits or vegetables in return.
How To Harvest Herbs For Drying
- Wait until the morning dew has evaporated, but before the height of the sun. You want to avoid excess moisture, but keep the essential oils to a maximum. When we use a dehydrator for drying herbs it locks in those flavors, so we want to maximize this preservation process!
- Many herbs will benefit from a good trim regularly and your soft stem, more tender herbs are especially grateful. They will bush out if you take the cutting before a node. The node is the part of the stem where many different leaves branch off. By pinching out you are creating a new pathway for growth. This will result in a bushier herb plant. Mint, lemon balm, basil and sage are some common herbs that benefit from a regular trim. Drying the leaves makes sense as you will have a stock for the winter months as well.
- Discard any limp or damaged leaves. Ones with black spots or notable deformities are not suitable for drying. Do not worry about any bugs or pests as you are going to rinse under a cold tap next. When you are rinsing take care not to damage the leaves or hold on to them too much. You do not want to pop your herbs into the dehydrator but have most of the aroma on your finger tips still.
- Shake excess water and lay the herbs on to a kitchen towel. leave to dry for an hour or so before putting into your dryer. Try to handle your herbs as little as possible before drying. If you have larger leaves herbs like mint, basil, lemon balm or chamomile flowers then you will need to lay them out individually. If you are drying herbs like rosemary, oregano, marjoram, thyme or lavender then you will need to lay stems out individually. This prevents the smaller leaves from falling between the holes in the trays.
Storing Dried Herbs
Before you even harvest your fresh herbs, make sure you have enough storage jars available. Save over ones from family shopping or you can purchase kilner jars with rubber seals in their glass lids like these from Amazon via this link. Just don’t go for the larger jars.
TOP TIP – Whatever you do label up your dried herbs! Date and which type of herbs they are. I do not mix my herbs until I am cooking. For a guide on common herb rubs and mixes we have an article here.
The glass jars will need to be cleaned and thoroughly dried before you can use them for storage.
How Long Do Dried Herbs Last.
Once you have taken the moisture from your herbs the risk of mold is reduced to a minimum. As long as you store the herbs in an airtight container in a dark cupboard. As far as healthy mold free dried herbs goes they will survive several years. But if you want to maximize the flavor and aroma then you are looking at no more than a year.
To work out the ratio between fresh and dried herbs I have put together another handy guide. It’s just for reference and the older the dried herbs are the more you will need, but have a look here for the chart.
Drying Times For 21 Popular Herbs
Once you have followed the tips and advice for harvesting the time has now come for drying. Make sure to read all of the safety instructions that come with your particular dehydrator before you start.
- Basil 3-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. You will need to lay the leaves out in a single layer on the drying tray. It is possible to leave them on the stem, but you may find that the leaves sort of curl when drying and then they double up, meaning it is not an even dehydration process. Check on your basil leaves after three hours and if they are still very moist it may be another two hours is needed. A lot will depend on when they were last watered. You don’t want to try and dry a leaf that is wilted, so keep them well watered. You will know your basil leaves are dry when they feel like tissue paper. We have a how to for growing basil here.
- Bay leaves 5-7 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Bay laurel leaves are perfect in a bouquet garni as even fresh leaves are not to be welcomed in the finished meal. No biting down on the leaf please. So drying them offers an easy way to have them to hand in your larder. Lay them single layer on each tray. After five hours check and if they are not brittle you will need the next few hours to just finish them off. We have a how to for growing Bay Leaves here.
- Chamomile 12-18 hours at 35 Celsius / 95 Fahrenheit. We do not dry the leaves, they are bitter and not really to the taste of many. Chamomile flowers, however taste like delicate apple and blossom. Fresh they make a great cuppa but when dried you can have a year round supply. For the model of dehydrator we recommend you can flip the trays upside down and get a greater height. This works well for flowers and then you just lay in a single layer. After 12 hours they may start to dry, but there is so much variation with each flower that you may find differing drying times. Basically some of your harvested chamomile flowers may have only just come into bloom, whereas others may be fading. Try to get ones that are fading, just passed their best, not half dried on the plant. Pop the ones that are dry out and into the glass jar ready for the rest and leave them in for a few more hours at a time. We have a how to for growing chamomile here.
- Catnip 3-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Perfect for making your own catnip toys, it is not suitable for eating or cooking with. Often mistaken for catmint which is a relative and actually quite tasty.
- Chervil 3-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Tasting a bit like parsley crossed with anise chervil is a great ingredient for fines herbes. Dried it is just as tasty. You can take each leaf and lay it in a single layer on the drying trays. After three hours check to see if the leaves have taken on the feel of tissue paper. If not leave in, but check back regularly. We have a how to for growing chervil here.
- Coriander 2-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. This herb really divides the family as I am one of those who can not stand the flavor of coriander / cilantro. I will do anything to avoid it, but my family like it. So I will dry it and then add last minute to their food once I have plated mine up. Coriander leaves need to be place individually with as little stalk as possible on the drying trays. Check after two hours and if they do not feel like tissue paper, keep them in a little longer. Check back regularly. We have a how to for growing coriander / cilantro here.
- Dill 4-6 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Dill is a useful herb in cooking and works well dried. When you pop it into a sauce it quickly rehydrates and fills the dish with that well loved anise flavor. Lay each sprig of dill on the tray. Try to keep them in single layers and sort of splay out the fronds. Start your dill off on the lower end of the temperature range, it can wilt immediately but hold out as you are looking for crispy. Check back after 4 hours and then each hour if it is not dried enough. We have a how to for growing dill here.
- Echinacea 6-18 hours at 35 Celsius / 95 Fahrenheit. You can dry both the flowers and leaves of echinacea and use in teas and tinctures. We do not harvest all of our coneflowers for drying, this is so as to leave winter food for the wild birds. With the model we use, we flip the trays and make it higher to fit the flowers in without squashing them. Check on your flowers regularly. There is a nice aroma with echinacea flowers drying, but really check for bugs before popping into the dryer. Lots of tiny little bugs live and feed on the echinacea flower and your dryer will not kill them, but they sort of arrive in the trays and it is a bit grim. We have a how to for growing echinacea here.
- Kaffir Lime 5-7 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Kaffir lime is very similar to bay leaves in that we will use it in cooking and then remove it before eating. So having some dried to hand is very useful. Lay the leave out in the natural pairs they come in. After 5 hours you may not find they are snapping, so give them a few more hours to get the snap you need. We have a how to for growing Kaffir Lime Trees here.
- Lavender 2-3 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Do not wash your lavender stems, shake them gently to remove bugs but do not rinse as it holds the water. Lavender can become brittle when drying but leave all the flowers and leaves on the stem and then remove once they are dried thoroughly. Lay them single layer and check on them after two hours. The house will smell divine, but if they are not crisp and snap rather than bend on the stems, leave them in for a little bit longer. You can then strip them of dried leaves and flowers once the stem snaps. Hold on to the top between finger and thumb and then run your other hand gently down the stalk. Do this over a kitchen towel or muslin cloth to catch all of the leaves and flowers! We have a how to for growing lavender here.
- Lemon Balm 3-5 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Lemon balm makes a great cup of tea as it is a sort of citrus minty flavor, but seriously gentle and it works very well with chamomile flowers too. Place each leaf in a single layer on the drying trays. After three hours of a gorgeous smelling house, you can check on your leaves. If they are curled try to get them back to single layer and then come back until they are crisp and flakey to the touch. Dried lemon balm also works very well as a later addition to stews, just before serving. It just lifts them a little with the zesty citrus kick. We have a how to for growing Lemon Balm here.
- Lemon Verbena 2-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Lemon Verbena is a lot like bay leaves in that you would not want to encounter a leaf in your food, but the flavor it offers is fabulous. So go for a bouquet garni or sachet d’epices. We have a how to for growing Lemon Verbena here.
- Lemongrass 2-4 hours at 35 Celsius / 95 Fahrenheit. Dried lemongrass is used in many sauces and condiments. You will be drying the upper leaves and not the stem. Wash the harvested leaves and chop into 1/4 -1/2 inch wide chunks. Place on the trays in a single layer. After two hours check and then every hour. You are looking for your lemongrass to be crispy and sort of crumbly. You will need to make this into a dust before using in many recipes. We have a how to for growing Lemongrass here.
- Marjoram 2-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. When you harvest your marjoram shake the stems to remove any bugs You want to cut back quite hard and to make sure you have stalks around 4-5 inches in length. Place the stems on to the dryer in single layers. After two hours return to see if the tiny leaves have dried out. The stems should snap when they are dried enough. Harvest your dried marjoram by holding on to the top with one hand and using the thumb and finger of the other hand run down the stem. Do this over a cloth to gather the leaves. We have a full guide for growing marjoram available here.
- Mint 3-5 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Mint leaves fresh or dried are very useful in the kitchen, we have an article on uses available here. When you harvest the leaves make sure that as many bugs are removed before rinsing under running water. Pat dry with a towel and lay each leaf out to the dryer trays. Be prepared for your house to smell divine and very relaxing! After 3 hours check on the leaves to see if they are crisp and almost like paper to the touch. If they are still moist, return for another hour and so on until they are crisp. We have a how to for growing Mint available here.
- Oregano 2-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Harvest the oregano stems of around 3-5 inches in length, shake them free of bugs and dirt. Lay in single layers in the dryer. After two hours if the stems are bendy they are not quite dry enough. If the stems snap, you are ready to stop the drying process. To harvest the individual leaves of your oregano hold on to the top of the stalk. With your other hand run a finger and thumb down the stalk and catch the leaves in a sheet of cloth that you have popped underneath. Then you can transfer to your storage jars more easily. We have a how to for growing oregano here.
- Parsley 3-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Parsley does not hold it’s flavor too well when dried. Slow and low are the best ways, but we know that air drying tender leaves can encourage mold, so this is a safe way to dry your harvest. Wash each stalk of parsley and pat dry. Place as individually as you can, a bit of stalk is fine, but curly leaved parsley is going to need to be spread out as much as possible. After three hours check to make sure it is drying, you may not have crumbly leaves yet, so put back in for a further hour. Check again and repeat if needed. We have a how to for growing parsley here.
- Rosemary 5-6 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Take rosemary cuttings of around 3-5 inches. Shake them free of any bugs or pests. Lay each stem into the dryer tray individually. After about 5 hours check to see if the stem is bendy or will snap happily. When it snaps you know you have dried it for long enough. To harvest the leaves hold at the top and run finger and thumb downwards to break the dried rosemary leaves free. Do this over a muslin cloth so that you can then gather into your jars for storage. We have a how to for growing Rosemary here.
- Sage 1-4 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. You must be careful when harvesting sage as the wonderful flavor and aroma can easily come off on your hands. Pinch out the leaves to be harvested, but do not wash under a tap. Instead gently shake them clear of any bugs. Place them in single leaves onto the dryer trays. Come back to check on them after one hour. If using for cooking you want them to be crumbly, if using them for smudging sticks, then they can be a little bit more pliable. Do not chop them up if you are not going to use them straight away, just store in your glass jars and then crumble them as required for any dish. We have a how to for growing Sage here.
- St John’s Wort 12-24 hours at 35 Celsius / 95 Fahrenheit. If you want to make St John’s Wort Oil, only use fresh flowers. However a nice tea can be made from dried flowers. Harvest the flowers as they are just going over. They will have bloomed their fullest a few days earlier. Gently shake any bugs loose. Then lay on a single layer in the trays. Slow and low is the key here and there will be a nice aroma for at least 12 hours in your home. If you check after 12 hours and there is little to no sign of drying out, pop them on for another 4 hours before checking again. The petals should feel like tissue paper and be pulled inwards when the flowers are dried. We have a how to for growing St John’s Wort here.
- Thyme 4-6 hours at between 45-50 Celsius / 110-120 Fahrenheit. Take thyme cuttings that are about 3-4 inches long. Then dry them all together. Your drying process will be quicker if you can separate them into single layers. You want the stalk to snap and not bend. Once this has happened you are ready to harvest those little leaves. Hold the stem at the furthest end and run your finger and thumb against the growth to the remove the small leaves. Do this over a sheet of cloth to catch the leaves. Try to remove as many little woody bits as possible. We do not crush or chop our herbs until we are ready to use them. We have a how to for growing Thyme here.
- Turmeric 12-48 hours at 35 Celsius / 95 Fahrenheit. Wash your harvested rhizomes, but no need to peel them. Slice into discs about 1/8 -1/4 inch in thickness. Lay them onto your dryer trays and settle in for the next few days. They do smell nice and the model of dehydrator we use is pretty quiet. After 12 hours they may be dried out, depending on how much rainfall you have had prior to harvest. If they are still moist to the touch, put them on for another 12 hours at a time. If when you go back they are bendy or flexible, then they are not ready to take out of the dryer. You want a snap. Then they are ready. Only take out the ones that snap. Leave in any bendy ones for longer. To process the turmeric you will need to turn them into dust. This involves a coffee grinder. Just be aware that a white one will now be orange. As will your dehydrator, but it doesn’t affect its aroma in future, it’s just the nature of turmeric! We have a how to for growing turmeric here.
TOP TIP- When cooking with dried herbs reduce your quantities to around 1/3 of the original recipe. These dried herbs are compact taste explosions.
Now you can make your own herbal tea blends or mixed herbs. Making up your own family favorites. We love that growing and drying our own herbs gives us complete control over the entire process. No chemicals are added and we can ensure zero air miles! Much more affordable than buying fresh herbs and letting them go to waste or having to search in specialist spice stores for what we need.
Thank you for taking the time to read our little guide and I hope it proves useful to you in the future.