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We've had a container-based herb garden on our deck all summer, which has been wonderful. Unfortunately, the weather is predicted to hit freezing in the next week or so, and now I'm looking for ways to preserve as much as possible from the garden. I'll see if I have any luck moving the pots indoors and keeping them growing, but I'd like to trim the plants back and dry the herbs as I move them.

So... how do I dry herbs? Of course the goal is still cooking with them, so I'm concerned about food-safe handling. But honestly, I've never dried herbs, and have no idea how to approach this.

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also: What Herbs dry "best" –  mfg Oct 3 '11 at 17:55
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I've found that freezing herbs preserves their flavor better than drying them. Pick them, wash them, and chop them as if you were going to use them right away, but instead, put them in small freezer bags and stick them in the chill chest. You don't even need to defrost them before use. –  Marti Oct 3 '11 at 23:03
    
@Joe, others: Is the technique really any different for oregano vs. other herbs? I think the original question should simply be generalized to herbs so that we don't end up with duplicates for every individual herb ("How do I dry basil", "How do I dry thyme", "How do I dry...") –  Aaronut Oct 4 '11 at 1:23
    
@Aaronut : yes, because some like oregano you can just hang as sprigs, but the really leafy ones (eg, basil) don't work as well that way, at least not in my climate ... maybe it'd work for someone in a desert, but in my area, you risk it going moldy. I haven't tried too many other ones, so I don't know if there's other considerations. –  Joe Oct 4 '11 at 11:51
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2 Answers

a) Separate the fresh herbs into small bunches and hang them up next to each other as done for washed clothes. Make sure to hang the bunches upside down. They should get plenty of air flow but NO rain, humid and direct sunlight.

b) Bunches or separated branches can be placed over a grid for drying and again plenty of air flow but NO rain, humid and direct sunligt. Changing bunches other way round time to time speeds up drying and prevents bunches getting mould.

A bunch of dry herb is also a nice decorative object that helps to create a healthy environment in the house!

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One of the most memorable times I've seen someone dry herbs was Alton Brown on Good Eats: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5GkD2GQ3Tg

He creates this large contraption with A/C filters and a box fan... I've never tried it myself, but it was fun to watch.

I typcially do it with a food dehydrator like this one: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?SKU=14099344

I would just get one with multiple temp settings as you don't want to cook the herbs (in the dehydrator).

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AB's contraption works but is kind of gimmicky because 1- you will have problems if the air is too humid 2- You can't clean the filters well. Filters aren't that cheap. I also use a dehydrator. My grandma just dried such things in her oven on the lowest setting. –  Sobachatina Oct 3 '11 at 20:55
    
That was always my beef w/ his approach... The filters cost as much as a dehydrator... He doesn't buy a dehydrator because it's a multitasker, but putting "herb filters" in your A/C for the next 2 years is ok. –  Rikon Oct 4 '11 at 0:46
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