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I picked fresh oregano, rosemary and purple basil. I placed them in a dark room with a oil heater set to high and a oscillating fan blowing is in the room as well. The heat was on for 4 days, then turned off. The herbs stayed in the room to dry for 3 additional weeks. They all smelled wonderful at this time. Then I place them into air-tight plastic freezer bags and placed the bags into a tightly closed mason jars kept in a closet. After a few days I open the bags and all three herbs smelled bad as if moister remained in the herbs. What did I do wrong? should I have left them out to dry for a few more weeks for a total of 7 weeks? The have been removed from the bags and jars and I placed them into paper bags. But now the herbs don't have any smell.

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If they were not dry, and they smelled bad when checked, they are not going to get better - toss them, do better next time.

It's hard to know how an uncontrolled environment drying will work out unless you have experience using that particular system in similar weather patterns - it's aways advisable to pop product you think is dry into glass jars and recheck several times within a day or so (not longer, you want to catch this as soon as it becomes apparent) for any condensation inside the jar, which is a sure sign more drying is needed. If you unjar and continue drying as soon as you spot condensation, it generally won't spoil. You can use bags once you are sure it's dry (though if you are going to put them in mason jars anyway, the bags are a waste of plastic.)

In my personal experience, the basil is better made into pesto and frozen than dried. But you can dry it if that's what you want.

The oregano and rosemary should dry fine. Though if you have any ability to not kill plants, a potted rosemary is not a very fussy houseplant, and you can have it fresh that way. Added after remembering to water mine...

When I had an airy attic I could string herbs up in that got nice and hot, I'd put them there. When I had an oven with a standing pilot light, I'd use that. These days I use a plug-in electric dehydrator with a thermostat and a fan. That gets most things done in a matter of days.

Unless you are in a terribly dry climate I would not regard 4 days of heat and 3 weeks of room temperature (which may not dry at all, depending on the weather) as a particularly good regime - it certainly would not do much in my humid climate. At minimum, some additional time with heat before sealing up would likely help.

There are various other "tests" for dryness of variable usefulness or reliability - do stems snap .vs. bend? - Do leaves crumble .vs. crumple?

If you happen to own or can borrow a dehumidifier, that would be a better way to heat and dry the room you are drying in than a resistance heater (does a better job making it dry, not just warm.)

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  • Thank you @Ecnerwal for all of the good information. I live in very humid Maryland so 3 1/2 weeks was not enough time to dry the herbs. This was my first attempt at drying herbs. I will invest in a dehumidifier. I love pesto and I did freeze 4 pint jars of it already. Commented Aug 15, 2022 at 20:15
  • I suppose another option would be to put re-dried "silica gel - do not eat" desiccant packets from things that come packaged with them into the jars to absorb a small amount of residual moisture. I guess you can also buy it in bulk for drying flowers, but I'm too inherently parsimonious to do that when I can just not throw them away. Need to make sure it's not going to mix with the herbs (separate with a cloth or paper bag) if using loose gel.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 12:06
  • I just ordered the COSORI 6 tray Food Dehydrator. I have picked new fresh oregano and rosemary today. I am washing them now. I plan to place each herb separately in a blender with extra virgin olive oil, blend well, and a little thick. Place it into a pint size mason jar, top it with a little more oil, then put it in the fridge. I heard this can last in the fridge for about a year. I know pesto can last in the fridge for about a year if you top it with oil after every use. I may also place some into small silicone ice cube trays and freeze it. Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 18:11
  • Finished a few bags of 2017 pesto (frozen in ice cube trays - which have become the pesto ice cube trays...) that were lurking in far corners of the freezer, so I can tell you that works...I am trying to get it down to just last year and this year, but sometimes I miss one.
    – Ecnerwal
    Commented Aug 16, 2022 at 23:33
  • Its good to know that herbs can last 5 years if frozen in oil. Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 14:17

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