Drying herbs and flowers


There are many ways to dry and preserve the flowers and herbs

from your garden. You may want to make wreaths or other

crafts, or simply save a certain flower for sentimental reasons.

And, of course, dried herbs are delicious in cooking.


First we will talk about flowers. The best time to pick a flower

for preserving is right after it has opened. You don?'t want to

wait until it has set seed because it will then be too fragile.


You can choose the natural method of drying for flowers

such as hydrangeas and delphiniums. Cut off the flowers with

some stem attached, and tie in small bunches. Hang them

upside down in a dark, well ventilated place. It may take

several months for them to completely dry. Be sure to pick

quite a few hydrangeas too, because this may not work on

all flowers. Moisture content, humidity, and the type of

soil the flower was grown in tends to affect the drying.


Dense flowers such as roses need another method for successful

drying. You can use clean, dry, fine sand (found at your local

garden center) or silica gel. Silica gel is what comes in those

little packets that say ?"Do Not Eat!?" in your box of new

shoes. It is not really a gel, but rather a powder. You can buy it

in bulk at craft stores. It is expensive, but can be used over and

over. It starts out blue in color, and turns pink when it has

absorbed water. You can put it in a 250 degree over for 30

minutes to dry it again.


Using a strong container (that shoebox will work), make a layer

of sand or silica gel about 2 or 3 inches deep. Carefully place

your flowers in the box, face up. Do not put too many in one

box, and don?'t let them touch each other. I like to use a flour

sifter to put the mix on top. Cover the flower heads completely.

Put the box (open) in a warm, dry place. It will take about 3-6

weeks for them to dry.


And now on to drying herbs. Of course you don?'t want to use

the aforementioned method of using silica gel, unless you are

going to use the herbs for non-edible purposes. Choose herbs

that are at their peak, right before or right after flowering. Let

the morning dew dry, but be sure to pick them before the hot sun

releases their oils.


The most common way of drying herbs is the natural drying

method above; tie in bunches and hang upside down in a cool,

dry place. You can also lay the stems on a clean window screen

(horizontally of course) and put in a dry, dark place. The leaves

will be dry in a few days. You can also use a conventional oven,

set to a low temperature (125 degrees) until dry, or a microwave.

Place the stems between 2 paper towels, and , using the lowest

setting, microwave for 30 seconds at a time until dry. Drying time

will vary depending on the moisture content. Store the herbs in a

glass container with a tight fitting lid, out of the sun. Be sure to

use them within a year, because they lose their potency after that.


I wish you lots of success in this fun and productive way of using

the harvests from your garden!




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