PRESERVING THE HERB HARVEST
At Kaaterskill Herb Exchange, our mission is to connect people to fresh medicinal herbs in season. You can truly feel the plants still vibrating with life from being so recently picked. While there are many preparations (tinctures, glycerites, hydrosols, fresh teas), that benefit from the plants being used in a fresh state, it is often desirable to dry your plants for winter use and preparations like infused oils, which keep for much longer if made from dried materials. Once you've picked up your KHE order, how do you go about drying your plants for lasting, high quality local medicine throughout the fall and winter? Here are the main tenets of successfully drying plants:
- Plants dry best in warm, dry, dark conditions. Think a warm closet, or a corner of a room that doesn't get much light and is away from a window. Anywhere that is low-humidity and gently warm with good air flow will work well. Well ventilated, pest-free attics are ideal!
- Depending on your climate and what you're trying to dry, drying can take from a few days to a few weeks- checking for when they are 'crispy' each day is important.
- Aromatic leaves are more sensitive to high temperatures than heavy roots, and must be dried carefully to preserve their essential oils. Check daily and when they feel 'crispy' while still retaining strong smell and vibrant color, they are ready to store.
- Roots should always be finely chopped before laying out to dry. This ensures even moisture removal and reduces the risk of mold growing. Roots can tolerate slightly warmer drying temps than leaves and can be placed in a warmer, brighter spot to enhance speed of drying.
Example PLant drying set-ups:
- Repurpose your clothes drying rack and hang small bundles of herbs from it-- not too many herbs per bundle or they won't dry evenly and you risk mildew growth!
- Spread out a sheet on a table in a dry, dark room and place herbs in a single layer, turning every few days
- Run a line along a wall in your house and hang small bundles from it
- Use a pop-up drying rack, pictured above and available from Amazon
- build a mini layered-screen drying rack like the one above
- Hang your herbs in an attic or barn (just make sure they are safe from birds and rodents!)