Temperatures are already dropping. Soon fall will arrive and summer herbs will be no more. You can preserve some of your summer garden and save money, however, by drying your herbs. Here's how BobVila.com recommends drying herbs:
1. Harvest your herbs. Use scissors, a knife or small pruners to cut the herbs when the leaves are dry and dew-free. According to BobVila.com, "The best time to cut herbs for drying is just before they flower, at which point the leaves contain the most oil. So keep an eye out for buds. If you've been harvesting all summer, your herbs may not have had a chance to flower. A good time to cut for drying is in late summer when plants are starting to flag."
2. Prepare your herbs. Next, discard any discolored or damaged leaves. When you have removed unwanted areas of the herbs, wash with cold water and dry completely (they can mold or rot if not fully dry).
3. Dry your herbs. There are two methods of drying herbs: air drying and oven drying.
How to air dry: Tie the herbs' stems into loose bunches with twine or string. You should allow enough space so air can circulate around them. Then hang your herbs upside down in a dark, warm and dry place (BobVila.com recommends an attic or unused closet). If you don't have a place to hang herbs that's out of the sunlight, cut holes in a paper bag and place the herbs upside down inside. "Wrap the opening of the bag around the stems, securing the closure with rubber bands or string (this will also help to keep dust off). Hanging upside down allows the essential oils to flow downward from the stems to the leaves."
How to oven dry: This method is better for herbs with a higher moisture content, such as basil, tarragon, lemon balm and mint. To prevent these from molding due to their high moisture content, they must be dried quickly. First, remove the leaves from stems and place on a cookie sheet or cooling rack. In a low oven (180 degrees or lower), allow the herbs to dry for two to four hours. Check frequently.
4. Store your herbs. Once dry, store your herbs in airtight containers (Mason jars, plastic sandwich bags, etc.) and place them in a cool, dry place. Store the leaves whole (and crush only before using) for best flavor. Leaves retain more oil when stored whole.
Dried herbs are best used within one year. After a year, they will begin to lose their flavor. Keep an eye on the color, which will fade along with flavor.