How to Harvest + Dry Herbs
Herbs are medicines and start as living beings. Medicines come from trees, roots, leaves, flowers, lichens, and more. Some are easily identified and are popular to plant in your yard while others are grown in the wild. Plant identification has always been a passion of mine and as a family when we hike or even go for walks, I like to identify the wildflowers and plants that can be used medicinally. For many of us it’s easier to identify when the flowers are blooming but most often this is a short period of time. Learning plant identification through the leaves can be helpful – I foresee a group plant identification workshop/hike/walk in the future! Yes!?
Knowing what part of the plant is useful for medicine is important – sometimes the root is what’s supportive for healing while others it’s the flowers or bark as pictured here – harvesting cinnamon bark in Costa Rica! When harvesting, do so with care and do so ethically. I always ask the plant for permission, I never harvest the entire plant (unless for critical reasons) and I suggest you harvest early in the morning, after the dew is gone but before the sun has dried the crucial essential oils from the plant. Pruning the stems or branches when wanting to use the leaves is helpful for the drying process, but leaving part of the stem with some leaves to encourage the growth of the plant.
Drying herbs is simple and something the entire family can enjoy doing. Air drying is the easiest and protects the benefits of the plant. Simply bundle them together, tying the stems with jute twine or string and hang in a warm, dry place.
I usually hang them upside down. You can use a coat hanger, hang from a curtain rod or as I did here, with a tack from the top of the window. You can also use a drying rack but I prefer hanging them. It’s gorgeous to see and they are also out of the way, leaving you with more counter space.
If you are collecting the seeds, tie a paper bag over the stems so the bag will catch the seeds. It should only take about 2-3 weeks to dry depending on your plant. A drying rack is good for those that have more moisture like rosemary, chives, and mint.
Once they’re dry, remove them from the stem as you can see my little helper doing here. We simply pinch the top of the stem and slide our fingers all the way to the end allowing the cookie sheet to catch the herbs. Sometimes they fly and that’s always a good laugh. Store your herbs in a glass jar, away from the sun or window until you’re ready to use them. I’m using this oregano for a lung tincture and the yarrow we have used for an allergy tea, a skin poultice, and a tea for menses.
Being in nature and with God’s creations is one of the most rewarding practices. Happy harvesting + drying!
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