Fresh herbs are not only great for elevating your dishes; they are also beneficial for their medicinal qualities. Herbal teas, for one, can help elevate your mood, sooth your troubled tummy, and ease your sleeping problems. But it’s not just fresh herbs that do the job. When dried, herbs can make strong remedies for daily ailments, even ointments and lotions for the skin.
In this edited excerpt from his book The Garden Apothecary, leading Aussie herbalist and naturopathic nutritionist Reece Carter shares simple ways on how to dry herbs at home. This book is a collection of Reece’s beloved recipes and how-tos for making herbal tinctures and ointments. Herbs are undeniably a part of his life. Reece uses his homemade potions to manage stress and sleep, boost his digestion and gut health, and, at times, as natural beauty remedies (he’s a model too, after all).
Reece earned the nickname herb nerd in the wellness community for his love of herbs. He also has a degree in naturopathy—or the study of alternative medicine—which lends further credence to his work.
Follow these simple steps to prolong your herbs’ life and have access to all kinds of herbal medicine year round.
Step 1: Look for an old flywire frame
Drying herbs removes water content, concentrating the active compounds in the process. To start, take an old flywire frame and give it a good clean in soapy water, then rinse. Leave it to dry and ensure there is no excess moisture when it comes time to dry your herbs.
Step 2: Get your fresh herbs
Get your freshly harvested herbs ready and wash them. Remove excess water with paper towel, then scatter over the flywire in a single layer. Make sure to leave some space in between your herbs and avoid clumping so as to maximise airflow. The smaller the pieces are, and the more they are spread out, the faster they’ll dry. Pull any petals from the flower heads and let them dry individually. With roots and barks, break or slice them up before drying.
Step 3: Cover with cheesecloth
Cover the frame with a piece of cheesecloth, and secure it in place with bulldog clips. Then, you’ll be needing to raise your drying rack up off the ground. So if you can get a clothes horse, it will do you a fine job especially if you have multiple racks on the go at once.
Step 4: Leave it dry
Leave your herbs to dry in a warm, well-ventilated place but away from direct sunlight. If the temperature is between 25 to 35C, the herbs should be ready to store in glass jars after about a week. Delicate herbs might be ready in as little as three days. Others will require ten days or more. For leaves, petals and stems, you’ll know they’re dry when you can crumble them in your hand.
If the drying process seems a little arduous, you can find suppliers of affordable dried herbs who will deliver to your door or head down to the health food store and see what loose-leaf teas they have in stock.
Read the book and learn all how to make an apothecary of your home garden. The Garden Apothecary is published by HarperCollins.