• Almond and Fig

The Art of Drying Herbs

Updated: Jun 19

If you walk into my grandmas house especially in the summertime and at the end of season. In her sun room (her favorite room in the house and mine too) chances are that you probably will see bundles of herbs tied with twine hanging from the metal bars on her window. Or long kitchen towels covered with crunchy wrinkled herbs or some seasonal vegetable of sort that’s she’s preserving for winter. She loves to can, jam, and preserve seasonal produce to use in her cooking all year around. I was so lucky to be home this summer and she loaded my suitcases with things she preserved with her own hands a gift i will cherish all year long. If she’s drying herbs after the leaves are completely dry she puts them in hand sewn bags that she makes herself. Once you open the bag the smell is always amazing. In this picture she was drying some mint and sage for me to take home.

My Tita right outside her sunroom. Hanging her kitchen towels. My mom planted small herb containers right outside her door so she can have easy access to them at all times.

Grandmas hand sewn bags to preserve the dry herbs

My Amto Aida is Titas best hand in the kitchen. Tita dried some Jute Mallow leaves in Arabic called Mulukhieh to be cooked in family favorite stew all winter long. Amto spreads them on large kitchen towels (ok this one is probably a sheet) to dry.

Drying your own herbs is pretty great and rewarding for many reasons: not only it’s cheaper than any packaged herbs you can buy but you have complete control over its quality.

* Ideal herbs to dry: Rosemary, thyme, lemon verbena, mint, oregano, sage, parsley, dill, marjoram, I am sure their is plenty more have fun experimenting.

Although there is so many ways you can dry herbs but I prefer this simple, easy, no tools required method. Follow these simple steps that i learned from my grandmother and you got yourself delicious herbs all winter long:

1. Best time to harvest your herbs is in the morning before the sun is shining on them. It’s also best to pick the herbs before the plants start to flower. This way you are sure to get tender and green leaves.

2. Wash your herbs well under cold water and dry them with a kitchen towel. Make sure you pick off any leaves that are yellow or spotted.

3. For herbs with stems like lemon verbena, thyme, rosemary, oregano tie your herbs with a twine or rubber bands in bundles and hang them in a place that is warm, dry and dust free with some air circulation. The smaller the bundle the faster they dry. For herbs like mint, sage..etc. you can pluck the leaves and after you wash them and pat them dry scatter them on a kitchen towel in one layer and allow them to dry completely. Make sure you give them a toss every few hours or so to make sure they are dry on all sides.

4. Once your herbs are completely dry (they should be able to crumble easily in your hands) you can separate the leaves from the stems and put your dried herbs into mason jars or spice bottles. Or you can keep the leaves on the stem and store them that way.

5. Store your herbs in in a cool, dry place away from direct light like your kitchen cabinet.

6. When you want to use the dried herbs rub them between your fingers to release their flavor.

Keep in mind:

* Dried herbs are good for 6 months to one year if stored properly

* When cooking with dried herbs that the flavor is more concentrated than fresh herbs. If you have a recipe that calls for fresh herbs, substitute with about- one third the amount of dried herbs

Herbs are so important in Palestinian cooking. Seeds are so cherished and guarded. They get passed down from family to family, farmer to farmer, generation to another. When we bought our home my grandmother gave us oregano and mint seeds to grow. Over the years they grew so big that i too share them with family and friends and they are a constant reminder of my grandmother and the endless love she has for us.

The oregano bush that grew from my grandmother's seeds. From Palestine to Chicago they give me a sense of home.

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