Some of my herbs were starting to flower. When this occurs, I harvest when the flowering bud is still closed. By doing this, the flavor and potency of the herb is preserved. Harvesting and drying herbs is easy and a very rewarding process.
Mid-morning, when the dew has dried, is the perfect time for harvesting. Rinse your herbs with cool water, shake to remove most of the water and place in a sunless airy spot to dry. Some herbs have a higher moisture content than others. For those, three different techniques are recommended; hang small bunches upside down enclosed in a paper bag, oven dehydration and freezing. I have listed a guide for you at the bottom of this post.
Today I harvested chicken friendly oregano and creeping thyme and also lemon verbena for making soap. With a pair of sharp scissors, I cut 12″ stalks, rinsed then dried them. Using twisty ties, approximately 2 inches from the end, I bound them. You can also use rubber bands, ribbon or twine for this purpose as well. These herbs will hang in a cool dry place out of direct sun. My garage is perfect. As the creeping thyme is unable to be tied, it is best dried in a paper bag.
With a pair of scissors, I cut a few slits along the sides. Ensuring that the thyme is dry, I placed it in the paper bag and then rolled the top shut. The thyme will dry nicely and any seeds that are on the plant will fall into the bottom of the bag. If I choose, I can sow them during next Spring.
The herbs are completely dried, once their crispy leaves crumble between your fingers. To store the dried herbs, remove the leaves from the stems and crumble them into a plastic or glass airtight container. Your dried herbs can then be added to your cooking and soap making throughout the Fall and Winter seasons. The dried herbs that are safe for your chickens to eat, can also be added to their nesting boxes. Never add fresh herbs to their nesting boxes, as they can mold. Mold can be harmful for your chickens if ingested or inhaled. Drying herbs is easy and rewarding especially when their delightful fragrances take you away from wintery snow, crisp cold air and gloomy grays.
Herbs that can dry with leaves remaining on their stalks bound in small bunches hanging upside down:
Thyme (non-creeping variety)
Herbs that can dry hanging in small bunches with a vented paper bag wrapped around them as they are prone to mold: (Sometimes oven drying or freezing while still fresh is recommended removing leaves from the stalks prior to one of these processes.)
Herbs that are safe for chickens:
Dried herbs are three to four times more potent than fresh herbs. So don’t forget to adjust your recipes to account for this difference.
To read more about growing a fresh herb garden for your flock, click here.
Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest
8 thoughts on “Harvesting and Drying Herbs”
Great post! I am putting it in my favorites. I will have to create a notebook with all of these great tips! This isnt the first time I've gotten great tips from your blog!
Thank you SparingChange! I love to share what I learn and make it easy for backyard chicken keepers to find everything they need to know about keeping a healthy spoiled flock in their very own backyard.
The potency is the essential oil content. 🙂 Highly volatile to sun and heat, which is why early early morning pickings are the best time.
I was planning on making an essential oil distiller, but I am up to my ears in too many projects!
Never enough mint.. ever. Wild black raspberries are in season, I made a syrup from some which I add to tea made from cold steeping dried mint.. little bit of sweet, a whole lot of refreshing.. we drink gallons of it daily. (Also add caffeinated tea mixes when it is too hot for coffee.)
Ever make your own herb salts? That would make a great gift.. little tins of home grown dried herbs in sea salt..
Fabulous ideas and tips Anne! Would love to taste that delicious tea, just hearing about it is refreshing! Glad you stopped by 🙂
I've grown Lemon Verbena for the first time. It smells lovely, and I have no idea what to do with what I've cut off. They are drying as we speak. Thanks for the tutorial about drying. Learn something every day here in blogland. Can you make soap without lye?
Thank you Faith! I might suggest checking out recipes for glycerin soaps. They tend to be lye free. Also, some of my friends also make lemon verbena tea too!
Are there particular herbs that are bad for chickens? What is it about an herb that makes it bad for a chicken?
Hi Jen, all plants have chemicals in them. Some of these chemicals are unsafe for chickens, be it herbs or plants. Here is a list of toxic plants for poultry. Usually they tend to avoid the ones that make them sick. http://www.poultryhelp.com/toxic1.html