Fresh Is Over: Dry Your Herbs for the Winter

Smell that? Ok, I know you don’t but when you look at the picture of that pile of cut basil I know you at least thought about it’s glorious aroma! I hope you grow basil! There are many uses for it. I grow it between my tomato plants because the bad buggies hate it! And of course the full body flavor that it provides for my soups, stews, souffles,and omlets has become a necessary entity in my kitchen since adding to my essential grow list a few years ago. There’s more than just culinary goodness packed into this beautiful plant tho. Are you stressed? Who isn’t, right? Run yourself a hot tub of water and throw a big hand full of crumpled leaves in. Ahhhh….relax-a-tion! Tummy upset? Chew a basil leaf. There’s an interesting list of uses for your fresh basil at" Wellness Momma". Check it out. But for this gorgeous fresh bunch it’s just that time of year for herb drying. So off I go to begin the easy process of curing a pile of basil for the winter stew pots!
Here’s how to dry basil and other herbs too:
FIRST: It is the end of the growing season for me, so I clipped all of my basil, but you don’t have to. If you are clipping in the middle of the grow season remember that wherever you clip your basil it should put on new growth there. So, if you want your plant bushier, clip further down the stem. If you want it tall and narrow, clip toward the top. (Tip: basil loves you more if you clip it low.) 
THEN: WASH IT, WASH IT, WASH IT! If you are the organic grower that I hope you are, you are not triple washing to remove pesticide and herbicide residue. You are triple washing because most varieties of basil have a venous underside to the leaves that dirt (and lady bug larvae) love to hide in. Although a little dirt or larvae will not kill your stew, it's just good to wash them both away. I wash mine outside in my handy sink Hubs made for me one weekend on a dime. You can always wash it in your kitchen sink too whereas your entire house will smell beautiful!
SHAKE & SORT IT: Vigorously shake the water off your shiny clean basil branches and finish off those water droplets by patting dry. It is important that your basil has no trapped water between the leaves.  The drying process will happen faster and your basil will be less likely to develop spot mildew if you take your time to get the water off.
It’s not a “have to step” to sort your basil before hanging it to dry, but the voices inside my head are not happy if I don't.  So, sort your basil  by length. I typically end up with three lengths from my clippings. 
TIE THE STEMS: After you have sorted your branches (or not), tie the stems snugly with twine.  Carefully wrapping the twine around and UNDER a branch arm or two. I like to use baker’s twine because it doesn't stretch. This is good because as your basil dries the stems will shrivel. If your twine is actually bound around and under a branch arm the bunch holds better. I also label all of my herbs while they are hanging to dry. Why? Again, the voices. Yes, I will know this is basil. Psh…silly me, but...
Hang In No/Low Light: Some folks even put brown paper bags over them to make it an even darker environment. Now, I must admit that this step is hardest for me because I absolutely love the sight and smell of hanging herbs. But if you want your basil nice and green instead of kinda grey (like I have here) hang it in the dark. Nope, I didn’t. But I plan to next time. Oh, and an important note about the picture above of my basil hanging on my outdoor sink. That was just to show it hanging, and because I thought it was really pretty there. I did not leave it outside in the elements. I did bring it in and put in the darkest corner I could find in my kitchen.
Forget About It: It should take your basil 3-4 weeks in the dark to dry completely.  
Remove Leaves From Stems: Using my kitchen scissor I simply snip, snip, snip right at the base of the leaves. You do not have to be perfect at this, but leaving as much stem behind as possible makes for a better seasoning experience. If you miss a few tiny leaf stems it’s no biggie. You can pick your teeth with them once your stew is gone, right? 
Chop: If you are lazy like me, put them in your food processor and give it a few hits on the chopper until your basil is chopped to the consistency you prefer. I like mine extra course because it’s prettier in my stew that way. Of course.

I made up a few little basil sachets too. Ah, they smell divine y’all! ...but sigh...they make me really miss my lavender that the dirty winter of 2013 took.

Hope you enjoy your herbs as much as I do, and you take the time to dry them for the winter!

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