Drying Your Own Herbs

Early morning in very early June

June has arrived, and brought with it a slight slow up of the huge volume of plants to pick and dry. We’re changing over to the flower harvest here, which is a relief for my little cottage as it is beginning to look rather like a jungle – I am half tempted to string up some vines and swing through the main room whilst hollering like Tarzan! That would be a spectacle a bit too far for me though despite my eccentricities. At the present moment, I have trays of scented petals from the rose bushes in the garden – Rosa rugosa, this time, and they smell absolutely delicious! The smell intensifies as the petals dry, and in another couple of weeks I should be left with a much reduced pile of deep pink petals, the fragrance of which should last well through the winter months. I have yet to decide what to do with the petals once they have dried, though – I’m thinking perhaps a rose petal metheglin. It will take a year to brew but will be well worth it when it is finished! I brought in the first elderflowers to dry yesterday as well, and fortunately for me my little cottage is well ventilated so thus far I have managed to avoid the dreaded smell of cat’s piss that seems to accompany the drying of larger batches of elderflowers. Next up will be the limeflowers which have yet to open on the trees – another week or two of sunny weather should do the trick.

One interesting thing that I wanted to report on this time is the virtues of drying your own herbs versus buying pre dried ones, if you can possibly manage it. In late April, I brought in a fair sized harvest of ground ivy, which has now more or less dried. Given that I had already got some ground ivy in stock ordered from one of the larger suppliers, I thought I’d put a large spoonful of the herb into a dish and take a closer look at it, especially when compared with the herbs I dried myself.

Fresh Ground Ivy just hung up to dry
Six weeks later, the Ground Ivy, though dried, doesn't look much different...
Ground Ivy ordered from one of the bigger sellers.

There’s really no comparison, is there? The home dried ground ivy is still very clearly ground ivy – it still has most of the lovely volatile oils present, and looks and smells very similar to how it did when fresh, which is delightful. The rose petals I am drying are already more vibrant than their relatives that were bought from a larger supplier.  I suppose the point that I am trying to make here is that if you can possibly manage to do so, dry your own herbs. Yes, your home will closely resemble a cross between a jungle and a witch’s house from a fairy tale, but it will be well worth it in the long run, believe me – the scent of drying herbs is just wonderful (yes, even the elderflowers once you get used to it!) and the vibrancy is delightful. Not to mention, of course, the sheer pleasure in going out and picking your own plants for drying!

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