The San Diego Herb Guild serves professional herbalists and herb enthusiasts in the San Diego area. We aim to learn from each other, in the historic tradition of guilds, which serve to apprentice new learners with more experienced practitioners. To achieve this goal we work to coordinate meetings, marketplaces, and community outreach.
Now that you have had a
few months growing time it’s time to think about drying some of your
herbs. If you prefer working with dried
plants, there are many ways to dry the herbs you’ve picked. You’ll see fairly
consistent results if you lay your herbs flat on a framed screen in a warm, dry
place, ensuring that air will circulate to all sides of the plant. So if you
have a room with a ceiling fan or good cross-ventilation that would be the
place. Avoid drying herbs in direct sun,
as this will affect the color and flavor of the plant and your finished
product. Some people swear by using a
food dehydrator on a very low setting (while this is certainly the quickest method,
it’s not exactly the most natural or energy efficient).
If you want to
use a dehydrator it is best to have one designed for herbs as they are usually
bigger. Others rely on nothing fancier
than some twine and a well-placed nail from which to hang the bundled herb – a
technique closest to the historical method of hanging bundles from the rafters.
This may be the historical way to do it but keep in mind they didn’t have paper
bags in those days. I think you will
have spiders and dust for your efforts.
My favorite method is if the herb has a high moisture content such as basil,
mints, calendula, and lemon balm then the method of laying them on screens is
very good but if they are heartier plants, such as rosemary, thyme and sage, they will
dry just fine by putting them in paper bags.
With the paper bag method you need to shake up the bags once in a while
so that everything dries evenly. The drying time depends on the moisture
content of the plant and can take anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks. Also
remember to write on the bag what’s in it.
You may think you will recognize the contents by smell but sometimes
drying changes the smell.
If you have no
garden to call your own, try approaching a neighbor about arranging a barter.
Gardeners often have more plants than they know what to do with. In exchange
for providing you with their surplus herbs, you might offer to give them half
of whatever you make. If they don’t have a particular herb you want to concoct
something out of, you could propose a similar deal for the next season: they
provide the garden space and the watering, you buy and plant the seeds, and you
both divvy up the results. Now let's make something!
Spring Tonic (Stinging Nettle Infusion)
ounce dried stinging nettle leaves
quart water (boiled)
quart size glass jar
Place dried nettle into a glass container that will
withstand boiling water. Pour boiling water over the nettle leaves and infuse,
covered for 4-10 hours or overnight. Strain into a quart sized jar and store in
the refrigerator. The infusion will only keep for a couple of days. An infusion
of nettle is more concentrated than a tea. You can drink 2 – 3 cups of the
infusion each day for a week. After that, drink as you please. The infusion is
dark green with an earthy, grassy taste. Drink it over ice for optimum flavor.
If you prefer, use local honey to sweeten it. Some folks add salt or a bit of
lemon to their drink which gives it a different flavor. You can also re-heat
your infusion and drink it warm.