If you have a yard, a balcony or even a sunny window big enough for a flowerpot or two, you can grow your own culinary herbs.
Herbs are among the easiest plants to grow. My favorites are basil, dill and cilantro — all vigorous self-seeding annuals that will produce plenty of volunteer plants year after year — and peppermint, spearmint, oregano, rosemary, sage and chives, which are all reliable, productive perennials.
If you grow herbs, you’ll inevitably end up with far more than you can use in a season, so you’ll have plenty left to dry for winter use.
The fastest way to dry herbs is in a dehydrator. If you have more than a couple of plants, a cheap electric dehydrator is probably worth the investment. You can find a good one for $50 or less. I got mine in the hunting aisle at the feed store.
Dehydrating is easy. I’m using basil as an example here, but the same method works with pretty much any herb you can think of.
Start by harvesting as much as you plan to put up. A good pair of shears will speed the harvest along.
If using a dehydrator, snip the leaves from the stems. Put the leaves in a colander and rinse them off. (If you don’t have a dehydrator, just rinse the stems and leaves, tie them in bundles with string or rubber bands, and hang them upside-down to dry, checking them frequently to make sure they’re still bound tightly.)
Arrange the leaves on your dehydrator trays. Try to keep them to a single layer per tray to allow them to dry quickly and evenly.
The leaves will shrink as they dry. Check them every half-hour or so until they are completely dry.
Put the dried herbs in a ziplock bag to keep them fresh, crush them and use a Sharpie to label the bag with the product and the date. Half-pint Mason jars are also excellent for storing dried herbs, or you can recycle old containers from storebought spices.