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Harvesting and Drying Wild Herbs

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Basket on the ground surrounded by violet plants with violet leaves inside of it.

One thing that I’ve been trying to do more of this year is to take advantage of some of the herbs that are growing wild right in my backyard. I started doing this just a little bit last year, but this year I really wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss out on the chance to use of some of these wild plants like violets, dandelion, and plantain by harvesting them and drying them so I will have them available to use in the winter months when nothing much is growing outside.

I know some people call these plants weeds, but when you start doing more research about them, you find that these three plants are really very useful herbs. And I love the fact that they are just growing right in the yard for free, and that God provided such an abundance of these wild herbs that I didn’t have to do any work to plant or even to maintain.

I should mention, of course, that any time you harvest a wild plant you want to make sure to do your own research and make sure you are correctly identifying any plant that you harvest, and you also want to make sure that it is a plant that is a good fit for you and your body and check with a medical professional if you have any health conditions or are taking any medications or if you are pregnant or nursing since some herbs can have contraindications for these things. (I didn’t think to mention this in the video, but it’s also best to avoid plants growing near roadsides and any plants that might have been sprayed with chemicals.)

I harvested several violet leaves this time and a smaller amount of dandelion and plantain leaves. Once I bring them inside I like to wash them to get the dirt off of them. Even though these were growing inside my garden in a clean place where I know they haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals, I still like to give them a quick rinse. The violet leaves especially get dirty on the underside when it rains and dirt splashes up on them, so I like to rinse off all of that sandy dirt that sticks to them.

I’ll be harvesting these herbs in batches throughout the season because I only have so much space in my dehydrator for drying them. This is my first year using a dehydrator, and so far I am loving having it during the harvest season. I’ve always dried my herbs the old-fashioned way by just air drying them, and I still do that for many of the herbs that I harvest, but I always end up running out of space to dry all of the herbs that I want to dry, and air drying can be more inconvenient for individual leaves like the violet leaves I am gathering because they can’t be easily hung in bundles like other herbs can be. (This is the dehydrator that I’ve been using this year. I love the fact that it’s small and doesn’t take up too much space but I can still fit a good amount of herbs in the trays.)

Using the dehydrator is allowing me to dry more herbs in a shorter amount of time while also saving some space since I can stack the trays on top of each other. It also helps with the drying process when it’s really humid out because air drying can be more challenging if you have herbs with a higher moisture content and humid weather at the same time.

If you don’t have a dehydrator, though, you can definitely still dry herbs without one. For herbs with long stems you can hang them in bunches in a place that gets good air flow and is out of direct sunlight. And for individual leaves like these violet leaves you can lay them out on trays or even on paper towels to dry.

Whether you choose to air dry your herbs or to use a dehydrator or some of both, the main thing you want to do is to make sure that they are fully dry before you put them anywhere to store them because if they aren’t fully dry then they could get moldy.

It’s hard to give an exact number for how many hours or days the herbs will take to dry because it really all depends on how much moisture is in the herbs to begin with and how humid or dry your house is. But you just want to make sure that the herbs feel crisp to the touch like really dry brown autumn leaves. And you should hear sort of a crackling sound when you crumble them up.  

Once your leaves are completely dry you can crumble them and then store them in a glass Mason jar or in an old empty spice bottle or some other container like that, and then you definitely want to make sure to label your jar with the type of herb you used as well as the date. Once they are dry, a lot of the herbs tend to look pretty similar, so unless you have an herb with a really distinctive look or smell then it can be really easy to get them confused. And it’s always a good idea to include the date so you know how old they are for the future.

You can find more information about drying your own herbs and about foraging for wild herbs here:

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Picture of a violet plant, then the text "Harvesting and Drying Wild Herbs," and then a picture of a basket on the ground surrounded by violet plants with violet leaves inside of it.
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The information in this post is not to be taken as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

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