Drying herbs - Sage

Drying herbs for home use: Sage

This year I have started afresh with growing the herbs I use most – some indoors, some in my back yard. I have Parsley, Sage, Thyme and Mint. As well as using fresh herbs over the Summer, I will also cut and dry some sprigs from all of my herbs except the Parsley.

One of the advantages of growing herbs at home is that I can also dry or preserve herbs for use when my herb plants are less productive during the colder months of the year. Sage, Thyme and Mint are all easily dried for future use. I don’t dry Parsley but I generally put some in the freezer from the Summer crop, as well as keeping a pot herb on a warm window ledge over Winter which can still be snipped occasionally for garnishes.

My Sage plants - time to take some cuttings to dry for use later in the year
My Sage plants – time to take some cuttings to dry for use later in the year

Today I was cutting my first batch of Sage for drying. It’s best to cut herbs early in the day before the sun evaporates their plant oils as we want to retain as much of the oils as possible for their flavour and health-giving properties.

Snipping the sprigs of Sage with scissors
Snipping the sprigs of Sage with scissors

I snipped all of the main Sage stems by about two thirds, leaving about a third of each stem, making sure there were some side shoots on each stem stump waiting to sprout away.

The trimmed Sage plants - the side shoots will now grow on
The trimmed Sage plants – the side shoots will now grow on

As I’d been growing this pot of Sage indoors, the cut stems and leaves were clean enough ready to bag up for drying without needing any extra washing.

Wrapping the small bundle of Sage in paper for drying
Wrapping the small bundle of Sage in paper for drying

Then it was a simple task of arranging my bundle of Sage with stem ends together in a paper wrapping. I used some brown kraft paper for wrapping my herbs today, but I’ve also used newspapers or paper bags of various sorts for this purpose.

The bunch of Sage wrapped in paper and ready to hang up to dry
The bunch of Sage wrapped in paper and ready to hang up to dry

All we need to do when drying herbs is to tie up the herbs in small bunches and exclude light to help preserve the colour a little. Small bunches of herbs are best as they dry more evenly. There is always a risk with larger bunches that the leaves will develop mildew rather than drying properly. I also check my herbs after a few days just to make sure they are drying successfully. The bunch of Sage I had cut today I made up into one bundle.

My bundle of paper-wrapped Sage is then hung up to dry with the leaves pointing downwards. Hanging herbs upside-down to dry helps to direct any plant oils in the stems into the leaves, which is where we want them.

I’ll show you the next stage when the Sage is dry – that will be rubbing the Sage and packing it into a jar.

J Peggy Taylor

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