As the growing season slowly comes to an end, I'm experimenting with drying herbs for cooking use as well as for my chickens.
A farm colleague has suggested that using dried herbs in the hen house over the winter will help discourage mites or creepy crawlies and will certainly help the fragrance in that crowded space. For that goal, I've been harvesting the herbs that are underplanted in my front yard orchard--oregano, lemon balm and lavender. It's important to keep these herbs separate from those designated for human consumption because the front yard is subject to every dog in the neighborhood. 'Nuff said?
Other herbs at the farm have been living comfortably in the green house--basil, sage, rosemary, and chives. These I can dry and crush, then store in jars in the kitchen.
The process of drying herbs is simple. I cut the stems into a size that will fit in my large roasting pan and place it in a cool oven at 140 degrees Fahrenheit with the fan running. (I have a convection oven.) I prop the oven door open an inch or so to allow moisture to escape, checking on them periodically. The timing will vary depending on the herb and quantity being processed. When it all seems a bit crunchy, I take it out of the oven and gently pull the leaves off the stems. Then I crush it with my hands and place it in storage containers. The herbs for use in the hen house are stored in large plastic bags in the freezer.
Drying herbs in the oven makes my house smell fantastic. It's quicker than the traditional method of hanging bunches of herbs in the basement or garage, which (for me) usually results in messy bits of dropped leaves and stems. Give this a try!