When I decided to grow medicinal herbs, as Wild Health Herbals, for Namasthé Tea this year, I knew I would be getting into new territory, as growing and drying medicinal herbs on a large-ish scale was not something I had experience with. And while the growing has had a few challenges so far (namely in the seeding stage, as some of these herbs are tricky to start from seed), the herbs I am growing are all fairly low maintenance and easy to grow. The part I was slightly, shall we say, unsure of from the beginning has been the drying process. It turns out that drying high quality herbs is not as easy as you might think. Especially in quantity. When you are making do with the space and materials at hand, and it is not really enough space.
And since I am planning on growing high quality medicinal herbs, I also want the finished product to be of the highest quality. So when the calendula really started to pump out the blossoms last week, and I also noticed my tulsi had, seemingly overnight nearly reached the prime time for harvesting it, I suddenly realised I needed to turn my attention to getting my drying shed in order.
For drying the herbs I am using the germination area in the greenhouse at Rootdown. At this time of year the majority of transplants are in the ground, and the remaining ones are outside, no longer needing the additional heat of the greenhouse. So using quarter inch wire screen, a staple gun, some baling twine, and some shade cloth kindly given to me by a neighbour of Rootdown’s, I turned the former germination room into a drying shed of sorts. The screen is obviously to support the herbs while still allowing air flow, and the shade cloth is actually to keep it from getting too hot in there, as many herbs, especially leafy ones, don’t dry to a high quality if they are dried at too high a temperature (or so I have read).
Once I had finished creating the drying shed, I couldn’t help myself – I harvested sweet-smelling tulsi amongst the plethora of bees (they have also been harvesting it!) until the drying racks were full, only harvesting just over half the tulsi! While I could have waited a few more days, I figured I may as well start using the shed, as the spearmint and then lemonbalm are coming on strong, and space will be my limiting factor for drying herbs.
While this is definitely a learning curve for me, that is the beauty of farming – there is always something new to learn, new crops to grow, new ways of doing things – and I’m enjoying this incredibly aromatic learning process to far.