Drying and Storing Herbs
Whether you harvest herbs from your garden or use fresh herbs from the store, you need to dry them prior to use. The water in fresh herbs can spoil your soap. You can dry herbs in the microwave, by hanging them in bundles in an airy room, or by spreading them out in a single layer on a flat surface.
To dry herbs in the microwave, place the herbs in a single layer on a piece of paper towel. Cover the herbs with two more paper towels. Put the arrangement of towels and herbs in the microwave and set it for one minute. Check the herbs — they will probably still be moist, with the covering towels absorbing some moisture. Microwave for another minute and check again. Repeat until the herbs are dry. Be careful that the towels don't burn!
The microwave method, although quick, is not favored by herbalists, as it is thought to destroy the fragile chemistry of the plant matter. But if the herbal properties are not important to you, go ahead and use this easy method.
If you have a shady window, you can dry herbs there. Bundle the herbs in small bunches and tie them with raffia, string, yarn, or embroidery thread in colorful combinations for a pretty touch. Don't bundle them too tightly because that prevents air circulation and can promote mold growth. Suspend the herb bundles from the curtain rod or from pins hammered into the wall or woodwork.
It is best to dry herbs in a shady window because exposure to direct sunlight is thought to destroy the properties you're trying to preserve through air drying. The reason you hang the herbs in a window is because of the air circulation. You want a balance of indirect light and air.
Check the herbs every day for a week or so. If they weren't bundled too tightly or too damp to start with and they get air circulation, they should be dry in one to two weeks. When the herbs are dry, store them in tightly sealed containers out of direct sunlight.
Laying Them Flat
You can speed up the drying process and keep most of the herbal properties intact by drying herbs in a single layer on a cookie sheet on top of the stove. If you have a gas oven, the heat from the pilot light is enough to dry the herbs in a few days. If your range is electric, heat the oven to 200°F, turn it off, and put the cookie sheet of herbs on the top of the stove. Heat up the stove once a day.