Herbs, Etc.: To Dry, or Not To Dry

“Dear Mertie Mae,

I’ve read a lot of different things on herbs, garlic, onions, etc., and it seems like each differs on if they are better fresh or dried.  As a horticulturist, what is your opinion?




Hi Rachel,

Thank you for your question. As a cook myself, I know what you mean. Do you use dry or fresh oregano? thyme? onions?


Photo courtesy of Stock Food.

First off, always go with fresh onions, garlic, and shallots.  It allows you to be versatile with your preparation.  Sauteing in butter, bacon drippings, or oil will allow their addition in a recipe to add so much flavor.

There is no doubt that fresh from the garden is always best.  Just-picked herbs like mints, rosemary and sage have an overwhelming abundance of quality that can only be described as tasting “green” and “alive”. Use fresh herbs for that “green,” “alive” quality and its accompanying bouquet, or if you’re whipping up a dish or sauce in a pinch; fresh herbs release flavor more quickly than dried herbs (which need time to rehydrate) do.

Many foodies say that some herbs, such as dill, parsley, and chives, should never be used in dry form. Their “green” qualities are their primary appeal, and there is no reason to use the dried product because all things that are essential to those herbs have been taken away.  If you have extra from the garden (or you don’t like the idea of pesticide-filled herbs from the grocery store), freeze the fresh herbs in water in ice cube trays for later use.

Alternatively, herbs originally native to hot, dry climates can be excellent when dehydrated. In order to survive during the dry times, these herbs easily maintain their “green,”, “alive” qualities, which  concentrate the flavors and makes a spicier flavor. Additionally, the ability to add a dried herb to your food works with these types because they are often used in foods that shouldn’t have added moisture, like a marinating steak or roast.  Oregano, basil, and most seed herbs are from warmer climates.

The other key factor with herbs is that if you have them dried, they won’t last more than 8 months (with the exception of bay leaves, which last 2 years).

But, most importantly and beyond anything I say, trust your own taste buds.  You are the one eating the food, so go with what you like. If you do that, the rest is just details.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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