The only beautiful death in this world is that of the leaves in fall. I say this every year as I am blessed to live in an area renown for the colorful fall leaves that scatter and paint the ground in their striking demise. Then of course, like a mortician, I have to rake them all up and bag them.
But what does the change in seasons mean to you? For some, like myself, it is a time to pull in what is left of the harvest and store it for the colder months. While I enjoy fresh herbs in my garden, even with a greenhouse, the amount of snow and negative temps I endure during the winter months, prevents me from having a full crop throughout the year. So, what do we do? We dry our herbs and plants, we store our squash and other hearty vegetables and we plan for the cold winter.
Drying herbs does not have to be difficult, in fact, event if you arent a herbalist or use herbs in your spells, you can dry other items for display or to use when casting. I just dried my basil and parsley plants and they are now stored away in a container to be used in the coming colder months.
Many flowers can also be dried by hanging them upside-down in a cool dray place for several weeks. An old trick someone taught me was to spray flowers with hair spray to preserve the color and look longer when drying but I have found this to be hit or miss.
Hydrangea, which comes in many colors, are excellent for drying and then using as decorative accents around your house. Even when you are going to discard them, you can save some of the dried petals for future spells. Dried lavender is another good one to use for sleeping spells. I always feel more confident in growing and drying my own ingredients.
When you are harvesting your plants to bring in and dry, it is also the perfect time to check around the plants for any deceased insects. I collect many wasps, bees and moths that are intact to use for future casting. They usually are dying out in the fall so this is a good time to replenish your collection.
The only thing I would caution in attempting to dry out would be any form of fungi. Mushrooms may appear to be pleasing to the eye and useful in some spells, however, most mushrooms that grow wild are not easy to dry out. They decompose quickly and often turn into a liquid and leave a foul odor along with a slimy brown mess. I have experimented with several different types and have not had much luck. My recommendation would be, if you need mushrooms in your spell, cast it when you can harvest them fresh. Also, remember that consuming any wild mushroom is dangerous as there are only specific ones you can eat and if you are not versed in knowing which ones, you can make yourself very sick.
So please, share with everyone your tips and experiences with drying herbs and storing items for later use. I am curious to hear about other ways to process them and what other people do as part of their fall ritual in cleaning up.
This is a fun post, thank you for adding it! I have actually been struggling with this very thing recently. I have generally let my herbs air dry since it looks beautiful and smells great. However, right now I am in an extremely humid climate and that is a recipe for disaster. I have just been drying my herbs in the oven at the absolute lowest temperature I can (170 f). This works pretty well, especially with something denser like ginger root, but it can be tricky for the delicate leaves of spearmint. I generally prop the door open in this case, just a crack, and then keep a close eye so they don't turn brown. This isn't ideal, but it will do for now. It has the added benefit of smelling amazing.
I do miss making apple skulls this time of year https://food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/halloween-food-hacks-make-shrunken-heads-out-apples-potatoes-0157773/, but they would quickly succumb to mold here for sure. I will have to keep an eye out to see what crafty solutions or projects other posters have. While I won't be located in this area for much longer, I miss taking part in the harvesting atmosphere of this time of year!
Your oven idea is an excellent means of helping them dry out. Mold is the biggest issue with humidity. Even in my sub-zero environment, my firewood often will grown mold on it if it sits too long in the storage shed when humidity gets trapped in there. I have also dried out pumpkin seeds and bagged them up only to discover mold growing all over them inside the bag. (I didn't have them completely dried out apparently!)
I do know they sell small drying devices for you to make dried fruit and other things which could work as well for drying herbs. The oven is a good use, as long as you watch it so it won't burn!