This past weekend when we visited Robbie Wooding’s farm, not only did we learn about native plants, preservation, water wheels, and inner bark harvesting, but Robbie also shared with us his technique for drying herbs.

When he was younger, the farm was used in part to grow tobacco (this is Virginia, after all). When the green tobacco leaves were harvested, they of course needed to be dried for sale. Leaves would be strung from wooden poles, which were then hoisted up into the tobacco barn to dry until the whole barn was full, top to bottom with tiers and rows of drying tobacco.

This same method can be applied to drying herbs. The traditional tools used were a drying horse (the wooden frame shown in the pictures) and some twine. Alternately you could use a broom handle or dowel laid across two stumps or sawhorses (I always seem to have a broken broom or shovel handle around—apparently I don’t know my own strength *grin*).

Robbie strings the drying horse

First, we harvested some mugwort. Then feed your twine through the eyehole of the drying horse. At the opposite end, start wrapping small bundles of your herb and laying them across the dowel, alternating sides. I’m not going to try to describe the wrapping in words, but the end result is that your alternating bundles are fastened together over the dowel using a chain stitch, which is easy to “unzip.”

Hang your dowel or stick of strung herbs to dry in a warm, dry, dark place, like an attic or the top of a barn.

That's me stringing some mugwort - we all had a turn :)

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