I'm fairly new to growing herbs and cooking with them. I'm hoping some experienced gardeners and cooks can give me some advise.
At the moment the herbs I've tried working with are oregano, chives and catnip. Note, I don't have a dehydrator and so I've always just air dried them. I've tried hanging herbs in a bunch until they're dry and I've also tried drying just the leaves (separated from the stems). Here's what I've tried so far and the results, any suggestions, hints and tips would be greatly appreciated!
Oregano: I really love oregano and have found that store-bought oregano just can't compare to fresh home-grown oregano. When it gets tall and bushy in my garden I cut a large clump of it. I then pluck the leaves off the stem (by hand) and disgard the leaves that are tainted in any way. Now as to rinsing the herbs off I think I've tried it before plucking any of the leaves off as well as trying to rinse the leaves after plucking them. I'll be honest, rinsing them just seems to be a royal pain. Is it really necessary? Is there a better way to do it?
Catnip: I have a lot catnip growing wild in my yard. My cats love eating it fresh but I'd also like to dry some as an alternative to buying it in the stores. Last year I cut a bunch of it and hung it upside down in a bunch in my basement. They just wilted, lost their color and their aroma. The cats couldn't care less about it. Is there a better way to do this? Or is the wild stuff just not very potent once it's dried out?
Chives: I did the same thing with the chives that I did with the catnip with just as poor results. The chives wilted, turned yellow and ended up in the trash.
I know nothing about using them fresh and since these are all growing in gardens I like to preserve some for the long winter (and save money on buying the darn things!)
So how do I dry these herbs to make them useable?