Out in the garden this morning, I noticed that the thyme had started to flower (it's about thyme, I said!). (groan). This is the signal to do a haircut on the herbs, and do the season's first batch of drying. (It's a pain if the flowering gets too far along, since you get a bunch of crap in your dried herbs -- i.e. flowers and seeds -- so it's best to head this off at the pass!)
These herbs will far surpass anything you can buy at the store. I recall reading some FDA guidelines for herbs specifying the amout of dirt and the number of insect parts and rodent hairs that are acceptable in commercial preparations. I aim for pretty much zero of both.
The first step is to give the trimmed herbs a wash. If you're strategic in your trimming, you'll avoid the dirty parts of the plant and only trim the clean stuff (chuck the parts with spit-bugs on them too). Then all you need are a couple of rinses in cool water (I use a big bowl to do the rinsing). Rinse in small batches so it isn't too crowded and you get good water circulation. Once that's done, shake them out to remove excess water, and plunk them down on tea towels to start drying.
chimichurri if you're keen on doing some Argentinian grilling this weekend!)
Now, how to dry it. This is the key part of the process. If you dry the herbs too slowly and in high humidity, the leaves will start to darken. Basically, you'll be making black tea out of your herbs and creating a whole new taste sensation that may or may not be any good. The key to success (and green dried herbs) is a fast dry in a low humidity environment. This leads me to the brainwave of the century: I dry my herbs at work in my super dry and hot office.
Bon appetit! Remember, it's time to get ready for winter. The days start getting shorter in less than a month!