Consumer Reports

How to Safely Grow and Dry Your Own Herbs

Consumer Reports explains how you can easily start your own herb garden!

NBC Universal, Inc.

Herbs and spices can elevate your meals from plain to family favorite. But here’s a warning: A Consumer Reports investigation found potentially harmful heavy metals in some popular spices.

Besides convenience, there are some good reasons to grow your own herbs and spices. In Consumer Reports tests, roughly a third of the store-bought spices they looked at were found to contain enough potentially dangerous heavy metals to raise health concerns when regularly consumed in typical serving sizes. 

There were three problematic store-bought herbs: basil, thyme, and oregano. The good news is that they're among the simplest to grow.  

If you have a sunny spot in your yard, porch, or even a windowsill, you can safely grow herbs to use fresh or dry yourself.

Herbs grow well in separate pots with good drainage. Place a few stones in the bottom of a pot with a hole in it.

If you want to make sure that the herbs you grow are free of heavy metals, you need to start with the soil. Buy potting soil with a seal from the Organic Materials Review Institute to be sure it has been assessed for heavy metals.

It’s simple to dry and store your herbs. Wash and dry the leaves thoroughly to avoid mold. Place them in a paper bag for several weeks, then store in airtight containers, where they can last a few years. Or you can speed up the drying process by using a toaster oven, an air fryer or a multi-cooker set to the dehydration function. 

Now that you’re thinking about it, take a look through your spices and give them the sniff test. Although many can last for two to four years, CR says if you can no longer smell them, it’s probably time to toss them out—and consider growing a new batch yourself.

So grab some seeds and soil, and get started!

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