As I learn to grow and work with the beautiful medicinal herbs, I need a way to preserve them for the winter months. After much consideration and research, I bought my first dehydrator. With a little practice, I am enjoying the process of drying herbs to use at home.
Summers in my home state of Virginia are quite humid, and although some herbs dry well, others take a lot of time and avoiding mold is a constant challenge. Here are the biggest advantages to using a dehydrator to dry herbs.
Using a Dehydrator – Advantages
Dehydrators allow you to quickly and gently dry your herbs. Here are the biggest advantages to using a dehydrator to preserve your herbs:
- Temperature control. In general, the lower the temperature for drying herbs, the better the color, aroma, and medicinal value.
- Faster drying time. Using a dehydrator, most herbs can be dried in hours instead of days.
- Drying herbs in a dehydrator requires less space than hanging herbs or laying them out on racks and screens.
Drying herbs in a dehydrator is really quite easy. Follow these tips for the best success.
How to Dry Herbs in a Dehydrator
- Preheat your dehydrator with the thermostat set between 95 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. If you live in a particularly humid climate, you may want to set your temperature as high as 125 degrees.
- If your herbs are damp, be sure to gently blot them dry with a towel to remove as much moisture as you can.
- Place the herbs on the dehydrator trays in a single layer.
- Small leaves can remain on the stems, but removing larger leaves from thick stems will shorten the drying time.
- Drying times will vary depending on the moisture content of your herbs. Loose, fine herbs like yarrow and mint will dry more quickly than moisture-filled herbs like plantain or comfrey. Expect 1-4 hours for most herbs.
- Check your herbs periodically for dryness.
- If you are using a stacked dehydrator, place the harder-to-dry herbs on the bottom and the lighter herbs on the top. It will be easier to remove the faster-drying herbs if they are on top.
- Be sure to keep track of which herbs are in each tray – it may be difficult to tell them apart when they are dried.
- You can dry any combination of herbs at one time as the flavors will not blend.
- If you are drying roots, scrub the dirt from them, pat dry, and cut into ¼ to ½- inch pieces. The roots will harden when dry, usually within 6 – 10 hours.
- The herbs are dry when the leaves crumble and the stems break when bent.
- After you remove the herbs from the dehydrator, allow them to cool before storing to avoid condensation forming.
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Things to Consider When Purchasing a Dehydrator
When considering which dehydrator to purchase, I was fortunate to have an herbal grower share her experiences with different dehydrators. I was able to try out two dehydrators – the Excalibur and the Nesco Gardenmaster Food Dehydrator, both of which have excellent reviews. I decided to purchase the Nesco and it has been a great investment.
Each type of dehydrator has advantages and disadvantages, and here a few things to consider when shopping for a dehydrator.
- Size and space. You can choose small dehydrators and work with small batches of herbs, or you can go large. Just remember to consider the space you have for using and storing the dehydrator.
- Noise. Some dehydrators can be quite loud during the drying process, especially those with fans that circulate the air.
- Extras. Fan or no fan, temperature control, and timers are some of the choices available when purchasing a dehydrator.
- Cost. Drying fresh herbs at home is an effective way to save money. You can spend less than $50 for a simple dehydrator to dry a few small batches or hundreds of dollars for a dehydrator capable of rapidly drying large batches of herbs. Read product reviews and talk to others already using dehydrators for their recommendations.
Preserving the Harvest
It’s important to store your dried herbs properly to avoid spoilage. Store your dried herbs in air-tight containers labeled with the plant and drying date. Keep them out of direct sunlight, and when possible, store whole leaves versus crushed leaves. Although storing whole leaves takes more space, the herbs will retain their color, aroma, and quality better than crushed leaves.
Whether you wild harvest or grow your own herbs, using a dehydrator is a great way to preserve the aroma, flavor, and medicinal qualities of your herbs. A dehydrator allows you to control the temperature and quickly dry your herbs, reducing damage and spoilage. Once dried, you will have access to your summer harvest throughout the year.
Want to learn more about Herbal Remedies?
The Herbal Academy Courses are wonderfully in-depth, down-to-earth, and full of practical ideas for bringing herbal medicine into your life. Although their courses are online, there are plenty of recipes and activities to keep you busy, as well as a supportive online community of learning herbalists. And their course materials are absolutely stunning.