Next week begins my "Fruits of Summer" Series, and I can't wait to explore some of the Summer's most popular fruits with you. However, before we get to that, I want to revisit an article that I wrote a while back. It was an article over drying herbs, and I think that information will be useful in case you want to dry out some of the fruit we're going to talk about later. Then, you can make tea, have a healthy snack, or just preserve it for later! I'm going to talk about three different methods to dry herbs and fruits, and you can decide which method works best for you. Let's begin.
The first method is the most common for those of us who don't have a dehydrator. It is Oven Drying. Oven Drying your herbs/fruits is easy, but it will take a lot of time and patience. Well, all of these methods take time and patience, unless you have a super fast dehydrator. Set your oven to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You don't want to cook the herbs/fruit, so a low temperature is important. If you're drying herbs, leave them on the stems and spread them out on a baking sheet. Try not to overlap them. If you're drying fruit, cut them up into smallish bits and spread them on a baking sheet. Be sure to remove any seeds they may have. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and shut the door most of the way. You want to keep it cracked just enough to let some air in, which will help ensure that the product gets dried instead of baked. Now, the waiting begins. The drying times will vary, but you're going to want to check on it every 3-4 hours for herbs, and 4-5 hours for fruit. Juicy fruit (like Peaches) will take longer to dry than Basil or Peppermint, so just keep an eye on it. When the herbs get crumbly to the touch, and the fruit no longer has any moisture, take them out of the oven and let them cool. Store in an airtight container and use as desired.
Air Drying is our next method, and it is a little more traditional. Have you ever seen a movie where some old woman has a bunch of plant bundles hanging from her ceiling? That's Air Drying. Air Drying is the best method for herbs and flowers, but it's not great for fruit. Be sure to keep the stems on your product because you will need it. Wrap the stems of your herbs with a rubber band or hair tie (or whatever you have on hand) and hang it in front of a window. If you don't have a window that you can use, hang it in the sunniest room of the house (unless it's a bathroom. You don't want to hang it in a humid environment). That's pretty much it. I have heard that placing a paper bag over the herbs will help with the drying, but I've done just fine without one. If you're drying something with seeds (like flowers), a paper bag will help reduce the mess/loss of herb. Check on it every few days. It's ready to store when the leaves become crumbly to the touch. If it's a large bundle of herbs, you may have to rotate it a few times to make sure it's all drying.
The third method I want to talk about is Sun Drying. This method is great for fruits and veggies, but you'll want to watch out for any birds or critters that might think you're setting out a buffet. Slice up your fruits and veggies and spread them on a screen before covering it with another screen. To make your own screens, you can attach some screening to a large photo frame, or follow These Instructions. Be sure to set them on blocks or chairs so air can reach the underside. Check it every few days to make sure the screens are in place, the fruits are drying, and the animals haven't taken off with your precious bounty. Alternatively, if you know that you'll use this method a lot, you might want to invest in a Solar Food Dryer. There you have it! You know how to dry fresh herbs and fruits, and you can use these methods to make your own teas, create healthy snacks, or stock up that pantry for winter. To learn more, visit Spark People, The Spruce, and Shed. The firt two photos are my own, the third one is from Herbal Academy.