Saturday, September 10, 2016

The easiest solar herb drying method ever!

I've always wanted to make a solar dehydrator. I've looked at solar dehydrator plans and kits but never really wanted to invest the money for a kit, or the time to build one myself. However, I love the idea of being able to dehydrate herbs without using electric. Plus, I dehydrate a lot of herbs in the summer and can always use extra space!

This past weekend I found a super simple solar method of drying herbs and I just have to tell you about it! Over the years I have used various methods of drying herbs including air drying by hanging, oven drying and my current favorite, using my dehydrator. That is until now, because I have discovered that the easiest way to dry herbs is to simply leave them in your car! Yep, that's really all there is to it and I stumbled upon this quite by accident.

how to solar dehydrator

Last weekend we went to the Renaissance Festival down in Pittsburgh. The parking lot was a huge field and all along the outer edges were Red Clover plants. The basic rule of foraging is to not take too many and ask permission. There really wasn't anyone around to ask, but this was a field they were slowly destroying by parking cars on it so I figured the unparked areas were fair game.

We were going into the festival and I was afraid if it was dark when I came out I would forget to grab a few, so I picked 1 perfect Red Clover blossom and placed it on my dashboard as a reminder. We locked up the truck and went into the festival for the next several hours.

We left the festival right around sunset. When I went to get in the truck I moved the blossom and was surprised to find that it was completely dry! Not just wilted or a little bit dry, but completely dry. It crumbled easily in my fingers. *light bulb* I picked another handful or so of blossoms to take home with me. That night I left them in the middle console of the truck and by the next evening they were dry.

I decided to try this with other herbs. The next morning I collected some fresh Caledula blooms and laid them out on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper then placed it on my truck seat. I shut the doors and left the windows up. The truck sat in it's usual spot in full sun all day. Around 5pm I went out and checked the flowers and they were completely dry. I love this method! My truck smelled pretty good too, so that's a bonus. (I doubt I'll dry chives or other strong smelling herbs this way though!) 

Just in case it was a fluke, I tried again by just laying some dandelions on a dish towel and setting them on the seat. Once again it worked....although I really recommend the baking sheet for easier clean up. 

Dehydrate herbs in car

I have experimented with a few different herbs and this seems to work best with small blooms or thin herbs like Dill or LemonBalm Some bigger flowers take 2 days to dry completely, but it does work. I'm super surprised that something that works so well is also so easy. Also, lets not forget cheap! No electric is needed in this method and would be great for off grid living. You can put a small oven thermometer in the car with your herbs and crack the windows if it gets too terribly hot. You wouldn't want to overheat them!

Of course it won't work as well on an overcast or chilly day, but it's a great sunny day option. I also like the fact that a shut car is dust and bug free, unlike the shed I usually hang flowers in to dry. The less I have to deal with crawly critters the better I like it. What a happy little discovery this turned out to be!

~L
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