Drying herbs and fruit is the easiest method of preserving flavor for months to come.
Herbs that dry particularly well and retain their flavor include rosemary, thyme, sage, lavender, lemon verbena, bay, rose geranium, oregano, marjoram, myrtle, savory, and flowering dill and fennel heads.
The best time to harvest herbs is in the early morning after the dew has evaporated, which helps to minimize wilting. When handling, avoid bruising the leaves, and wash only when necessary.
To prepare for hanging, strip the leaves off the lower third of the stems and gather a handful of equal-sized stems into a small bouquet. Tie the bouquet tightly with a length of kitchen twine and knot the loose ends of the twine together to make a loop. Hang the herbs in a warm spot with plenty of ventilation, out of direct sun.
Made in New Hampshire by Shaker craftsmen, our lightweight wood drying rack provides ample space for preserving herbs and flowers. Come into our Healdsburg store and let us show you how it works.
Most herbs will dry within a week or so, and will keep for up to one year, although they will become less potent with time. Store dried leaves and seeds in glass jars, away from light.
Sun-Drying Fruits and Vegetables
Fruit or vegetables are usually dried on a flat surface such as racks or trays covered with cheesecloth or in a specially designed solar dryer (shown in photo above) to protect the food from the vagaries of wind, insects, and birds.
Apples, berries, cherries, figs, tomatoes, persimmons, and peaches take well to sun-drying methods. Vegetables well-suited for sun-drying include eggplant, onions, and sweet peppers.
Due to higher sugar and acidity levels, fruit tends to keep a higher percentage of its vitamin content and flavor when drying.
To prepare foods for drying, begin by washing the fruit and coring it, if needed. For drying, fruits can be cut in half or sliced. Thin, uniform, peeled slices dry the fastest. The peel can be left on the fruit, but unpeeled fruit takes the longer to dry. Place the pieces on a flat surface, careful they don’t touch or overlap.
To dry fruits out-of-doors hot, dry, breezy days are best. A minimum temperature of 85ºF is needed with higher temperatures being better. It can take several days to dry foods out-of-doors.
High humidity in the South is a problem for drying fruits out-of-doors. A humidity below 60 percent is best. If these ideal conditions are not available when the fruit ripens, other alternatives such as using an oven or electrical dehydrator to dry the food are needed.
Fruits dried out-of-doors should be covered or brought under shelter at night. The cool night air condenses and could add moisture back to the food, thus slowing down the drying process.
Once foods are dried, store in glass jars with tight fitting lids in a cool, dark place.
Dried foods can be eaten as is or reconstituted with water.
Meet the Gradek brothers, Healdsburg neighbors who specialize in sun-drying the peach harvest.