How the Food Dehydrator Saved My Garden
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We make homemade pizza, and basil and oregano are essential ingredients. Pizza night happens fairly regularly, in fact nearly every weekend–often enough to prompt me to look to the garden. I grow both basil and oregano, but had never thought of drying herbs at home.
Why grow your own herbs in the first place?
- Fresh garden herbs have superior flavor you can’t find in a store.
- All summer, you have fresh herbs to use! You can also plant in pots or even inside if you don’t have outdoor space.
- Seeds are cheap, compared to those precious little jars!
If you grow herbs, why bother to dry them? It’s so much work!
- Dried fresh garden herbs have a brilliant fresh flavor and color. You can’t buy it like this.
- In the case of perennials like oregano, it’s already out there! All you have to do is cut and dry.
- It’s not really that much work. Cut with scissors, spread on the food dehydrator trays and turn the machine on!
Years ago, I bought a little four-inch pot of oregano. I think it was a Mother’s Day special at the local greenhouse. It’s now a justifiable shrub and taking over the herb garden! The stems grow to two feet and it blooms and grows from June through October. That’s a whole lot of oregano, but I hadn’t been taking advantage of the abundance in my own backyard!
My grandmother had the first food dehydrator I’d ever seen. She was an old-fashioned homemaker, kept chickens and had a pantry and a back kitchen. I thought a dehydrator was a luxury for such a lifestyle, but she was keen on putting food away for the future, most immediately winter, which was long and fierce in her part of the woods. This food dehydrator was a dinosaur that must have doubled the electric bill every time time it was powered up.
Fortunately for the rest of us, food dehydrators have come a long way since then!
I now have my own food dehydrator, and it’s one of the best purchases I’ve made. My garden is ultimately more productive, because nothing goes to waste. Fruits, herbs and vegetables have earned longevity thanks to this machine. So far, it’s dried tomatoes, peppers and squash; blueberries, strawberries, bananas and apples; hops; dill, cilantro, and, for the pizza, the all-important basil and oregano.
I did my research before I purchased: I read ratings and articles and researched the companies. Ultimately I went with the 9-tray Excalibur food dehydrator, because of its great capacity and claims of even drying (which, happily, I am able to confirm!) I also bought the pack of 9 Dehydrator Sheets to accompany, which I’ve used to make apple leather—great for packing in kids’ lunches!
Back to the oregano, and the first test of drying herbs at home in the new food dehydrator. I cut and dried a whole batch of oregano, all nine trays full. After it was dry, my boys helped pick the larger stems out and push it through a strainer to crush into flakes. The result was a beautiful, brilliantly green herb in nice pizza-friendly flakes. There’s so much more oregano out in the garden, I’ll certainly dry a second batch and maybe more.
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