Dehydrating Garden Produce to Preserve It
Updated: Dec 4, 2021
I harvested these berries on June 9, 2021 and dehydrated them in the oven. This was the first time I've dehydrated strawberries, and they turned out nicely.
The finished product - minus a few that I couldn't help but pop in my mouth, of course! Delicious.
If you're looking for an easy plant to grow, look no further than strawberries. They're a hardy perennial plant, which means that if they like where they're living, they will come back year after year without eplanting. The plants also spread out considerably, sending out runners that make new plants at the end of each growing season.
I started out with three or four strawberry plants, and in three years, they have spread out into a very nice bed.
If you don't have actual gardening space, strawberries also do well in containers, so they can be grown on a patio or balcony.
The strawberry patch
I dehydrated one full cookie sheet and one small, square baking pan of halved strawberries in the oven. I don't have a dehydrator, but you can obviously also do them in an actual dehydrator. I washed the berries, hulled them (took off the green tops), and cut them in half. I lined the cookie sheet and baking pan with parchment paper and dehydrated the halved berries in the oven at 200 degrees. The berries should be placed on the parchment paper cut side up, and there should be a little space around each of the berry pieces. None of the berry pieces should be touching each other. It took about five hours for them all to dehydrate. I flipped the berries over once halfway through.
I cut my berries in half, but they would dehydrate faster if you cut them into quarters or slices.
The smaller pieces dried faster, and I took them out of the oven at various intervals, leaving the bigger pieces to continue drying. If you do start this process, make sure you do it on a day when you are going to be home for the duration. You will have to check on the berries at various times.
I read a tip online to keep the dried berries in a jar with some air in it for about a week or so. Shake the jar up every day. This ensures that the berries don't clump together.
Another hardy perennial to try is oregano. Like most herbs, oregano has medicinal qualities. It's antioxidant, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial. Oil of oregano is often used as a natural antibiotic. Oregano grows plentifully, so it's a good one to dry and also to give away to neighbours!
Oregano harvest - June 8, 2021
You can dehydrate oregano and other herbs in the oven or in a dehydrator, but I like to just air dry it. It takes longer, but it's also lower maintenance and doesn't require any electricity.
I harvested the oregano and washed it in a sink of water. I took the oregano out of the water and shook it and then set it out on paper towel (double thickness).
Once a day or so, I move the oregano pieces around to make sure they're drying evenly. I reuse the paper towel after the oregano is dry because it really isn't dirty.
It will most likely take at least a week to dry in this manner, depending on the humidity of your climate. (If you live in an extremely humid climate, it might be better to use the oven or a dehydrator.) Once the oregano is crispy-dry, you can remove the leaves from the stems and put them in a glass jar. Dried oregano will last for ages. Most people say one year for dried herbs, but honestly, I often use them well beyond that. My rule is: if it still smells and tastes good, use it. I've also dried thyme and basil this way, and I assume all herbs can be dried in this manner.
There's no one way to garden or to dry your garden produce, so you can experiment with whatever way seems easiest and best to you. Happy Gardening!
Oregano drying - with a little amethyst power mixed in!