GROW: The Book
May's third Nettle & Cleaver harvest dried & cut ready for storage. Just starting to harvest Red clover & Cornflower.
Like yours @Vicky Morris my drying area is in a spare bedroom along with all my other medicinal preparations and ingredients. I have a lovely drying rack that a friend made for me. 2' x 4' with 6 mesh trays. So it is about 4' high. Even with that amount of space, I find myself using a variety of other trays and hangers to dry all my harvest. Stinging nettles are on two trays right now. Cleavers look almost ready for picking as do the violet leaves. But today is a gorgeous sunny day so it will be an Arnica picking day for me.
Sounds wonderful! I hope you will share pictures with us of your drying method & racks and please also of your wildcrafting adventure today. 😍Our elevation in Norman OK is 1100 so I am trying to grow meadow Arnica grown from Strictly Medicinal seeds. The plants are still small yet and have not bloomed.
We have an old black Suburban that serves as a dehydrator. It works great!
Pretty embarrassing but it’s all I got ... for now... this feverfew, roses and chamomile. I just need to figure it out.. maybe once I retire!
Love the pictures! Putting them in the car for the last dry off sounds like a fab idea. Then I don't need the silica pouch.
I own a dehydrator to use because I live in a climate which gets hot and humid much of the Summer months so my main source for dehydrating can't be used.
What is my main source? It's the back of my car. I own a hatchback with two sunroofs. The sun roofs aren't mandatory as long as you have windows, they work well also. But when the weather is not so humid, all of my dehydrating of plant material gets done in my car.
Lay out the plant leaves just like you would be putting them on the dehydrator screens and put them in the car with all windows left up, not open. Usually within a few days my spices are ready to be stored.
As for screens, I made a few wood frames (mine are 2 feet by 3 feet but they can be made any size) and tacked some window screen onto them. Nailed on a few "wooden feet" on the four corners and now I can stack 3 or 4 frames each on top of the other. Everything works perfect and I don't have to run the dehydrator for 8-10 hours anymore just to get a small batch of plant material done.
@Vicky Morris This is my drying rack before it got moved to the spare bedroom. Takes up too much room to be in the kitchen.
@torey that is an awesome drying rack! Not sure where I would put something like that but I'd find a place lol. I have a dehydrator which seems to run most of the Spring-Fall. If it's long stems I do small bunches tied with string and hung from a clothes hanger, that works well also. If I could find a way to keep dust off of it our detached garage would be great. Maybe in my car in there? The garage is not insulated and gets really hot - maybe I could cook in there lol. I guess I could rig some cotton material to hang over whatever rack I devise for that purpose then it can just get thrown in the wash periodically. Do you'all think that would work? It's pretty humid here but not the mold growing kind of humid...maybe it's just too hot.
@seeker.nancy I think your idea of a cotton sheet of some kind would work well to keep the dust off. If you think it is too humid, maybe a small fan would help to keep the air circulating.
I also have a dehydrator and use it for juicier things. I dry elderberries on it whenever I am fortunate enough to get some fresh. Its just a cheap model and doesn't have a temperature setting on it. Its just on or off. So for anyone out there who is considering the purchase of a dehydrator, make sure you can control the temperature. Mine is just too hot for some things and I have to watch it very carefully or I will get a cooked product instead of dried.
A couple of years ago I saw an article by Jim Long, who is an herbalist in Missouri. He said that light degrades herbs a lot more than heat and he used the following method:
Gather dry herbs and put them in a clean, appropriately sized paper bag. Label the bag with with the name of the herb, close it with a clothes pin and toss it in the backseat of your car. Leave the windows up so that it's hot and dry in the car. I shake the bags every day or so and when everything is dry, I pack it up until it's needed.
I was concerned that maybe the heat was degrading the herbs, so I did a batch of catnip as a test. My cat did not complain about any diminished catnip properties.
Torey, that is a geeeegorgeous drying rack. What a blessing to have! Thanks for sharing that just might have to be our next build project.
Oh, btw, I love your antique coffee grinder too!
I have a 3 "shelf" wood and mesh dryer, the herbs start out their drying journey in the garage, then get moved onto a towel and if necessary into the hot water cupboard to finish off.
@torey love this! It feels so overwhelming getting everything planted and my thoughts have already circled around how to dry so many of the herbs I planted this year. That is beautiful AND useful.
I have a weird walk-in closet/attic which I will be setting up racks and screen to dry my stuff (first I have to get rid of some of the junk) 😀
I love everyone’s drying ideas and racks. I am a re-purpose type of gal so I kept and old metal foldable drying rack, made for hanging clothes on. I will be using it to dry my moringa on. Smaller things are done in my dehydrator or laid in any number of places on various materials to dry ie: on towels on picking table, on paper towels, paper plates, or in shallow dishes on kitchen counter or desk in my craft room. I am thinking of building the screen trays as well.
@gardneto76 Excellent re-purposing of a clothes drying rack! You could build screen trays that fit across the rods to make shelves.
@torey thats what I was thinking, and I could do smaller things on them inside out of our dust storms here. I hate leaving things outside long because of so much dust. Did you build your tray system? Wondering how you tacked the screen on?
@gardneto76 No, I didn't build it, a friend did. The screen was attached with small staples and then a piece of wood trim to cover the stapled edge.
I have a timber frame 6x3' with square wire mesh attached on one side, each square about 1/2". It was originally used as a sieve for soil and compost but after a while I thought I could live with bark, wood and sticks in my garden beds, great aeration and help with good bacteria production. So I've re-purposed it into my drying rack, keep it in one of my sheds, basically in the dark, dust free. Just dried out comfrey leaves and now have tarragon on the dryer. Very happy.
Like @gardneto76 I use an old clothes drying racks but mine are wooden.like @torey suvgested, My hubby made me screens that do fit across the bars if I want to use them that way but I usually have both racks filled AND the trays, sometimes I can do both depending on how much air flow I need per crop I’m drying. I keep mine in the library right now, but we are building a large canning storage room under our deck and it will be free if humidity so the racks will get moved there when it’s done. I also use my dehydrator a lot as I live in a humid cool area near the ocean in Oregon. Some crops just mold if I try drying naturally, oregano is one of those herbs.
A large canning & herb storage room would be a dream come true. Hope you will document the build and how you are using the space so you can share with us.
I asked my family for Christmas to get me a hanging herb drying rack. It has I think six mesh levels to allow air to circulate all the way around. Can’t wait to use it this year.
I use my cooling racks and towels. I usually set them wherever I can find room at the time. I also hang them on a baker's rack we were given (the kind with lots of trays that slide in - like at bakeries). I just tie them along the outside of it.
I really love your drying rack. We are off grid, so can't usually use electric dehydrators as they really guzzle power. Sometimes when I'm desperate, I trade with a neighbour who has one and she dries my stuff, but it's not the same as watching it yourself, getting it to the perfect dryness.
I've used our vehicles with the fruit on screens and the window cracked a bit. I also have a great open floor area above the kitchen where warm kitchen air comes up and I can put my wicker baskets and screens. And, someone gave us one of those collapsible nylon mesh drying racks which is awesome for flowers and herbs. It hangs on the clothes line that we have installed across the second floor above the living room (open concept house).
I use this drying rack I purchased for about $25 on Amazon. It keeps the herbs separate and uses the sun and wind of the Southwest. When it rains, I move it inside. When not in use, it stores flat. It also keeps the insects away. We have been building an apothecary with local herbs in this uncertain time. This is filled with peppermint, catmint, mullen, and yarrow. I love all of the other ideas as well.
Wow! Lots of Nice setups here. Too Hamid here in coastal NC for outdoor drying. We usle a dehydrator, crash by hand and vacuum seal in Mason jars.
I use screen covered bakers' rack shelves. There is, however, another method that I like. I put cut herbals into a paper bag. If the herbals are not packed tightly, the paper seems to draw out all of the moisture.
Don't be jealous: I have an old stove with PILOT LIGHTS!!! The oven cavity makes a great dehydrator, maintaining an ambient temp of about 85 degrees F and almost no humidity. It's dark in there. It's convenient. I hardly use the oven for anything during the warm months, anyway, and the pilot light is already ON! I can get three large trays in there at once PLUS three smaller trays turned perpendicular and perched on top edge of the larger ones (I use stainless steel "hotel pans" from used restaurant dealer for holding the herbs). My partner wants to get a new stove, but I am not budging on having this workhorse with dehydrating capacity!
@Nancy A.Maurelli A friend of mine just got a new stove with all the bells and whistles. It has a dehydrating feature on it. So don't be afraid of new things. But sometimes I wish my oven had a pilot light. I have a propane stove but it is a newer model that has pilot-less ignition. The burners can be lit with a match if the power goes out but not the oven. However, I am lucky enought to have a wood cook stove in my kitchen as well. So not really a big deal if the power goes out.
I really like that collapsible drying rack bought on Amazon. The fact that it is readily portable and collapsible when not in use, is really appealing. Is there a downside to this type of system?