Dehydrating and preserving herbs and flowers is a satisfying part of gardening and homesteading. If you are at all interested in herbalism, it is a much wiser choice to grow and preserve your own supply, rather than buy them – and not know how the items were grown. This is of utmost importance if you are using the dried items to make teas and tonics and will be ingesting them.
While there is the cost of a dehydrator upfront, if one wants one, the end cost of harvesting in season and preserving for long-term storage is quick and cost saving.
While there are many dehydrators on the market, most run about the same in quality. We use a L’EQUIP 528 Dehydrator, and have for about 10 years now. I like the look of the unit, and how it fits on the counter. It is also relatively quiet. The key to buying one is having a fan and an adjustable temperature setting. Nesco makes affordable dehydrators, and are work horses. Yes, there are fancier ones, but being able to start and not spend $300 has its benefits.
You don’t need a dehydrator for smaller herbs, such as chamomile and lavender, these can dried in paper sacks, in a dry and breezy area. However, if you live in a humid area, I highly recommend using a dehydrator, if it takes too long to dry you can get mold. On our sister site, TrailCooking, we talk about how you can use your oven to dehydrate. For herbs and flowers, I don’t recommend this. It is just too hot for them (where as for pasta, rice and meat, it works great!).
For best results, pick in the cool of the morning, before the air heats up. This keeps the volatile oils in where they belong. As well, some herbs can cause skin irritations if picked when hot (such as sage, you don’t want to get a lot of the oils on your skin). Some plants you will cut off sections, such as lavender, rosemary, thyme. Once dry, you can strip them off and store. For plants such as peppermints, lemon balm, sage, basil and so on, pick sections, then pop each leaf off before drying. They will be more delicate, and will crush if you strip after drying. For flowers, pick as close to the flower top as you can. Stems are tossed.
I dry at below 110°. How long it takes depends on the plant material, how thick it is, and the humidity in your drying area. In most cases it takes a few hours to a day.
Once fully dry, let cool and promptly pack into glass jars, and sealed.
Then enjoy as needed!