Dehydrate Herbs in Your Car!

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on June 26, 2009

This one falls in the “honey, are you crazy” realm for poor patient Yankee Bill.  There are just some thing I do in the course of following the frugal path that he sighs and shakes his head over. Using my car as a dehydrator to dry herbs (lovage) is one of those things.

You see, our lovage plant (which I use contantly in cooking & adore) has been reaching it’s full potential. That is to say it has grown to almost 5 feet tall.  Planting it right next to the back door has made it extremely accessible and convenient for cooking-however hubs sense of aesthetics has been marred by it’s somewhat, um, weedy straggly appearance.

Hey, I said it was a very useful plant, I never said it was beautiful.

He asked, very graciously, that I give it a haircut.  Although it wasn’t bothering me in the least, some things you do for the sake of one you love.  I gave it a trim.

Now my frugal soul (aka packrat tendancies) kicked in. Although I knew that the lovage plant post trim was still way more herb than I’d ever use in a season-I really, really hated the idea of throwing out perfectly good leaves.

So what to do? I have read that you can freeze them in water. I know last fall I froze some the lazy way-just cut off a bunch of stems and threw them in a freezer bag. Those were fine in stews etc, but had that slimy watery texture. Not really pleasant to add to a potato salad.

That’s when I remembered one of those random frugal ideas I had read about but never gotten around to trying.  Using your car as a dehydrator!  I know that sounds crazy, but think about it. . .how hot does YOUR car get sitting in the summer sun. . .

I ran down to the basement and grabbed one of the large screens I saved* when we had all the windows replaced a year ago.  I gave it a good scrub and sat it against the deck to dry.

Then I cut all the good leaves off of the Lovage stems I had trimmed. I was going to try doing something with the stems-in fact kept them in the kitchen for a day before I decided that was just too much and composted them.

Then I took the screen and placed it in my car.  It was just long enough to balance on the front headrests and the back seat.

I spread the leaves on the screen. They completely filled it up, with some overlap.  That worried me a bit, but I knew they would shrink as they dried. Although I’ve read some articles that say you should leave the windows cracked for air flow, I left mine all the way up.

I checked the herbs at the end of the day, and there was significant shrinkage, but they were still limp and pliable.  So I decided to leave them in for another day**.

It proceeded to either rain or be very humid for the next 3 days. Now I didn’t want to take them out of the car in the rain, and the times when it wasn’t raining it seemed like it was really windy. So I just left them there! The first day I didn’t drive anywhere. The second I did but just left the screen balanced there. The third day I had to drive with the kids in the car so I carefully moved the screen to the cargo area of the vehicle.

The car did smell pretty strongly, but pleasantly, of dried lovage not only during the drying process, but also for several days afterwards.

When the drying was complete I brought the leaves inside and placed them in a Gallon sized zippered baggie.

Hmm. That is pretty bulky . . .

What if I just sort of crushed it up, right there in the bag?

There! Much better. Now all I have to do is put it in a container and stick it in the spice cupboard! Viola!

I wonder what else I can dehydrate in the car? What do you dehydrate? Do you use an electric dehydrator or some other method?

For a great article on dehydrating check out “Dehydrating Vegetables” by Pat Veretto
*Note: I try really hard not to over-do when saving things-although Yankee Bill would say I do NOT succeed on that particular front! I showed great restraint and only saved 4 window screens. . .
**Note: It was only about 70 out. If you had hotter weather I’m sure it would be done in a day.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Amanda June 26, 2009 at 11:17 am

I LOVE IT!!I can just imagine Bill’s face when you loaded the screen into the car. I don’t even know what lovage is!? What do you do with it?

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate June 26, 2009 at 11:20 am

Lovage is an herb that tastes like celery, but is much, much easier to grow! Since it is perennial it comes back with no help whatsoever. I use it in soups, stews, stirfries, green salads, tuna/chicken/egg salad, potato salad et.

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Sharon June 26, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Jenn — what a great idea! i’m going to give this a try.

The only other method I’ve used is in our attic (we have a metal roof and it gets HOT up there!) but the car makes a lot of sense and would be easier!

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jamie June 26, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Cool! I bet lavender or rosemary would be great…just think how nice it would make your car smell. :-)

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Danielle June 26, 2009 at 8:34 pm

That is so cool! I would have never thought of that! Here in Utah we could dehydrate them real fast with our heat!

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Troy @ I Refuse To Recede June 27, 2009 at 11:44 am

I loved this article. This is how I dry my herbs, and it was nice to get some validation that I’m not crazy. Or if I am, at least I’m not alone in my craziness.

The inside of my truck always smells good. The smell lasts through the winter, and I like it much better than those little pine trees.

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Heather June 28, 2009 at 5:44 am

What a great idea! I never would’ve thought about putting them in the car! It shouldn’t take anytime at all here in the wonderful Houston heat! THanks for sharing!

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Laura Ravnikar June 28, 2009 at 12:55 pm

This is the best FRUGAL article I have read in ages!! It reminds me, fondly, of the Complete Tightwad Gazette, (which to me is the Bible of All things Frugal!) I can’t wait to try this with my Basil and Oregano!! Thanks for a GREAT post!!

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dawn June 29, 2009 at 12:19 pm

This was a great idea. When you read frugal blogs regularly, after a while, they’re all talking about the same thing, but this, i thought, was quite unique. I’m converting my screened porch to a sunroom, and now i have a good reason to salvage some of the screens. After reading your post, i’d also like to try growing lovage. My favorite herb is basil, and i love my fresh pesto sauces in the summer.

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ebook review July 24, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Fantastic. care to share your sources :) ?

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Nicky August 1, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Great way of using your car! I found this info on tips for drying herbs . It seems alike a good primer on how to get started.

There is also some interesting info on how to dry herbs to make tea . Might be something you can use your chamomile for!

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Galan November 9, 2009 at 10:34 am

Nice post! rad blog

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zeke_axlerod November 23, 2010 at 2:06 pm

Great Idea for a Redneck, make use of those old junk cars in your yard, LOL.

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Jenn @ Frugal Upstate November 23, 2010 at 2:09 pm

LOL. . . I guess so, but I am willing to bet most of those types of rednecks aren’t too into herbs, unless they are the kind you can roll up and smoke.

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Stuffany February 29, 2012 at 10:15 am

Have been drying herbs all my life before we moved to Florida, where it’s too humid to dry herbs in the attic. LOVE THIS IDEA! However, I always hung my herbs in bunches upside down, loosely in an old pillowcase. Enough air got to the herbs to dry them, but no dust or bugs – and no mess. I totally can see myself hanging my herb-pillowcases in my old van!
For keeping herbs I suggest to leave the leaves as big as possible and store them in a tin can, plastic container or jar in a dark place. Crunch them just right before use. It makes a big difference!
That’s what I used to do with my peppermint leaves and lemon balm to make tea. You’ll never go back to tea bags!

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traci August 27, 2013 at 8:14 pm

too funny. I’m thinking if i dehydrate some nice smelling herbs it would totally replace the funky car smell with some good odors!

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