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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