I had been thinking about getting a dehydrator for a while, particularly for drying herbs for cooking and in soaps and other bath products but also for potentially preserving my increasing fruit and vegetable harvests. After a bit of research it seemed that you could get either large expensive dryers or small relatively inexpensive dehydrators and nothing in between. There was a lot written about the bigger dryers but not so much about the smaller ones. I certainly couldn’t justify the size or expense of the bigger ones so bought a Sunbeam Food Dehydrator in a half price sale to give it a go.
The dehydrator comes with 5 drying racks and has 3 temperature settings: 35C for herbs and flowers, 55C for fruits, vegetables, muesli bars and fruit rolls, and 75C for drying meats. Leafy herbs are purported to dry in 1-4 hours at the lowest setting (which retains as much flavour and aroma as possible). I had some coriander and decided to try that out. 24 hours later it still hadn’t dried and I was becoming very sceptical about the ability to dry anything more substantial.
I emailed Sunbeam with my dilemma and got a very unsatisfactory response quoting the manual that says produce drying times can vary. That drying times are affected by the size of the load, thickness of the sliced product, humidity, air temperature and moisture content of the food. I know Auckland can be humid but surely it didn’t multiply the drying time by more than 6 times and this was in the height of summer. I concluded that perhaps if I was living in the Sahara Desert my herbs might dry in a couple of hours (but then I probably wouldn’t need the dehydrator to achieve it!).
Not to be deterred, I tried again this time with some celery leaf. I used the 2nd temperature setting and did manage to get it dry in about 12 hours. When properly dry the leaves just disintegrate and easily form a coarse powder. I used a mortar and pestle but I think rubbing the leaves in your fingers would achieve the same result. Store in an airtight jar.