Dehydrating, Mark II

I’ve started dehydrating my garden produce again. The first was the fresh green leaves of my Alchemilla plants- so pretty, and definitely edible. They’re in the image featured above the title of this post. I have this fantasy of a row of kilner jars filled with different types of leaves – alchemilla, chives, rosemary, lemon balm, lime, mint, sage, thyme, raspberry and hawthorn – and all but the lime and hawthorn grow in my garden. I’d have flowers in my shortbread and oatcakes and cakes: lavender, rose, rosemary, nasturtium, ox eye daisy, nigella and even garlic. All of those grow in my garden too. The point of this fantasy row of jars is partly to make my own pesto, according to the tastes of the moment, because I just love pesto. I haven’t grown basil, sadly, which is the major part of pesto after all, but I’m still getting my feet under the table with all of this, and with my garden too, so I’ll forgive myself on that score.

I don’t have that whole row of jars yet – but I do have dehydrated alchemilla and rhubarb. In terms of learning lessons, the rhubarb was very instructive. The “recipe” I read said to blanch it first for a minute or two, which I did. Then I tried to cut it into chunks and I was horrified – it had practically disintegrated, it was impossible to cut. Fresh as a daisy, but as contrary as herding cats.

So the next few stalks, I blanched for even less time – in fact, I turned off the gas the moment I put the finger-length tranches into the hot water. They were much easier to cut into chunks, after a minute or so.

Except. The stalks that were blanched for the right amount of time dried much better than the briefly blanched, it was weird. For added weirdness, the dehydrator was only about an inch or so from the wall, and I obviously didn’t turn the layers well enough. The produce on the side of the dehydrator next to the wall was actually burned, no doubt about it. It was flat as a pancake too, and crispy. I’ll do more rhubarb – and more alchemilla etc – but even something as simple as drying leaves and stalks isn’t simple at all.

I do like the concept of dehydrating, though. I have a very basic dehydrator, the round little Westfalia one, which uses less electricity than an old fashioned light bulb. And once something is dried, it’s done. No specialist storage, no further electrical input, that’s it. I really like that, and I’ll be carrying on with it, though I know I have an awful lot to learn.

There is one further victory I’d like to share: I had a new kitchen installed recently, first time I’ve ever done such a thing, because the old one was basically falling apart and not much of it worked. The sink was one of the things I replaced: I didn’t mean to, but the taps that I needed to be replaced were so rusted onto it, the workmen bent the steel of the sink in separating them. So, a new sink was required: and I got one that has a sink big enough to take a dehydrator tray, flat. I can soak the trays and clean them so much more easily than before – and frankly, that means I’m much more likely to do it regularly. Win-win.

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