At first, there is nothing.
All at once, it hits!
The spring and summer harvest is on. It came out of nowhere, and all of a sudden, there are piles of herbs, fruits, roots, and botanicals that need to be preserved ASAP.
So what is the best way to preserve all of that herbal goodness, fast and efficiently? Thankfully there are a few options and were going to dive into those here.
What is the best way to store all of these herbs that I"ve grown and dried?
How do I make them last and make sure they don't go bad?
How do I know when they go bad?
With 10+ years of experience in dehydrating and 7 years of blending teas, we have been asked these questions many times. They are some of the most common problems when it comes to preserving that harvest that you worked so hard on and are depending on.
The good news is with a little knowledge, these issues won't seem so scary anymore.
Electric dehydrators can be expensive, take up space and cost more in electricity.
But your mint needs to be harvested now before it takes over the yard and blooms. At the same time, your calendula flowers are going nuts, and the roses are blooming.
Dehydrating without an electric dehydrator can save initial costs in preserving your food, save on electricity, and save on counter space.
But what are the best methods for dehydrating without a dehydrator?
Basket after basket full of flowers. Crate after crate full of berries. All of the goodness is hauled in from the garden, from the farmer's market and from around the farm to help produce flavorful and healthful herbal teas.
From late spring to the depths of summer, the harvest starts coming in. Fresh and flavorful Oregon strawberries, earthy antioxidant packed aronia berries, delicate and earthy blackberry leaves. What ever the botanical may be, its a mad rush to get the harvest in and preserved for the winter.
Our favorite way to preserve on the farm is to dehydrate the bounty. Not only does it make fabulous tea, but it's also a great way to put up food as well. With a few simple tips and tricks, dehydrating is also very easy to do.
Some people get up early and they go to the gym, or go for a walk or have some form of exercise they do to start off with their day. Its a great habit and start to great health.
On the farm, the garden is our gym. Its great because not only is it "free" but it "pays" us in food! And boy do we need the food after working in the garden, talk about a great way to stir up an appetite!
This time of year harvest season is hitting hard. We have LOADS of food coming in the house. The counter is piled with food of all sorts and we spend a couple days a week just processing and putting up food for the winter.
This week we are taking you with us as we dehydrate what we bring out of the garden. The freezer is full, the fermentation area is full so all that is left is to dry or can. I'm just not a fan of canning and in the video below you will find out why.
Do you have a summer garden? What food do you preserve to get you through the winter? Is there something that you wish you could/would grow and preserve? Share with us here!!!
The tomatoes are coming wildly from the garden, as soon as one batch is put up there is another batch! WE love our tomatoes though and we are thinking we probably grew enough to make enough pasta sauce all year without having to buy any.
After all I planted 80 tomato plants! Yes. I'm crazy.
Truth be told though, I hate canning. Its hot, its time consuming, its hot. Did I say that already?
Dehydrating tomatoes is so simple and while our huge dehydrator heats up the house some smaller dehydrators out on a porch in the shade do an excellent job! Check out video #2 this week on how you can dehydrate your tomatoes at home.
10 lbs of dark chocolate and the best dried Royal Ann cherries in the area! That is what takes us on this weeks Youtube adventure as we pick up product for our farm store. Check out how the cherries we use in our Cherry City Chai tea are dried and then the other special treat that this lovely farm makes with them! If you happen to be in the Eola Hills area in Oregon just outside of Salem make sure you stop by Cherry Country to take their cherry and chocolate factory tour! We are very thankful to Celeste and Marsh for giving such a great tour and letting us film!
Oh March you were so wet, so cloudy and so windy!!! Despite the wet and windy weather St. Ignatius Vineyard was still so beautiful that I had to stop and take pictures. The clouds just made the bright green grass even brighter and the blues bluer! We took a little trip off the farm to pick up some of these beautiful dried Royal Ann cherries from Cherry Country to add to our chai tea blending turning an already fantastic blend into Cherry City Chai, a chocolate cherry chai!
Aren't these cherries beautiful! They add such a wonderful aroma to our chai tea and knowing that they were grown right here in Salem, Oregon and that they are an heirloom to the area makes us feel like we are drinking history in a cup. Check out our Cherry City Chai here.
Around the Barnyard ...
Chicken's and tea? Who knew? We are loving our Great American Farm Tour cup, great for drinking tea hand blended down on the farm.
We have two new additions down on the farm! Meet Hey Ewe and Dodge Ram! They are sure sweet little ones and babies are always welcome down on the farm!
In the Farm Kitchen...
Kefir grains, they make the fastest yogurt with the biggest probiotic punch! We have been loving them in our morning smoothies with bananas, Bliss Nut Butter and local raw honey from Flying Bee Ranch!
Mixing up some purple dilly kraut! Fermented foods make the gut healthy and happy and this one is beautiful to boot!
Local granola with some of our kefir yogurt, a tasty breakfast and treat!
Crepes? Yes please! Filled with Bliss Hazelnut Butter, cocoa powder and local raw honey to make a fantastic "nutella" like spread! Complete with a bright yellow tint from our farm fresh egg yokes.
Building the tea studio...
March brought us the completion of the bottom level framing! Getting a little bit closer to that tea studio being complete. Estimated competition date is Summer of 2017
In the Farm Store...
Ahhh... Cherry City Chai, beautiful and delicious. Sporting our new Mexican hot chocolate mixer which we used to help froth our Cherry City Chai milk for latte time!
So in love with these flowers from Floating Petal Confetti! They are the beauty in our Oregon Harvest Berry Tea!
Rain or Shine its Market time! We are back at the Salem Saturday Market doing tea tastings! Come down and have a try. Salem Oregon Capital area from 9 am to 3 pm.
We welcomed a new piece to our tea business. Our new dehydrator will allow us to dry even more local goodness from black berry leaf to cranberries, aronia berries, haskap berries and more! We are super excited to be able to provide local goodness without any additives or chemicals!
These beautiful cranberries from the Bandon area just make us want to drink tea! Coastal Cranberry Spice tea that is! We hand sliced 40 some pounds of berries in order to bring this wonderful tea to Made in Oregon. We are now located from Portland to Eugene and to Newport!
Thanks for joining us down on the farm!
We are excited to be providing a hand-crafted, artisan loose leaf tea featuring Oregon grown ingredients. Local farmers. Local Families. Small Business. Just plain good tea! No nonsense! Visit our store and make sure you get free shipping through April 21st using coupon code HEisRISEN17 on orders $25+.
In the Kitchen …
Thawing out our berry stash from the freezer. Its that time of year to use up what didn't get used over the winter to make room for more of the freshly picked berries. Yay berry season is here!!! These lovely homegrown marionberries, by my father in law, became yummy jam! Marion berries are a rare treat grown here in our county… Marion county! A cross between a blackberry and some other berry I don't remember.
Inspired by this Pinterest find Spinach-Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake our version… not baked and without the fake cheese (really no better than real cheese and equally as expensive) this dish was just as good without!
In the garden …
See that inclination that the horseshoe pit would become a green house was not too unrealistic! Our horseshoe pit is now being plotted out for a green house. We started leveling out the location and hopefully in not too long it will be full of nice green things, even through the winter.
In the dehydrator …
The "farm" animals
This week in the garden (ours and thiers!)
in the dehydrator
in the bakery (aka kitchen)
Since our little farm is in the very beginning stage in terms of growing plants most of the medicinal herbs we use come from Mountian Rose Herbs or Amazon.
I was in need of some dried ginger for a tea blend and the price to purchase it already dried was rather high so off to the store I went and picked up some fresh ginger for a couple of dollars.
There are several ways to peel ginger, or rather several tools that can be used. Such as a pairing knife, a spoon and a potato peeler. I found that the pairing knife worked best but that the spoon was handy for getting around all the knobby parts of the ginger.
Once the ginger is peeled next take a sharpe slicing knife and cut the ginger into 1/4 inch slices and then into match sticks and from there into 1/8 in squares or so and place them on your dehydrator tray.
Make sure to spread the ginger evenly, or somewhat evenly, over the tray so that the air can circulate around it and it will all dry in about the same amount time. Dehydrate the ginger at 115 degrees for about 2-4 hours. It really did not take as long as I imagined that it would so check often and see how your ginger is doing.
The ginger is dry when it has shrunk about half its size, its brittle and very light weight with no stickiness to it. When you ginger has dried all the way place your dehydrator tray at a slant over a cloth dish towel and scoop/scrape off the dried ginger on to the towel. This towel keeps the mess mostly contained and then allows you to shake the ginger off the towel into a container. Or if there are left overs on the towel that are too small to save it is easily shaken outside and thrown into the wash for simple clean up. Place your dried ginger in a dry sealed container such as a class canning jar and seal with a lid. Store in a cool dry place such as a pantry or cupboard. Should last quite some time so long as moisture is kept from the jar.
This ginger may be used as is in a tea or decoction for things such as colds, flu, coughs and sinus infection. We plan to mix it with several other herbs in a tea blend. It can also be used in soups, stews, stir fries and any other recipe that has enough liquid to rehydrate the ginger. Or grind up these dried bits into powder for homemade ginger root spice for things like pumpkin pie or curry. There are so many different medicinal uses for ginger that a search online will turn up a whole host of things such as arthritis or assisting with burns and more.
With spring here and some lovely weather from our Creator we are getting a little more exploring done on our newly purchased two acres. On one of these walks it was discovered that we have some comfrey growing wild n our yard (along with lots of other things). So today we harvested comfrey and hung it out to dry.
Comfrey is one of the main herbs used in two of our salves (soon to be in our store) the Diaper Salve and the Gardening Salve. According to our medicinal plant encyclopedia Comfrey is commonly used for promoting the healing of broken bones and most commonly called the 'wound herb'. It is a demulcent, astringent, anti-inflammatory and promotes the healing of wounds and bones. It is used in our Diaper Salve and Gardening Salve mostly for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to relieve skin problems.
It can be used in its raw form for a poultice, the leaves are used to infuse oil such as in our salves and can also be made into an ointment. Under the self help section in our book it lists its uses as being for acne, boils, fractures, fungal skiing infections, healing wounds, inflamed skin rashes and stiff and aching joints.
To harvest we took our kitchen scissors out and cut down at the base of the stalk and placed the stalks (including flowers and leaves) in a 5 gallon bucket. Some gloves also come in handy as they have little stickers on the stalk that can get stuck in the skin. Once harvested I gathered some of the stocks and tied a twine around the base of the stalk tight and then tied the twine on the posts located on our front south facing porch.
This amount of herb was too much for the dehydrator and with a nice sunny day as today, we have some free energy to dry them out with. It should only take a couple days I imagine and they will be ready to chop and store away until its time to make another round of salves.
Comfrey comes back once cut down and can be reharvested several times. This can be the cause for it being named amongst the 'weeds' in the yard because it can be troublesome to part with. Tilling up the roots only spreads the plant more and can easily create a whole field of comfrey. Which if one is making a lot of comfrey oil could actually be a good thing ;) But perhaps not in a green lawn.
My name is CeAnne, wife to my Farmer and mama to 4 adopted kiddos. I help farm lov'n mama's (and grandmas) turn common herbs into powerful medicines without being overwhelmed. Here you will find all sorts of nourishing goodness on natural medicine, herb gardening and wholesome real foods. Read more about our farm HERE.