A friend recently gave me her well-loved solar dehydrator. I have been chomping at the bit to try it out, and yesterday picked a bunch of herbs (that will eventually go into salves) and set to drying them.
I spent some time in the evening gathering calendula blossoms and comfrey (shown here), broad-leaf plantain, raspberry leaves, rosemary, lavender, and costmary. The calendula blossoms come in an array of peaches, yellows, oranges since I let them freely self-sow around the garden and express their natural genetic diversity.
I have two electric dehydrators and make a lot of dried fruit and herbs in them. However, electric dehydrators use a LOT of power and must run for eight or more hours. This adds cost and produces heat indoors as well as any environmental impact that comes with plugging in an appliance.
The permaculture way to preserve via dehydrating is to utilize the natural energy of the sun (Principle 2: Catch and Store Energy) to dry food and herbs without costly use of electricity and all the waste products and impacts that come from using the grid (Principle 6: Produce No Waste).
The dehydrator is made with a series of screens stacked into a wooden box. There is air space between the screens and around their edges. The top of the box is glass, and as the sun’s rays are harnessed, hot air builds up in the box and circulates around, drying the herbs without any work from me, save rotating the screens a couple of times over the course of the day. It is extremely efficient if the day is sunny.
Looking forward to making a batch of salves soon, and hoping for more sunny days in the next week so I can dry prune plums next!