The Dryer Diaries

I know this blog has been on the very, very quiet side lately.  Sort of taking an unintended sabbatical, even though hundreds of little ideas keep jumping into my head to write about.  No promises on doing better since I will be away from a computer a bit this summer, but there is always hope!

On the farm, I am pretty giddy to have my very own project. Sort of like a room of my own within the larger farm operation.  For a little history, my husband and I started out farming as equal partners. But after children, I pretty much retreated inside to keep the little ones away from too much sun, too many ticks etc.  And I am slowly finding my way back into farm work, partly by telling the farm’s stories, engaging in farm advocacy and by hatching my very own project to reduce waste on the farm by dehydrating vegetables, flowers and herbs.   I am the proud recipient of a very nice grant from Northeast region of USDA’s SARE (Sustainable Ag Research and Education)  to test two dryers on our farm.  One will be completely solar and very low tech and low cost and the other has an electric heating element and fan.  Both were based on designs from the University of California at Davis and have never been tested in the muggy, humid Chesapeake Bay region.

So introducing the dryer diaries, I will use that category on this blog to track what is happening with the driers this summer and fall. So far, I have experimented with drying bachelors buttons, some herbs and cabbages.  As tomato season kicks in, I plan to test tomatoes and many more greens especially the trendiest member of the brassica family — kale.  I hope the driers will help us to reduce waste and develop some new value added products and possibly inspire other farmers to do the same (or at least not make the same mistakes I do). My solar dryer needs some adjustments before I post a photo but below is the awesome chest dryer which should be capable of drying lots and lots of tomatoes.  I bought stainless steel donut frying trays for my drying surface because I don’t think plastic should be used as a drying surface. This dryer contains a heater and a fan and is a slightly scaled down version of this design.

chest drier exterior

chest drier exterior

one half of the chest dryer inside

one half of the chest dryer inside

The blue bachelors button dried with color intact in the solar dryer in under three hours! It is edible, has medicinal uses and is just so pretty.  I have also dried calendula, lavender, cabbage, boc choy and a few other herbs.   The boc choy did not work, it blanched out white and became tasteless but everything else came out great so far. It will be a fun adventure, I will let you know how it takes shape.

dried cornflower

cornflower on the drying tray


  1. This is a very exciting project! I always forget about drying. It’s such a great way to preserve foods and create new tastes. I’m really looking forward to hearing how your experiments go.

  2. Ruthcarol Touhey

    Is drying the same as dehydrating? I’ve seen small dehydrators for kitchen use and thought about getting one – love to make chewy veg and fruit snacks for family and pups.

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