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Best Dehydrators for Gardeners Reviewed

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Looking for best dehydrators for gardeners?

If you’re looking for the best dehydrators for gardeners, we’ve got loads of helpful information. That’s because we’ve been drying food for decades. And we’ve used a number of different dehydrators to preserve food this way.

Dry pepper braids & wreaths in an Excalibur dehydrator easily

Not only have we dried vegetables from our garden like zucchini, but we’ve also put up fruits, fruit leathers, mushrooms, herbs, flowers, and even pepper wreaths. We’ve even made tomato seasoning salt from leftover tomato water we made for cocktails!

Along the way, we have learned that some dehydrators work better than others for each.  Moreover, we’ve killed a few food driers along the way, especially because we dry so many tomatoes. So if you want help figuring out which dehydrator we know is best for each crop, you’re in the right place!

What’s so great about dehydrating food instead of preserving other ways?

Dehydrating is very sustainable. In part this is because once your botanicals are dried, it shouldn’t take additional energy to keep them preserved as freezing does. Plus, it is possible to dry food and herbs without using electricity! (I’ll get more into that in this article.) Plus, drying foods offers some pretty fantastic options in easy ways to preserve in possibly unusual ways.

Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty about the best dehydrators to preserve your veggies, herbs, flowers, and much more!

Is a round dehydrator the best?

My first dehydrator was a round, stackable Nesco Dehydrator Snackmaster similar to the round you may see here.

Here’s what I liked about this round Nesco dehydrator:

  1. I was able to buy it at a local store relatively cheaply (for around $45 at the time).
  2. And I liked that I could add additional trays as I needed them.
  3. It was easy to clean.
  4. This round dehydrator did dry foods consistently, evenly and in a relatively short period of time.

Nesco dehydrator negative aspects:

  1. This Nesco dehydrator was loud.
  2. This and most cheap dehydrators don’t have a heat setting.
  3. The dehydrator trays were a little wobbly to put together.
  4. Because of the stack-system design, I could only dry things in it by stacking them on trays. That meant I couldn’t hang special items inside of it.

Nesco dehydrator: a starter dehydrator
The best dehydrators for gardeners need to last a long time. And they need to be built to run almost 24 hours a day, every day, during the harvest season. Moreover, harvest season easily lasts from early spring into late Autumn for farmers. So, the best dehydrators for gardeners need to be workhorses. And this food dryer was not that!

This Nesco food dehydrator worked for one summer, but the next year it stopped well before the summer harvest was over.

Is a square Excalibur the best dehydrator for gardeners?

After killing the Nesco, I decided to invest in an Excalibur square dehydrator. When I purchased my 9-tray Excalibur it cost about $220. But it came with a longer warranty than the round food drier. And it came with many additional features which is what makes the Excalibur so special.

Now that we’ve been using the same Excalibur for over a decade, it’s pretty clear that investing in an Excalibur is more cost effective than buying a Nesco food drier! Plus, there are lots of added benefits with this electric dehydrator!
best dehydrators for gardeners drying fruit & fruit leathers

What’s great about the Excalibur dehydrator:

  1. This dehydrator includes removable trays. And the trays have perforated liners. Moreover, both are easy to clean.
  2. You can purchase additional unperforated liners (or make your own) to dry slurries of fruit leathers.
  3. Too, it comes with multiple heat settings, which provides a lot of control getting the right heat for the specific food you’re drying.
  4. You can purchase a version with a timer. However, we did not opt for that upgrade and haven’t found a need for it yet.
  5. If you prefer to create living foods, there’s a heat setting for that.
  6. If you’re into making jerky, this machine is made curing it!
  7. The Excalibur also comes a great food dehydrating cookbook, explaining ways to make everything from fruit leathers to jerky.
  8. And one of the best features is the ability to remove all the trays to use it for specialty items!

(Qualifying purchases made through affiliate &/or sponsored links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors.)

What are some unique ways to use an Excalibur dehydrator?

  1. If you want to get bread dough to rise, remove the trays. Set the bowl inside. And use the heat setting controls for raising bread dough.
  2. If you want to get yogurt cultivating, use this food dehydrator to do it!
  3. If you want to dry beautiful pepper or flower wreaths or braids, remove all but the top tray. Then tie your wreath to the top tray so the wreath hangs. That way you can dry the wreath in mid-air. That means it won’t look smooshed on one side. And it should dry consistently throughout!

What are the drawbacks on an Excalibur dehydrator?

There aren’t many aspects of the Excalibur that disqualify it as the best dehydrator for gardeners. However, it is loud. So we keep ours in the garage where we won’t hear it.

The best dehydrator for herb gardeners:

The best dehydrator for gardeners growing herbs and flowers may be a passive dehydrator for several reasons.

Why we like passive dehydrators for herbs and flowers:

  1. Electric dehydrators may retain the scent and flavor of herbs.
  2. Electric dehydrators use fans, which may blow delicate flowers and herbs around.
  3. Electric dehydrator tray openings may be too big for small pieces of herbs and flowers.
  4. Passive dehydrators rely on natural summer heat to dry botanicals.
  5. It’s easy to line passive dehydrator trays with paper to keep botanicals from falling through them.
  6. Passive dehydrators are easy to shake clean of herbs and flowers.
  7. Passive dehydrators, like ours, easily hang from the ceiling and fold up to store for winter.
  8. Using a passive dehydrator for herbs and flowers keeps your electric food drier available for food!

Drawbacks of passive dehydrators include:

  1. You need to shake the shelves occasionally to be sure items dry consistently all over.
  2. Herbs can get dusty fast, so remove them as soon as they’re dry.
  3. If it is humid, herbs and flowers may not dry well in a passive drier.

(Qualifying purchases made through affiliate &/or sponsored links on this page and others on this site pay a small percentage to Garden Mentors.)

How to use your electric dehydrator for herbs & flowers without electricity.

Here’s a hot tip! 

Remove the trays from your dehydrator. Then place the trays on a table out of direct sunlight and away from fans and breezes.

If your trays are fairly flat, you may want to raise them a bit on blocks. As well, if the botanicals you plan to dry are tiny, line the trays with some paper first.

Then top the trays with herbs or flowers in a thin layer.

Stir or shake the herbs and flowers daily. And they should dry fairly quickly in a passive manner.

Can I just dry my vegetables in the sun or use a solar oven?

In the Pacific Northwest where we spend most of our time gardening, it isn’t likely that you’ll have success drying your crops in the sunshine. That’s because it stays relatively damp here.  Plus, marine air tends to bring in cool moisture at night. And this can lead to mold growth instead of passive dehydration. So, unless you build a solar oven, it isn’t likely you’ll have good luck drying your crops outdoors with just sunlight in this area.

However, we do cure onions a bit in the sunshine during the day. But we make sure not to leave them outside overnight. That means we may be bringing them in and out for a few days. And this isn’t really dehydrating onions. It’s just curing them for storage.

8 comments on “Best Dehydrators for Gardeners Reviewed

  1. Theresa Loe on

    Thanks so much for the shout out here! And don’t say you are not much of a canner. We love your blueberry jam! Mmmmm.

    My old dehydrator died and I am about to buy a new excalibur too. Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

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