The title of this article may be misleading, because there is really nothing quick about the procedure I am about to describe. It is however, a valuable way to quickly incorporate more herbs and foods into your diet, once you get through the process, which I will explain below.
I first came across a recipe for dried tea extracts on Christopher Hobbs website and as I am always looking for new projects, I decided to give it a whirl. The first time I did this I did it with nettles looking for a tolerable way to choke them down. I’ve messed with the recipe a bit after a lot of trial-and-error experimentation and having a chance to pick Thomas Easley’s brain about the process at TWHC.
6 cups of water: 3 cups of chopped fresh herbs
8 cups water: 2 cups ground dried herb
Bring this mixture to a boil and simmer it until the liquid has been reduced by 1/3 . This takes a long time-maybe give yourself a facial or start another project because you are going to need 2-4 hours depending on the day. Strain the liquid and allow it to cool. Press the marc (I used my tincture press), then weigh it after pressing. Return 1/2 to 1/3 of the solids to the liquid. I blend the mixture with my immersion blender at this point. I also add 1/4 cup of astragalus powder at this point.
Bring this liquid to a boil and simmer some more. When the mixture has reduced by again 1/3 and become sort of a slurry, I dissolve one tablespoon of arrowroot powder in some cold water and blend it in. This step is optional, but helps to keep the slurry from running off the dehydrator’s fruit leather tray or sticking to it.
Dry this at 100ºF to 120ºF until the mixture becomes brittle and then break it in to pieces and grind them into a fine powder. I used a coffee grinder and then sifted the powder. If you don’t grind them, you can suck on these like hard candy. I am storing that in the back of my mind for future experimentation.
It is true that a single herb dried extract of nettles might be easier to choke down in this form (yes, I am a bad herbalist who doesn’t like nettle infusions) but why would I do this when I could just make have a nice nettle chai, or maybe a creamy nettle soup that I would actually enjoy? Keep in mind, I think herbal preparations should actually taste good. Especially if you are trying to get them into children, or people whose taste buds have grown accustomed to the standard American diet.
Next, I tried a hawthorn chai blend, but I found that the final product didn’t retain enough flavor even though I used a goodly amount of corrigent spices. I decided that I don’t think I would recommend this method of herbal preparation for aromatic herbs. The length of cooking time seems to have evaporated away most volatile constituents.This probably explains why I’ve seen it recommended to add some peppermint extract or some other corrigent, right before putting the mixture on the dehydrator tray. I think hawthorn is a good candidate though. Just wait to add the flavor until later.
So the next time, I moved away from aromatics and started with with a raspberry leaf/hibiscus blend that I enjoy to see how that handled reducing. I also used the trick of adding some of my orange flavored honey and some cinnamon extract right before I dumped it on the dehydrator tray. That seemed to work a bit better. The result is a pleasant little instant tea that I could happily have two cups of a day. I mix one teaspoon of the powder with a cup of hot water. According to Dr. Hobbs, each teaspoon is the equivalent 6- 8 teaspoons of the herb.
Those who know me know that I am rarely content with following directions and I started thinking of uses for the powder other than as a dosing strategy.
I started thinking about cooking and suddenly the light came on. I could use these powders to flavor food. I made powdered kale “tea” to sneak into sauces, dips, or smoothies and a mixed vegetable powder that I will use to thicken stews. Really the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
From a practical homesteading point of view, this makes good sense. These powders take up less room and may even have a little bit longer shelf life than conventional dehydrated vegetables-lasting up to a year. So experiment with the method and see what you come up with. I haven’t even gotten to fruit yet, but a dried apple powder is next on my list.