The Cottage Smallholder


stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

The potpourri project: How to make a simple solar drier

 

Photo: Rose petals and cornflowers in the open solar drier

Photo: Rose petals and cornflowers in the open solar drier

Rose petals are an important ingredient in many potpourri mixtures. You can buy rose petals  online at around £15.00 for 500g. That seemed like an awful lot of money until I started drying our own rose petals. I large rose weighing 150g produces approximately 10g of dried petals.

I’ve also found these – 2 Ltrs of rose petals but am not sure how much 2 litres of rose petals actually weighs.

Luckily, even though we dug up our long rose walk there were a lot of other roses dotted about the garden. Mainly French, climbing and highly fragrant. These generally flower just once a year. There are some repeat flowering roses that were planted by the last owner of the cottage and these have really come into their own this year. One is a dusky pink and the other is a deep yellow. For the first time in my life I’m actually enjoying removed the heads before they are totally spent. Dead rose petals are no good for potpourri.

We have also invested in a deep red repeat flowering climbing rose as most of our roses are white or ivory. Rose petals dry a shade darker. White becomes cream, cream becomes yellow, yellow becomes gold, pink a darker pink and reds change to a deep dark velvety red. I think that using my simple solar drier helps the petals retain a more intense colour as the drying process is very quick.

Initially I was drying the petals in our dehydrator. I also tried drying the petals on newspaper under fine chicken wire – after one batch was blown away on a windy day. But this outdoor method took ages to dry.  Then I realised I could use the double glazed window frames that we used as cold frames in the spring – the double glazed units intensify the heat. The trick is to find two frames that either match in size or even better where one is bigger than the other.

Spread out the rose petals on the lower window – they will shrink a lot so don’t worry about making a single layer. Place the other/bigger window over the top making sure that rain cannot get in. Check them every few hours and separate them as they dry. When they are dry I harvest them immediately and store them in heavy duty grip sealed bags – sucking any air out with a straw. If you leave them overnight they will absorb moisture from the air so will need to be dried a bit more before harvesting.

Store the bags in a dry dark place, so the colours of the petals don’t fade until you are ready to make the potpourri.

Once again I’m so pleased that I’m a hoarder. These double glazed windows are worth their weight in gold.


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2 Comments

  1. joanna

    Quite agree Casalba!

    Fiona you gave me an idea of using some frames I had made with a plastic fabric screening material on them that I used for paper making. I have put some blackcurrants in the frame and tied another one on top, they are now sat outside in our 31C heat on metal cooling racks for a free flow of air. Hope it works.

  2. casalba

    If you are going to be a hoarder, it helps to be a lateral thinker.

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