Drying flowers to preserve them has been a homesteading tradition going back hundreds of years. The only downfall to the process is all of the patience it requires. Pressing flowers between boards or sheets of cardboard takes weeks. These oven and microwave flower drying techniques take only an hour or less.
There are many reasons to dry flowers to preserve them. The dried flowers can be used in far more than just beautiful homemade wreaths and craft projects. You can preserve edible and medicinal flowers for use in a plethora of raw or cooked dishes, as well as in salves, tinctures, and healing pastes.
I am using the term “flowers” loosely here, fellow homesteaders. You can use these same oven and microwave flower preservation methods on “weeds” and leaves from flowers, bushes, and trees as well.
Harvesting Wild Flowers
Determining the best time to harvest wild flowers can vary depending upon the species, especially when you are also going to preserve the leaves and – or stems, as well. Typically, you want to harvest the flower after it blooms, but not always.
The wild edibles recipe you are making or home remedy instructions should offer specifics about optimal harvesting time. It is entirely possible that stems and leaves may need to be harvested at different times than the blooming flowers that are produced on the same plant.
When preserving just the flowering portion of the plant, snip it just below the flower head so it will lay flat during the oven or microwave drying process. This helps ensure the even drying that is required for long-term preservation.
- Flower heads - pick no more than can fit in your oven to avoid wilting. Because the oven drying process occurs so quickly, it is possible to dry multiple batches during a single day.
- Baking Sheet
- Drying rack - optional, but recommended to increase air flow if drying thick or large flowers.
- Set oven on the lowest setting available. A heat setting ranging from 150F (65C) to no more than 200F (93C) degrees is highly recommended.
- Place all of the flower heads onto the baking sheet, spreading them out so they do not touch. If using baking racks, place them onto the baking sheet first, and then fill them with the flower heads.
- Set the time for at least 1 hour, but up to 1.5 hours if preserving a lot of flowers on multiple trays. It may take up to 2 hours to dry the flower heads if they large or thick.
- Check on the flowers about every 30 minutes to avoid over-drying them and causing scorching.
- Remove the flowers from the oven, and allow them to air dry to room temperature before storing in a container with an airtight lid.
How to Dry Flowers in a Microwave
Drying flowers in a microwave allows you to preserve the wild edibles far quicker than in an oven, but you can only do very small batches at once. Because of the rapid drying process, some folks staunchly maintain that microwave preservation allows them to retain their vibrant colors far better than other drying methods.
How pretty the flowers are will not make any difference to you when mixing up a healing salve or making a meal during a survival situation. But, when working on a crafting project or a dish containing wild edibles for a gathering, the colorful hue and flatness of the flower petals could make a great deal of difference.
- Freshly picked or purchased flowers
- 2 fire bricks preferably, but a heavy glass or similar extremely hard and flat that is microwave-safe can work as well.
- Paper towels
- Snip or pinch off the flowers just beneath the head so they will lay as flat as possible.
- Place a paper towel on top of the glass tray insert in the bottom of your microwave. If you don’t have a glass tray, use a glass microwave safe baking dish or fire brick on the bottom of the microwave oven.
- Place a single row of flower heads onto the heavy base covering.
- Place another paper towel on top of the flowers.
- Put a fire brick or heavy microwave safe glass object on top of the paper towel.
- Set the microwave for full power mode for 2 minutes.
- Remove the top brick or glass, and carefully flip over the drying flowers.
- Replace the paper towel and heavy microwave safe object.
- Heat at full power for 1 minute.
- Repeat the careful flipping of the flowers process in 30 second intervals until the flower heads are completely dry.
- Use or store the preserved flowers as soon as they are cool enough to touch.
- Store the microwave dried flower heads in an airtight container in a cool dry place until ready to use.
If you are preserving the flowers for a table arrangement or other type of decor where the stems also need dried, you can do that in the microwave, as well.
To dry and stiffen the stems, wrap them with non-metal floral or craft (20 to 24 gauge works best) wire through the base of the flower head and in a helix formation down and around the stem. The stems will not be flexible after drying using this method.
I have read several online tutorials on microwaving flowers, stems, and leaves that are different than mine. One recommends putting a silica gel packet in the microwave oven with the drying flowers to soak up moisture, and the other uses a small bowl of kitty litter for the same purpose.
While these methods might work great, I have opted against trying them because we follow a low tox to no tox philosophy on our homestead, and I was concerned about fumes from either the silica gel or the cat litter.
Drying flowers using a combination of the conventional oven and microwave oven methods using either a convection oven or a toaster option might be entirely possible – I have just never tried or read about either method.
If you are only going to be using small amounts of the flowers (or leaves or stems) at once when drying them in either a conventional oven of a microwave oven, store the flowers in smaller containers.
The more the dried flowers are exposed to air and moisture, the quicker they fall apart or go bad. When dried and stored properly, preserved flowers will last for years – potentially decades.