Catnip: a new use for a food dehydrator

November 28, 2009 at 3:02 am Leave a comment

I have a food dehydrator and find that it’s wonderful for drying excess food from my garden — fruits and veggies. I also use it to dry other plants, especially herbs.

I inherited my green thumb (and love of animals) from my Grandma. She always had a huge garden that included herbs of many kinds. She used to hang herbs in the garage — roots up and flowers down was her mantra to us kids. Grandma, who was of Lakota Indian heritage, used herbs in cooking but also as medicines. She also didn’t believe in waste so everything was cooked, cured, canned, dried, or frozen.

toymiceOne herb that I love to grow is catnip. Several times each growing season I will trim some leaves and flowers from the catnip; usually the top six inches or so. The plant will regrow vigorously and the trimming will keep it from getting too leggy.

Not all cats are affected by catnip, which I find very interesting. Some cats like the fresh newly picked catnip — Xena will roll in it –  spreading its oils and scents all over herself.  Many other cats find the fresh catnip too strong and prefer it dried. Before you decide to grow catnip, you might want to introduce some to your cat and see if he or she even likes it.

Once I trim the plant, I place the entire stems on the drying racks of the dehydrator. The stems should also be spread out in one layer so they aren’t on top of each other. I dry the stems for two to three hours or until the thickest stem is completely dry. Drying times will vary depending upon the dehydrator and how much water was in the catnip stems, leaves and flowers.

Once dry, I pick all the flowers and leaves from the stems and put them in an airtight container. I crumble them as I do so. Then I mix it all up so if I take out a pinch, flowers and leaves are all mixed together.

I use the catnip inside cat toys. I will also rub some into the sides of cat trees and scratching posts to encourage the cats to use these instead of the furniture. For my amusement, I’ll drop a small handful on the living room floor; watching the cats is better than television any day! Sometimes just for fun I will sprinkle a tiny bit over the cats’ food.

I also use catnip for environmental enrichment. To keep minds and bodies active, I will take place a pinch of catnip in several places all over the house. The cats then run, climb, sniff, search, and find those bits of catnip. It’s fun for me and I have fun watching them.

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