from the October 1985 "Drying Times "

by Barb Moody

If the thought of the holiday season brings visions of crowded stores, endless shopping lists and an overstretched budget, relax this year and let your dehydrator return some of the joy of the season. Handmade gifts express a warmth and love than cannot be matched by store-bought ones. Whether you make all your gifts or just add a homespun touch to a purchased one, the time, energy, thought, and love you put into your present will be the most precious gift of all. Many holiday projects can be started now. Here are just a few possibilities:

Dried Fruit Trays - Arrange a selection of dried fruits on a platter, plate, wooden tray, or foil covered cardboard. We like to use a few fancy varieties of dates as well as some exotic fruits such as papaya or star fruit along with our own home-dried fruit. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Decorate with ribbon, a bow, and perhaps a sprig of holly.

Fruit Sampler Canister - Select a nice jar or make a fancy canister by decorating a lid of a glass jar with cloth and ribbon. Some stores sell wooden canister tops that glue onto regular jar lids. Layer different varieties of fruit and nuts in the jar. I like to use strawberries, blueberries, almonds, black cherries, and small slices of pear or apple. Tilt jar as you fill a layer to create an eye-catching effect. This is a great gift for outdoor enthusiasts who take dried fruit on trips.

Bath Baskets - Choose a wicker basket. Add excelsior or straw packing. Then arrange in it a fragrant bar of soap, an herbal washcloth (see article on using herbs), a sachet, and perhaps a loofah, a pomander or dried herbal potpourri.

Homemade Meal Mixes - A great gift for working mothers, bachelors, or students, your own chemical-free food mixes will be a hit. A couple mixes add a thoughtful touch to a gift of a crock pot or casserole dish.

Home-dried Herb Teas - Your own custom herb tea blends make wonderful gifts. Package them in decorative metal tins or in a special teacup or mug. A package of your special blend makes a nice gift with a teapot or tea strainer.