If you don’t plan on consuming your entire flush within the first few days of harvesting, drying your mushrooms will ensure their potency is preserved and you can continue to enjoy them for months to come. Drying them as soon as possible will preserve the potency of your mushrooms. Mushrooms are 90% water, which makes drying them one of the most crucial steps in preserving your fruit. It is possible to maintain the aesthetic golden caps and white stems as well as the potency of your mushrooms if you dry them correctly. Mushrooms are completely dry when the stem can be easily snapped, also known as “cracker dry”.
Before your mushrooms become “cracker dry”, you must start off with the pre-drying process. This is a simple process that will greatly benefit you with whichever drying method you decide to use. Spread your fresh mushrooms on a tray lined with paper towel. Make sure the mushrooms are spread out to make sure they’re no mushrooms touching. Place the tray in front of a fan that is on low speed to air them out. Depending on the size of your mushrooms, this could take anywhere from 2 – 12 hours.
Once the mushrooms look shriveled and have a rubbery feel, you are ready to continue onto the next step of drying.
Desiccants are a low-effort way to dry your mushrooms and there are several different ones available for purchase. Desiccants draw moisture out of the mushrooms and leave you with dried mushrooms that can be stored for months. Before using any of these, it is important to first pre-dry your mushrooms. One way is to simply spread your mushrooms out evenly on a clean towel or a piece of cardboard. Place them in a well-ventilated area, away from direct sunlight. After a few hours they should appear wrinkled and feel rubbery. Now they’re ready for the desiccant.
To build a simple desiccant dryer, simply place your desiccant of choice in an even layer in the bottom of an airtight container. Cover all the desiccant with a paper towel, the mushrooms should not make any contact with the desiccant at all. Place a well ventilated rack a few inches above the desiccant layer. Evenly spread the mushrooms on your rack, seal the container shut with the lid. The desiccant will begin to pull the moisture from your mushrooms. Ensure there are no cracks in our container and that the lid is secured. Any outside moisture will drastically affect drying times. Now you can check every couple days until your mushrooms are cracker dry!
Silica gel is available in several different forms and can be the most effective when the mushrooms have first been air dried. Silica gel is available at most hardware stores. Silica gel can be regenerated by either microwaving on medium/high for up to 12 minutes, or placing it in the oven at 300 Fahrenheit for 1.5 hours. If you are regularly drying mushrooms with desiccants, silica gel is a great choice because of its regenerating abilities.
Dehydrators are a consistent and effective way of drying your mushrooms. They use a low heat with constant airflow that allows the mushrooms to slowly and evenly remove all the moisture. To start, you want to spread your pre-dried mushrooms into one layer on the drying racks that come with your dehydrator. Set the temperature anywhere between 40-60°C (100-150°F). The drying can take anywhere from 4 – 12 hours. Make sure to check every couple hours, some mushrooms will have more or less moisture than others. Keep an eye on them and take out the mushrooms that are cracker dry before the others