Herbal Fruit Leather

How to Make Herbal Fruit Leather

If you are a caregiver, you’re probably concerned with keeping your kids healthy and thriving. The challenge of getting your family to eat a balanced diet intensifies when some of them are picky eaters. Every bite counts when raising young ones, and so success depends on steering them towards nutrient dense foods, disguising the taste of vegetables, and masterful negotiation of just one more mouthful.

Economical and easy to make, fruit leathers are a delicious way to get an extra serving of fruit, vegetables, and even medicine, inside little bellies. By selecting ingredients high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, you create a treat that helps meet their nutrition needs, and naturally addresses common childhood complaints such as indigestion and constipation.

Sweeteners for Herbal Fruit Leather

Another bonus is that homemade fruit leather contains far less sugar than store bought, as it can be made without any added sweeteners. I find that using a tablespoon or two improves both the texture and flavor, while adding a liquid sweetener in the form of an herbal syrup or infused honey gives you the chance to increase the medicinal power of this snack. In the past, I’ve added fennel(Foeniculum vulgare) infused honey because of its affinity for the digestive system.1 

Herbal Fruit Leather

Choose Your Fruit

Flavor-wise, fennel pairs nicely with fig, apple, and pear – all high-fiber fruits containing bulk laxatives that gently support bowel function.2 3 Other fruits that make nice leather, and are also rich in fiber, are berries, bananas, and stone fruits. Most any fruit can be used, so don’t be afraid to experiment. While fresh fruit is best, it’s fine to use frozen or canned. Fruit leather even allows for a second chance to use bruised fruit, as well as pulp leftover from making jellies or juicing.

Add Herbal Tea or Juice

In addition to using an herb-infused sweetener, there are several other techniques for boosting the health properties of fruit leather. If working with thicker, more fibrous fruits, I normally add a liquid to thin out my puree. This liquid is sometimes a tea decoction or herb-steeped juice. For this recipe, I’ve listed plain pomegranate juice, but feel free to substitute for any liquid you prefer.

Add Herbal Powder

One other trick is to add finely powdered vegetables or herbs. Favorite powders to use are those made from leafy plants like nettles (Urtica dioica); this herb is high in minerals and a gentle laxative, with a mild flavor that is easy to disguise.4

Herbal Fruit Leather

Another one of my go-to herbs is hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa). This African native is a great plant ally for tummy issues as it helps with nausea and promotes intestinal peristalsis.5 6 A high vitamin C content adds a pleasantly tart flavor, and its signature red coloring disguises less appealing vegetables and herbs.7 

I usually combine different powders, adding a total of 2 1/2 teaspoons of powder mix to each batch of herbal fruit leather. You can add a little over a tablespoon before it compromises the leather texture, but just be sure to consider the palatability of all flavors when determining the amount of powder to add.

Drying Equipment

To make my herbal fruit leather, I use an electric dehydrator and silicone-lined trays. Alternatively, you can dry fruit leather in the oven using baking sheets lined with plastic wrap, silicone mats, or parchment paper.

With either method, you’ll want to bake at about 135°F/57°C. If neither oven or dehydrator is available, sun drying is an option. When the weather turns hot and dry, I make fruit leather by leaving a cookie sheet on my car dashboard for a day or two.

Herbal Fruit Leather

Herbal Fruit Leather Recipe

Follow these simple directions to make herbal fruit leather. This is an herbal treat that even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy.

What you’ll need…

  • 1 cup strawberries
  • 1 cup chopped mango
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • Lemon juice, as needed
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons nettle leaf powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon hibiscus powder
  • 2 ounces pomegranate juice
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons honey (or other liquid sweetener)

1. If using fresh fruit, remove rough peels. Add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice for each cup of light colored fruit (to reduce oxidation).

2. Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor.

3. Blend until smooth (to the consistency of commercial baby food). Thin with juice or tea if necessary.  

4. Use a spatula to spread the puree on parchment paper or a silicone mat to 1/8 inch thick.

Herbal Fruit Leather
Herbal Fruit Leather

5. Dehydrate at 135°F/57°C until the texture is pliable and not sticky. The rate of drying will depend on climate. (During the summers here in southern California, my leathers take about 2 1/2 hours to dry in the dehydrator.)

6. While still warm, roll and cut the leather into pieces. If using a silicone mat or plastic, peel the leather off carefully and roll it in parchment paper. If drying on parchment paper, roll the leather in the paper and cut.

7. Store the leather in an airtight container in a cool, dark location. Fruit leather will keep for a month at room temperature or up to a year in the freezer.

Now we’d love to hear from you.

Do you make fruit leather?

What are your favorite fruit combinations? Have you ever incorporated herbs?

Let us know in the comments below.

Show 7 footnotes

  1.  Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, 2003: 250, 263, 551.
  2.  Hoffman, David. Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, 2003: 250, 263, 551
  3.  Hoffman, David. The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press, 1989: 219-220.
  4.  Pederson, Mark. Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs. Wendell W. Whitman Company, 2002: 108, 125.
  5.  Da-Costa-Rocha, Inês, et al. “Hibiscus sabdariffa L. – A phytochemical and pharmacological review.” Food Chemistry, vol. 165, 2014, pp. 424-443.
  6.  Pederson, Mark. Nutritional Herbology: A Reference Guide to Herbs. Wendell W. Whitman Company, 2002: 108, 125.
  7.  Puro, K., et al. “Medicinal Uses of Roselle Plant (Hibiscus sabdariffa L.): A Mini Review.” Indian Journal of Hill Farming, vol. 27, no. 1, 2016, pp. 81-90.

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