4 Easy Methods to Dehydrate Produce

dehydrating vegetables

Making the most of your garden yield (or latest shopping trip), can often be as easy as dehydrating your fruits and vegetables for future use. Once people realize how easy dehydrating fruits and vegetables is, it can quickly become addicting.

In this article I’ll cover the 4 easy methods for dehydrating produce along with some tips for each. Regardless of which method you use to dehydrate your produce, once you’ve finished, you want to store them in either a vacuum sealed bag (like the FoodSaver, for example); or a sterile mason jar with a tight fitting lid. You then want to date your dehydrated produce and use it within 6 months. This is a great way to dehydrate seasonal produce and enjoy it during the off-season.

 

air dry vegetables

Air Drying Dehydration (2 Step Method)

(Step 1)

This method dries the food simply by the air circulating around it naturally, and can be done even if you live in a small apartment with only a small outdoor balcony. A good way to accomplish even circulation is to string the food on clean string, with space between each piece. Hang these strings outside in a dry place (it works even better if you have a bit of a breeze). You will need to bring in the strings at night and hang them back outside during the day. (Drying time depends on the food you’re drying as well as the temperature and air flow conditions you have.)

(Step 2)

Once the food is dry, you will need to do one of two things: 1)Place them in an oven at 175 degrees for 30 minutes. OR 2)Place them in a freezer (set at zero) for 2 or 3 days. Either of these methods will effectively kill off any remaining microbes that can cause spoiling.

sun dry vegetables 2

Sun Drying Dehydration (2 Step Method)

(Step 1)

This method dries food using the sunshine. Sun-drying takes more time than other methods, but it ideal for people that live in warm, low-humidity climates. It’s difficult for those living in high humidity places where the risk of spoilage is much greater. However, if you live in a hot, arid climate like I do (Phoenix, Arizona), then this is not only a very easy dehydration method, it is also quick!

To sun-dry your food, first you need to make (or buy) frames to place your food on. These can be made easily using either an old picture frame (with the glass and backing removed) or a set of 4 wooden stretcher bars (used by artists to stretch over canvas to create a painting surface–they can be found at art stores and are fairly inexpensive). You can also use a window screen (as long as it doesn’t have galvanized screen material in it). Take your wooden frame and stretch and staple cheese cloth over it.

Place the food to be dried on the frames and place them in the direct sun. Make sure to prop them up so that air can circulate on all sides (including underneath). Turn them over after 1-2 days, to allow the sun to dry the other side. * Again, if you live in a high heat, arid climate like Phoenix, this process can often take half of the usual recommended time.

(Step 2)

Once the food is dry, you will need to do one of two things: 1)Place them in an oven at 175 degrees for 30 minutes. OR 2)Place them in a freezer (set at zero) for 2 or 3 days. Either of these methods will effectively kill off any remaining microbes that can cause spoiling.

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dehydrator

Commercial Dehydrator (1 Step Method)

This is the most simple of all the methods, although it’s also the most costly. However, if you use it regularly, it will pay for itself in no time.

Dehydrators come with instructions, so just follow what the manufacturer suggestions. But essentially, you prepare the fruit, load up the trays, plug it in, turn it on and let it do it’s work. Depending on the kind of dehydrator you have, it will take hours or days to complete the process. * This is a good method to use if you live in a high pollution area with little sunlight, or a high rain and/or humid climate, both of which can severely hamper any outdoor dehydrating attempts. Additionally, this allows you to skip the 2nd step of the dehydration process of the above 2 methods.

* I have an Excalibur dehydrator, and can attest to its quality and ease of use. However, since I live in Phoenix with daily uninhibited sun and of course blazing hot temperatures for 6 months of the year, I found that I much prefer the ease and no-cost method (free solar rays) of using the sun drying method.

oven dry vegetables

Oven Dehydration (1 Step Method)

Oven-drying is the fastest method to dehydrate your food, and the one I recommend for those new to dehydrating produce. In order to use your oven for drying, food should be placed in a single layer directly on a rack and then the rack can either be positioned in the oven stand alone, or placed on top of an ungreased baking sheet. Place the food in a preheated (145 degree) oven and prop the oven door open while drying (to allow moisture to escape). Produce dried this way takes an average of 4 to 12 hours, with fruit taking longer than vegetables to dehydrate due to their higher water content.

* Oils should NEVER be used on dehydrating produce, as this not only interferes with the dehydration process, but it also greatly increases the incidence of mold and pathogen growth.

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews