Dehydrating Vegetables and Fruit at Home

If you have too many crops left over after your harvest, consider that dehydrating vegetables and fruit is an easy and viable solution to your surplus.

| March 2014

For urban and suburban folk, finding proper gardening space can seem like an insurmountable task. Margaret Park offers a welcome solution with More Food From Small Spaces (Great River Books, 2013), with tips to grow healthy, organic vegetables and fruits while maximizing garden space. Excerpted from "Making Food Last," this selection prepares the reader for dehydrating vegetables and fruits at home.

You can purchase this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: More Food From Small Spaces

More More Food From Small Spaces:
Growing Your Own Vegetables in a Backyard Garden
How to Make a Solar Food Dryer
Tips for Fruit and Vegetable Storage

Food drying removes most of the moisture from foods while retaining much of the nutritional value and flavor. Fruits typically contain about 75 percent moisture when fresh, and should be dehydrated to a 20 percent moisture level, the point at which they become dried yet pliant. It is acceptable for fruits to be dried to this level rather than a lower moisture level because the natural sugars and acids in fruit act as an added preservative. Vegetables must be dehydrated to a moisture level around 5 percent, the point at which they become stiff and breakable.

Most of the work involved in dehydrating vegetables and fruit is done by the sun, or whatever electric powered drying device used. There is initial work in slicing the vegetables before drying and also in turning the pieces over to expose all surfaces to the source of warm air. The thickness of the slices will influence the time needed for drying. Less thick means faster drying. However, thinner slices will take up more surface area on the drying rack, so the whole process of drying a quantity of food may not be speedier in cutting thinner slices. Also thinner slices can be harder to handle and more easily broken when dried.

Foods to Dry Directly

Broccoli slices
Carrot slices
Eggplant slices
Garlic halves (remove sprout in the middle first)
Leek slices
Okra slices
Onion bits
Pepper slices
Spinach leaves
Swiss chard (stems removed)
Tomato slices or halves of small tomatoes
Zucchini slices

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