Food Storage: Drying

At the end of season you will likely find yourself with an abundance (hopefully) of some vegetables that will need to be put into storage.  Actually, your goal should be to have way too much of everything so that you can have plenty to put into storage for the year.  So what is the best way to store some of this overstock?  Well, it depends on what type of fruit or vegetable you want to store.

Drying is one viable option for many DSC_0422kinds of fruits and vegetables.  There are many good reasons to use drying in some form for much of your stash.  The most important reason to use drying is that it retains most of the nutrients in your food.  When you can foods, you cook them and therefore lose valuable nutrients.  Drying uses a lower temperature to remove the water from foods so that the nutrients are able to remain there in your food.  A very healthy option.  Without water in your foods, microbes cannot grow.  This growth is what would cause your foods to spoil so this is actually how they are able to be stored.  Sometimes when you store foods you can also loose some of the flavor.  Dried foods are actually a concentrated form of the foods so that they are actually full of flavor.  Many people do not like banana chips because the flavor is too strong.  Don’t forget the best part: drying foods is usually very easy to do.  You can get complicated and make fruit leather and jerky, but you don’t have to.  You can slice foods and throw them on the trays and set the dehydrator.  It’s that simple.

There are many ways to dry your food as well.  Simply leaving foods on the vine they grow on and letting them dry out like I discussed with amish snap peas is the best way to save peas, beans, lentils and things like that.  Herbs are dried by either hanging them up somewhere or putting them in a brown paper bag.  Many fruits and vegetables can be dried in the sun.  Anything that needs more constant heat like meats can be dried in a dehydrator.  Most anything can be done in a dehydrator because it is set up to regulate the time and temperature to get exactly what you need.  If you want to buy a dehydrator, here is an article to read: http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/choosing-a-food-dehydrator.aspx#axzz2Wmq8Vk3J.   I had originally bought myself a cheap version of a dehydrator and after using it twice I gave up on dehydrating altogether because it was so bad.  Don’t waste your time and effort on something cheap if you have a garden that will provide a decent amount.  Buy a good one right away or build a good one.  I currently own an Excalibur and now have a renewed sense of why I wanted to try a dehydrator in the first place.

Drying foods has become a common practice this year in my household.  After learning how to do some new methods and getting a good dehydrator I’m going to have a decent stash of dried foods and herbs for this winter.  Not enough to live off of yet, but you have to start somewhere.  I have even learned how to use the dehydrator to “cook” some dinners.

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