Why Drying is Effective
To continue our series on Preserving the harvest let explore using a dehydrator. Drying foods is one of the oldest methods of food preservation dating back literally thousands of years. Foods like grains and beans have long been a staple food for humankind dried to last not just one season but over many seasons. Fruits, vegetables and meats can be preserved as well. We found a few surprises when we started experimenting with a dehydrator; one of those surprises was dried cantaloupe. The dried cantaloupe pieces delicious, chewy, exotic flavor and it actually didn’t take that long to dehydrate. My wife loves dried cantaloupe with cashews.
Another surprise was Strawberry-Rhubarb fruit leather. We can’t make enough of it for the kids and we are always passing it to friends too. It is simple and easy to make, we use 12 Rhubarb spears to make a batch so it is a great way to store, long term, a large amount of Rhubarb.
We found out that you can store 20 standard sized tomatoes in only one quart jar, so when the freezer was full one season when we had an abundance, we were able to fire up the dehydrator and store all of rest of the harvest in a few jars.
There are lots of dehydrators on the market and any one of the will work but I like the Excalibur with a timer and temperature setting. It blows the hot air across the shelves evenly not from bottom to top. But any one of the many brands available will work. If it heat from the bottom up, you may just want to shuffle the shelve top to bottom to get even drying. One gardener said he used an incandescent light bulb in his stove as a dryer so there are lots of ways to dry foods!
We dry a lot of our herbs and teas. We dry a gallon of mint and a gallon of Tulsi, aka Holy Basil, and a few quarts of Chamomile to make teas all year long. I’m not bragging but the Tulsi tea we make is THE best because we harvest when the plants begin to flower before they set seeds and it has a sweet flowery flavor I have never had from commercial teas.
Dehydrating is another great tool for you Food preservation tool box! Next up we’ll talk about cold cellars.