By -Georgia Lund-
Drying vegetables is one of the oldest methods of preserving fresh garden vegetables for later use. Dehydrating vegetables and fruits are safe, easy and can be done without expensive equipment. Before the invention of modern-day dehydrators, drying vegetables was done with traditional solar power. Fruits and vegetables were prepared and placed in the sun until all the moisture was gone from them, then stored in a cool, dry place until needed.
How It Works
When all the moisture is removed from vegetables and fruits, mold and bacteria can’t grow on or in them and cause them to spoil. Drying food also slows down the action ripening enzymes which naturally occur in vegetables and fruits so the ripening process stops and the food doesn’t spoil.
The food item becomes smaller and lighter when the moisture is removed. The aroma of dried food is almost undetectable, so it will not attract bugs or rodents when stored.
How to Dehydrate Vegetables
Harvest vegetables before they are dead ripe when planning to dry them. Rinse, air dry, peel (if needed) and slice into 1/4 inch slices. Make slices uniform in size for best results. Place the slices on dehydrator rack and dry for the amount of time recommended by the manufacturer. Check vegetables periodically because drying times will vary. Vegetables are done when all moisture has been removed.
Vegetables can also be dried in a conventional oven. Prepare as directed above, then place vegetable slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet or baking rack. Turn oven to 175 degrees Fahrenheit, place sliced vegetables in the center of the oven and leave until all pieces are dry. Check hourly for dryness.
Either drying method is a slow process that will take several hours to complete. Fruits can be dried in the same way or placed on screens outdoors in direct sun. Vegetables don’t contain enough sugar and acid to be dried safely in the sun.
Making leather britches is a fun and unique way of drying garden green beans without using a dehydrator or oven. Snap the ends off and peel the strings out of washed and dried green beans. Thread a large darning needle with 3 feet of heavy duty cotton thread and tie a large knot in the end. Stick the needle in the center of 1 green bean and pull it down to the knotted end. Continue threading green beans in this stacked manner until the thread is filled to within 6 inches of the top. Tie a top knot in the thread, and a create a loop. Hang the strand of stack green beans in an open location away from direct sunlight. The green beans will dry in a few weeks and will resemble brown leather britches.
How to Store and Use
Stored dried vegetables in air tight containers in a cool, dry location.
When ready to use dehydrated vegetables or fruits, just add water and cook. The moisture will re-enter the food and plump it back up to the original size and shape. The vegetable or fruit will be full of flavor and delicious aroma.
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