If you have ever had vegetables to bad, then you know it doesn’t take long. Even with refrigeration, most vegetables will go back within a week. Perhaps you’ve tried other methods such as sealing and freezing them, but in the end the best way to preserve vegetables is to dehydrate them. To dehydrate a vegetable means to make it dry, as in take out most of the moisture. You don’t need any special equipment or tools to dehydrate vegetables – everything you need you should already have in your home.
To start, you need to pick vegetables right at their peak ripeness for optimal results. Make sure you know what you’re looking for when you choose the vegetables. To prepare drying, you need to prepare the vegetables just as you would if you were going to serve them. Wash them, trim, cut, peel – whatever you would normally do. Remember that the thickness of the vegetables is important to take into consideration when drying vegetables. Thicker vegetables take longer to dry than thinner ones.
After you have prepared them, you must blanch them. Prepare a pot of boiling water, throw the vegetables in for 10-15 seconds, then immediately throw them into some ice water. This will preserve the color and texture of the vegetable.
There are three main methods for dehydrating your vegetables: sun dried, oven or commercial dehydrator.
Sun drying is not the recommended method because it takes a long time and most climates don’t allow it in the first place. Sun drying means you (obviously) let the sun dry your vegetables. The area where you put your vegetables must be above 90 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity. Leave the vegetables in this place for three days to ensure proper dehydration.
Oven drying is the recommended method for drying out your vegetables. Oven drying is perfect for those that have quantities lower than six pounds of produce. Follow the steps below for oven drying your vegetables:
Prepare the vegetables on a stainless steel or wooden board. Do not use cookie sheets as the metal will not allow the air to circulate properly, burning the vegetables. Also, the metal may leave an unnatural and unwanted taste in the vegetables. It is important to put the same type of vegetables together as not to transfer the flavors of the vegetables from one to another. Set the oven to the lowest setting (this is often 140 degrees). Open the oven door at least three inches to allow proper air circulation during the drying process. You want the moist air to be able to escape and the dry air to stay in. Put the trays of vegetables in and start the drying process. Move the vegetable trays around every 20 minutes to ensure proper drying. No over has proper heat circulation, despite what they might lead you to believe. After the drying is over (about seven hours on average) take them out and store them in a watertight container. To serve, reconstitute them in water or a soup mix and serve.
There are a wide array of commercial dehydrators available. The average Joe will not need a commercial dehydrator as they are used for amounts over 20 pounds. They all use the same basic principle of heat and low humidity to dry out your vegetables. Follow the instructions that came with the dehydrator if you insist on using this method.