For people wanting to preserve vegetables from their garden or local farmers market, but either do not have the canning equipment for canning or the freezer space available for freezing, dehydration can be an affordable alternative to preserving food.
Persons who own a food dehydrator can preserve their food in just a few simple steps. Dehydrating vegetables is simply the process of removing the water content and moisture found in vegetables. This process allows for the storage of the vegetables where they can be rehydrated and used at a later time. The removal of moisture in the dehydration process causes the vegetables to become smaller and lighter.
With the advent of food dehydrators, dehydration of vegetables has never been easier. In the past, people had to rely on the sun or dehydrate foods in ovens. Oven dehydrating uses fuel, which can cost more than buying foods in the supermarket. The process also takes twice as long because unlike food dehydrators, ovens do not contain a fan to move the air around. Dehydration using the sun method can not only take a long time, it also increases the risk of the vegetables spoiling due to their low sugar and acid content. Therefore, dehydration by using a food dehydrator is the preferred method.
Advantages of dehydrating vegetables with a food dehydrator:
- Dehydrating vegetables with a food dehydrator not only keeps the vegetables free of chemicals and preservatives; it also allows vegetables to keep most of their vitamins and nutrients.
- Dehydrating vegetables saves time. The canning and freezing process consumes more time and energy than dehydrating by machine.
- Dehydrated vegetables take less storage space than storing cans in a pantry or storing frozen food in the freezer. Dehydrated vegetables also have a longer shelf life than canned or frozen vegetables, as long as they are stored in the proper container.
- Dehydrated vegetables are a healthy snack that can either be packed in lunches or in backpacks.
- In the event of a natural disaster, having dehydrated vegetables easily accessible can literally save a life.
- If using dehydrated vegetables to make soup, the vegetables simply need to be added to the water. This eliminates the time needed to peel and chop vegetables.
Preparing vegetables for the food dehydrator process:
- Select high quality vegetables. Look for vegetables out of the garden or farmers market that have little bruising and that are not either overripe or underripe.
- When slicing the vegetables, be sure that they are the same size and thickness. This ensures that the vegetables will dry at the same speed.
- Wash the vegetables prior to slicing and drying. Even vegetables that are grown naturally without the use of pesticides can harbor chemical residue from the air. Also, washing eliminates any bacteria that could be left behind by animals or insects.
Some vegetables may also need a quick blanching prior to placement in the dehydration machine. The blanching process helps to render certain enzymes inactive that can cause vegetables to toughen during the dehydration process. Coating vegetable slices with either lemon juice or ascorbic acid, which is Vitamin C in a pill or powder form, can keep vegetables from browning.
Keeping Dehydrated Vegetables Free of Contamination
After dehydrating vegetables, care should be taken to ensure that the vegetables are properly packaged. This assures that the time taken to dehydrate the food was not wasted and that the dehydrated vegetables have the maximum shelf life possible.
The vegetables should be properly sealed to avoid contamination by other foods or by insects. Care should also be taken that the vegetables are stored in a moisture proof container, as moisture can not only rehydrate the vegetables, but can also promote the growth of mold. It is essential that the vegetables be cooled completely prior to storage. Vegetables which are stored warm can cause sweating and release moisture into the container.