General Rules For Dehydrating Vegetables
By Excalibur Preserve It Naturally
Vegetables - you can dry a different vegetable each day for a month and still not go through the entire list. Some are more suitable for dehydrating than others but once you get started, you'll want to try them all.
What do we get from vegetables? Vegetables are rich sources of vitamins and minerals. Some of the important nutrients they contain include: vitamin A, vitamin C, niacin, phosphorus, calcium, and iron - all of which are preserved, although not in their entirety, when properly dehydrated. Peas and members of the bean family contribute protein. In addition vegetables are vital suppliers of bulk, indigestible fiber that aids in the digestive process. One thing you probably won't gain from vegetables is weight. One-half cup of most vegetables contains less than 50 calories; starchy vegetables, like potatoes and beans, may have 50 to 100 calories per 1/2 cup serving.
To preserve most of this goodness in your dehydrated food, start with vegetables that are ripe and in prime condition. Buy or pick the crispest, freshest, most flavorful ones that can be obtained. Dehydrating retains most of the nutrition and good taste, but it can't improve on the original quality of the food. The fresher the vegetables are when processed, the better they will taste when dehydrated and cooked.
Take extra care when drying vegetables because they spoil and deteriorate much more quickly than fruits. This doesn't imply that the novice dryer should shy away from them - not at all. Just pay close attention to dehydrating procedures given here and in Chapter 3, and you'll have great results.
Preparation and Pretreatment
Once you get the vegetables home, remember not to store them at room temperature if at all possible. If you can't dry the vegetables immediately, refrigerate them to avoid deterioration. Prepare only as many vegetables as you can dehydrate in one load.
Wash vegetables quickly and thoroughly right before processing. Use cold, not hot, water to help preserve freshness and avoid careless handling that could damage the produce. Vegetables covered with dirt should be rinsed under cool running water and scrubbed if necessary. Don't allow the vegetables to soak in the water. Soaking causes many water-soluble vitamins and minerals to dissolve and speeds deterioration.
Your end product should taste as smooth as it looks!
Sun Drying... This is the original dehydration method. Some commercial food processors continue to use it, but trying it at home is more trouble than it's worth. Sun drying demands near-perfect low humidity conditions and temperatures in the high 80s to assure a reasonable amount of success. And even if you manage to meet these rather difficult requirements, food dried in the sun will take several days as compared to several hours in a dehydrator. Because sun drying takes so long, the food produced is of lower quality and nutritional value. Food is at the mercy of insects, dirt, and the elements. It is the least expensive way to dehydrate food and it can accommodate large quantities at one time.
Solar Drying... Promoted during World War II, solar drying is somewhat more efficient than traditional sun drying because of the increased temperatures. It also refined the drying process by (a) a tracking system to follow the sun, (b) a venting system to control the temperature, (c) enough space for construction and efficient operation, and (d) a back-up system to provide an alternative heat source and a fan to circulate air. However, despite these apparent improvements, it is still unpredictable, slow, time-consuming, and offers no assurance of food quality.
Air & Shade Drying... Spoilage is a significant problem with both these methods of food preservation. Because of the lack of the sun's heat, drying times are extended greatly. As a result, the time required to dry the food product is dry for a period of time that can range from several days to weeks. If you ever have time to spare, you might want to experiment with one unique form of air drying called "string drying." Slices of produce are strung on long pieces of string and hung from nails or rafters in a warm room. One of the most popular foods dried this way was whole string beans, or "leather britches."
Oven Drying... Although many people use standard, convection, and microwave ovens for drying food, oven drying, on the whole, is very "iffy." While generally a vast improvement over some of the older methods of dehydrating, scorching is usually a major problem. Also, food frequently comes out more brittle, darker in texture, and less tasty. Often times, normal oven usage is interrupted for long periods of time and the energy cost is usually substantially greater than an electric food dehydrator. Remember that standard, convection, and microwave ovens were manufactured for purposes other than dehydrating; therefore, oven drying is usually unsuccessful.
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