HOW TO DEHYDRATED VEGETABLES – TIPS FROM AN EXPERT
Lots of folks dry fruit because it makes a really healthy (and delicious) snack, but when it comes to using a food dehydrator to preserve food, it’s more common to dry vegetables instead. So if this is your end goal, to store your summer-grown food for later, then you’ll likely be dealing in veggies sooner or later.
Your basic technique
Don’t know how to dehydrate vegetables ? Drying vegetables is basically like drying any other type of food. Wash everything thoroughly, peel off any rinds or inedible skin, and slice up your veggies in evenly sized pieces. Thin slices work best, especially for heavy or thick foods. Try for between 1/4 and 1/8 of an inch. Something like carrot could be grated for a quicker dry. You can just spread things like peas or corn kernels out on the trays. Lay out all your slices without any overlapping, and start up the machine. That’s it.
Unlike fruit, most vegetables won’t stick to your trays as they dry. Well, tomatoes might because they are so super juicy. But otherwise, you shouldn’t need to worry about spraying trays or using the special inserts.
Even dry vegetables can start to deteriorate over time, because of the enzymes inside the plant tissues. In other words, you have to deal with more than just outside mold and bacteria, and dehydrating alone won’t take care of it. A quick dip in boiling water is usually enough to kill off the enzymes, and then you’re good to go.
Once you have your veggies all peeled, pitted and sliced, dunk them in boiling water for about 2 to 3 minutes. You don’t want to actually cook them, but just scald them enough to stop the chemicals inside from working any more. Then take them out of the water and give them a good pat down to remove excess water.
If you really don’t want to take the time to blanch, which can easily be the case when you have bushels of produce to dry, it isn’t the end of the world. Your dried veggies will still last for months and be fully edible after you cook them up later.
How long to dry?
It’s a little harder to generalize about drying vegetables because it’s a really varied group of foods. Some are juicy, soft and full of water, and some are dense and tough by comparison. So expect a pretty wide range of time frames. Here are some of the more common veggies, and how long you should try them for. I’ve also added whether you need to do a blanch first.
- Carrots – 14 to 16 hours
- Green Beans – 10 to 12 hours
- Peas – 14 to 16 hours
- Zucchini – 6 to 8 hours
- Tomato – 14 to 16 hours
- Greens (like spinach or kale) – 8 to 10 hours
- Bell Peppers – 8 to 10 hours
- Broccoli – 10 to 14 hours
- Cauliflower – 12 to 14 hours
- Okra – 14 to 16 hours
- Pumpkin – 16 to 18 hours
Most of these will be either brittle or very leathery when they’re done. Oh, and if you have a dehydrator with an adjustable thermostat, veggies dry best at 120F. If your machine is cooler than that, you may have to let them go longer.
Storing & using dried vegetables
So, to save your newly dried veggies for later, you just need to keep them in a dark container with a tightly fitting lid. Pretty much the same idea as any other dried food. They can last for several months, but generally not longer than a year.
Though you can eat some of these while dry, like crispy kale pieces or zucchini chips, you’ll generally want to rehydrate your vegetables before you eat them. If you are adding them to a soup or stew, just toss in the dry pieces and simmer along with the dish until they have softened up. For other uses, add enough water to cover the dry bits and simmer until they rehydrate. Keep an eye on them though in case they need more water. Some vegetables will take a lot of moisture to get back to an edible state. Expect to let them cook for anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes. Some may take over an hour.
Compared to some other kinds of food, vegetables are usually the most straightforward without too many strange warnings or added chores. You shouldn’t have too much trouble if you still don’t know how to dehydrate vegetables especially with dehydrators designed for the inexperienced. Now that you know how to dehydrate vegetables it shouldn’t be hard to prepare food that you can easily store and eat.