Saturday, April 10, 2010

"How To" Dehydrate Food in a Dehydrator

Last summer I gave this beautiful lemon balm a serious haircut and then I dried the leaves and tender stems in my Ronco food dehydrator. They're a great tool, especially if you have a garden. I bought mine for $5 last summer at Value Village and unfortunately it didn't come with a manual so found a person online that had the manual in electronic format and they emailed it to me:)  I did go to Youtube and watch the Ronco food dehydrator promotional video on the website and that was pretty funny! They are for sale online for $40 US.

Now it is totally possible to dry foods without the electric dehydrator but it sure did come in handy last summer when it was wet and damp most of the summer and very hard to dry food using air method. I am posting this early in the season so you have drying food in mind as we go towards our growing season.  If it is hot and dry out you can use the trays without the electric heat to dry food.  Slower, but effective.

The video clip told me I can dry herbs and spices overnight. Then you crumble by hand and seal in a jar with lid. They were putting whole fresh herb bundles from the store on the trays. So, if parsley is 50 cents at the farmers market late in summer then you can stock up and dry them and use it throughout the winter. I also freeze herbs but dried is more green as you don't need a freezer to keep them.

The Ronco model dehydrator I have is heated with an element from the bottom but it does not have a fan or motor and therefore it makes no noise. It distributes gentle heat, but not hot and the heat is distributed by convection air flow. Mine doesn’t have a fan that makes noise and I have heard friends complain about how noisy their model is that has a fan.

A tray of herbs drys in 3 hours. When they said overnight they had stacked the 5 trays and were using store bundles of herbs. I removed big stems before putting them in.  Below is a tray of spearmint getting ready to be dried.  I use it in tea and punches and also as a crushed herb.

I can't say enough good about dehydrating garden vegetables and herbs and summer fruits.  By falls end I had dried basil, celery, choke cherries, dill (leaves and stems), high bush cranberry, lemon balm (Melissa), lovage, mint, oregano, zucchini ... and more.  They were part of our winter eating and cooking classes including  punches and teas, soups and stews.  This is way cool. I can see getting carried away dehydrating everything!

© Nancy Guppy, RD, MHSc
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Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

This is useful information, Nancy. Thanks.
I am vowing to eat more local and be more frugal and eat better food this year. Hopefully, you will post some good tips on preserving fruit and vegetables soon, too.

Nancy Guppy, MHSc, RD said...

I will try Norma! Post some more on what you would like to learn more about? Strawberries and local berries dehydrate very well. I also put strawberries down last summer with balsamic vinegar in a tasty flexible dessert sauce. And I do have good success with juicing high bush cranberry and chokecherry. You can freeze it or put in jars and process. The forest is alive with edible free food!