Dehydrating Vegetables

Dehydrated Vegetables

I have dehydrating on my mind this week. I taught a couple of dehydrating classes, and I bought a new dehydrator. Nothing like a new toy to get you excited about doing something.

I preserve a lot of food by dehydrating it. Once you get over the initial investment in a dehydrator, the cost to dry food and to store dried food is pretty minimal. I just got a very nice dehydrator for $30. Not a big investment at all.

Dried fruits are probably the most common home dried foods. Apples, grapes, pineapple, strawberries and cherries are among my favorites. But the dried vegetables are so useful and versatile, I enjoy them as much as dried fruits. I think you will, too.

 

Drying Vegetables

Most vegetables should be dried at the lower range if you have an adjustable thermometer on your dehydrator-around 125-degrees. The big thing to know with vegetables is that some of them need to be blanched first. Blanching is just steaming the vegetables for a few minutes and draining, if needed, before drying. Blanching kills certain enzymes, prevents browning and assures a better end product.

Vegetables that need blanching include green beans, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, greens, winter squash, corn and beets; this is not a complete list, but a good start.

Vegetables that do not require blanching include onions, celery, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, cucumbers and garlic and also herbs.

Broccoli and cauliflower do not dehydrate well.

Tomatoes are probably the best vegetable to dry for the home gardener and cook. They are so easy to make and so tasty. Just cut plum tomatoes in half and scoop out the seeds. Lightly spray the trays with non-stick spray and place the tomatoes cut side up for the first 12 hours. Turn them over after that until they are dried. I like them pretty crispy, but keep them in the freezer to keep their color and flavor longer. After a year they will turn black if stored at room temperature. Larger tomatoes can also be dried. Just cut them in slices and squeeze out the seeds. Cherry tomatoes are just cut in half and squeezed to get out the seeds. With small cherry tomatoes I just make a cut large enough to get out the seeds and leave them whole.

How do I use them?

Veggie chips-zucchini and cucumber slices can be used instead of chips in dip.

Powders- Tomatoes, celery, onion, pumpkin and garlic can all be powdered and used to flavor soups, stews sauces, cheeses, dips and more. I add powdered veggies to pasta dough. Mushroom powder is one of my favorite ingredients.

Reconstituted as fresh- potatoes in casseroles are wonderful.

Dips- Peppers, onion and celery all add great flavor.

To thicken sauces- Shredded zucchini, peppers, onions celery and tomatoes all work well this way.

Soups and Stews- most any dried vegetable is most often used this way. Easy to just let them simmer together until tender and all their flavors will enrich your stock

Chowders- Corn and potatoes are great in these dishes

Dried vegetables are best stored in a cool, dry place- I often freeze them for best shelf life.

Vegetables in photo: Starting left with bright green and going clockwise: Celery, potatoes, red peppers, mushrooms, carrots, cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. In the center- mixed sweet peppers.