"Learn by doing."

Dehydrating: Drying Foods for Long Term Storage

When planning and planting your garden, consider how much produce you can use and how much you need. You don’t want to plant rows and rows of spinach only to have most of it go to waste because you can’t eat it fast enough and you find that you only enjoy it fresh. Most produce can be frozen, canned, dehydrated or otherwise stored to be used throughout the winter months when nothing is growing. Due to a variety of reasons (some more practical than others), our clan has been slowly moving away from freezing and focusing instead on canning and drying.

Our garden covers about 8,000 square feet. This means that there is a lot of produce to store away. That may seem like an extreme amount of garden space for one couple, but our clan consists of 18 people.

We have three identical dehydrators belonging to various clan members that tend to rotate between who needs them at the time. Growing and drying your own herbs is another popular choice. You can make your own Italian seasoning or chili powder. One of our daughters likes to grow hot peppers, dry, and grind them up for red pepper flakes to use in homemade chili powder and to sprinkle on pizzas. Onions and garlic can be dried and ground to make powders, as well. Imagine a spice rack where everything came from your garden!

In the fall, everyone will be drying apples. Dried apples are often used as snacks, but you can also use them for baking. Simply re-hydrate and use as normal. They won’t be crisp, but baking will make them soft anyway. You can also dry strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries, and cherries. Granola is a wonderful way to use dried fruit.

We don’t eat commercial cereal, but our grandkids like granola cereal. The kids enjoy selecting their own dried fruits to add to their cereal. It is something like a buffet. And what kid doesn’t like making some of their own decisions when it comes to food?

Beef jerky is another popular dehydrator snack. We occasionally get paid in beef from a relative’s farm, so jerky is a good way to use up some extra beef! Jerky sticks are perfect for road trips or camping trips. They are easy and delicious, and everyone loves them. We also dry kale for kale chips and add some homemade garlic powder.

For specific drying times, recipes, and tips for use, look at the manual for your dehydrator. If you can’t find your manual or need a quick reference, you can check out the Nesco dehydrator manual PDF.