My apologies to Gen Macmaniman for stealing the title of her book for the title of this post. Her book, published in 1973, was the first book on dehydrating we purchased. It was this book that started me on the road of experimentation with drying (not always successfully!) foods.
Recently I've noticed a few people posting about dehydrating their garden harvests. As Martha would say, "It's a good thing!" We've got two food dehydrators and have used both of them quite a bit over the years. You can't refute the fact that dehydrated foods (if dried and stored properly) have a long self life, aren't dependent on any energy source (once dehydrated) and take up much less space than any other method of food storage.
I haven't used our dehydrator yet this year but plan to dry most, if not all, of our onion crop when it's ready. (We just don't have a good place to dry our whole onions sufficiently. By the time we harvest them up here, the weather has turned cool and damp. We need an upstairs spare bedroom where we could lay them out on the floor. Or an upstairs spare room of any kind!)
Above we have dried onions, strawberries and zucchini chips, all from last year.
The onions reconstitute beautifully when tossed in soups or stews.
Isn't the color of the strawberries beautiful? That's their true color, the picture hasn't been touched up. I must be truthful here and admit the strawberries were a pain to do. I didn't have those plastic sheet thingies to spread over the racks of the dehydrator (I do now!) so the sliced strawberries stuck to the racks and I totally lost some of them that way. 'Course, the racks were a MESS to clean, too. But, oh, are the dried berries nice. I mix them in our gorp (trail mix) and in our homemade granola. Very flavorful. And they still smell just like fresh strawberries. I would have dried a quantity this year (all we have left is what you see in the jar --- but that is a 1/2 gallon jar) if our strawberry harvest hadn't turned out to be about half of what we had expected. Next year I'll get more put by this way. I hope.
I think I stumbled onto the idea of the zucchini chips several years ago when I was trying to use up overgrown zucchinis. (Nobody else has ever had that dilemma, right?) I slice big zuccs (3" in diameter or larger because the slices really shrink in dehydration) about 1/8" thick, sprinkle a mixture of garlic salt, dill weed, black pepper, and paprika on one side of the slices. You could make just about any kind of seasoning mixture you wanted. What about a little ground hot pepper? Chunky kosher salt? Oregano? Hmmm, I wonder what a little soy sauce sprinkled on would do? The slices come out very crunchy, like a chip, and make a good dipper if your dip mixture isn't too thick. I've had several people say I should market them, they're so good.
There are a whole bunch of informational books out there on dehydrating, and I should probably really study the ins and outs of preserving more of our food this way.
I have some extra blueberries right now but I'm a little skittish about trying them again. The first time they went from soft and definitely not dry enough to dark blue pellets with the consistency of gravel. But I think I am going to try raspberries this year for the first time. I imagine a dried raspberry would be really good as an addition to our granola.
Oh, lots one could do if one only had about twelve more hours in each day.