You’ve probably been going gangbusters on canning and freezing your tomatoes, peppers, and fruits so you can enjoy them all through the winter, right? But have you ever tried drying some of your organic harvest? It’s really easy and inexpensive to do, saves money, and uses little space and zero electricity to store. Here’s some basic info to get you going.
Question: What is drying and why should I do it?
Answer: Drying (or dehydrating) preserves foods by taking all the moisture out of them. And because there is no moisture, bacteria can’t grow in it — making dried foods ideal for preserving for months or even years. Dried foods are typically lighter weight and easily stored or transported for a camping trip when space is at a premium.
Q: What foods are good for drying?
A: Many vegetables, fruits, herbs, and even meats are good candidates for drying. Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, onions, strawberries, peaches, green beans, corn, beets, berries, even mushrooms — almost anything that can be blanched and frozen can also be dried.
Q: How do I use my dried organic harvest?
A: After you soak them to re-hydrate them, you can sautee, simmer, or stir-fry them. Add them to soups, salads, casseroles, or side dishes for a quick meal, or take them camping with you to create a one-pot meal over the campfire. Delicious!
Q: Do I need special equipment?
A: It depends upon what you are drying. You can certainly use a purchased dehydrator, but many recipes simply call for using your oven or microwave. Herbs often don’t need either — simply hang them up in bundles to let them dry on their own. You’ll want to consult with specific instructions and recipes for each food you are drying to be sure you get the result you’re after, though.
Q: Does it save money?
A: Absolutely! Recently I bought a soup kit from the grocery store — it had dried onions, garlic, tomatoes, broccoli, and herbs in it…and cost $6.00. I could have made it myself using my own dried ingredients for about $.50, and it would be tastier. Not to mention the savings from the packing waste!