How to Use a Dehydrator for Fruits and Vegetables

 

Food Dehydrator - Dried ApplesUsing a dehydrator when fruits and vegetables are in season can be a healthful way to save money. It’s also a great way to store up a lot of those healthy, colorful fruits and vegetables that your body can benefit from year-round. Imagine being able to snack on healthy berries, vegetables, etc. in the middle of winter when you need an immune-system boost.

If you’re getting into dehydrating produce, you probably have a dehydrator or are thinking of getting one – but you may not be sure just how to use it. Here are some tips and ideas for how to use a dehydrator for fruits and vegetables.

Gather Ingredients

As you embark on your dehydrating ventures, it’s a good idea to set aside a whole day or chunk of time to get it done. Produce is best if it’s bought/harvested and put in the dehydrator on the same day.

Before you begin to dehydrate a particular food or foods, there are some things you’ll need to get started. Here is a basic list of equipment you’ll need in addition to the dehydrator itself:

  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board
  • Sugar, salt, herbs, spices, and other flavor enhancers (optional)
  • Air-tight containers such as zip top plastic bags or glass jars

Choose Your Fruits and Vegetables

As you get ready to use your dehydrator, it’s important to choose the right produce. First, make sure the produce is at the peak of ripeness and flavor – don’t be tempted to buy overripe or underripe foods just because they are on sale or you’ve overlooked some produce from your garden and it’s gotten too ripe.

Prepare the Produce

Wash your fruits and vegetables first unless you’re drying mushrooms. Mushrooms should just be wiped clean. Then cut and slice produce so that all pieces are about the same size and thickness (thinner slices are better).

For fruits that tend to turn brown as they dry, toss them with some lemon juice first. Vegetables should be blanched in boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes and then plunged into ice water. Pat them dry before putting them in the dehydrator.

Seasoning

At this stage, you can sprinkle produce with sugar, salt, herbs, or whatever you’d like. Apples might be enhanced by sprinkling them with cinnamon sugar, for instance, and green beans might be tastier if you sprinkle them with some salt and an herb like dill.

Loading the Dehydrator

Lay the fruit pieces in single layer on the trays. Make sure the pieces do not overlap, and that there is some space between the pieces. Place the dehydrator somewhere that it won’t get in your way for the next day or so. It takes about 8-10 hours for foods to dry, and it may take longer. You can periodically check the produce – just remove a piece with tongs, let it cool, and see how moist it feels. Cut it in half – if it looks moist inside, it’s not done.  By the way, if you haven’t already picked out a unit, one of my favorites is the 10 Tray STX Dehydra 800W.

Cool and Store

Once the pieces are dry, turn the dehydrator off and allow the food to cool for about an hour. Then remove the trays and store the food in your airtight containers. Pack them loosely, and watch for condensation. If it appears, return the food to the dehydrator for a while.