What Foods Can You Dry?

 

Fruit & Vegetables for Food DehydratorHave you ever been faced with a garden full of produce you weren’t sure what to do with? Or maybe the grocery store or farmers’ market had a sale, and you wish you could take advantage of that much fresh food but you’re afraid it will go to waste. Maybe you’ve thought of canning, but it seems too complicated and time-consuming. Have you thought of drying fresh foods?

Drying foods is a viable way to preserve a great many foods, and many children of all ages enjoy snacking on dried fruits and vegetables even if they dislike them fresh. But not all foods work well for drying. Here are some tips and ideas on what foods you can dry, and what to expect in terms of look and texture (dried foods are not necessarily as “pretty” as canned foods!).

Green Beans

Did you know you can dry these? The best way is to steam them for about 5 minutes first, and then use a sturdy needle and upholstery thread to string them. Hang the strings outside in a shady area during the day (sun causes the beans to lose color), then bring them inside at night. Or hang them in an attic. They will get leathery after a few days, and can be used in soups.  Before storing, heat the beans in a 175-degree oven for half an hour – this kills any insects and eggs that might be hiding in there, waiting to come out in storage.

Mushrooms

Don’t wash mushrooms first; just wipe them off. String them on thread like the beans, indoors or out, but mushrooms can be hung in the sun. They will become crisp and brittle after a few days, so if you prefer them leathery you should keep a close eye on them. They should also be heated before storage to kill insect eggs.

Tomatoes

Italian or Roma tomatoes work best for drying due to their lower moisture content. Slice them lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and air-dry them. You can string them or lay them on several thicknesses of paper towel placed on a screen. Turn them as they dry if they are lying on the screen. They are fully dried when they are leathery and fairly pliable. As with all dried fruits, place tomatoes in the freezer to kill any bugs.

Grapes

Make your own raisins! Breaking the skin first helps the drying process along. You can dry these in the sun if you wish, laying them on a paper towel-covered screen and covering them lightly with a cloth or paper towel. They should be ready in about 5 days, but they might dry before that. Freeze before storing.

Strawberries

Dried strawberries have a hard texture that makes them fun to suck on to soften them. You can also slice them first. Strawberries can be dried on screen trays like grapes.