Learning how to dehydrate fruits and vegetables will allow you to store them for extended periods of time without freezing or canning. Dried fruits and vegetables make tasty, nutritious snacks. You could also save storage space. You can fit a lot of dried produce into a small lightweight package that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. This makes them great for camping and hiking excursions, too.
For those who like to be prepared, dehydrated vegetables and fruits make great additions to your emergency food supply.
The Best Fruits and Vegetables to Dehydrate
Some of the best fruits and vegetables to dehydrate include blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, apricots, bananas, apples, plums, peaches, pears, corn, beans, potatoes and carrots. You can also make your own seasonings by drying and grinding up herbs and chili peppers. Herbs are among the easiest edibles to dehydrate.
The Process for Making Dried Fruits and Vegetables
Making dried fruits and vegetables requires some prep work. Although not required, peeling them before dehydrating is a good idea. The skin can become tough, hold in moisture and extend the drying time.
You’ll want to slice your fruits and vegetables in advance. Cutting fruits and vegetables into even slices expedites drying and allows them to all get done in the same amount of time. You can make tasty, crispy snack chips by cutting fruits like apples into very thin slices.
Pretreating some fruits including pears, bananas, peaches and apples will produce better results. It reduces vitamin loss and oxidation, extends shelf life and preserves the color of the fruit.
There are a few ways to pretreat fruit before drying. Using a 50/50 mix of water and lemon juice is the most common, but ascorbic acid or citric acid can also be used (any of these should be available at the grocery store). In all cases, batches of fruit should be soaked for ten minutes and drained well before dehydrating.
Some berries, including cranberries and blueberries, need to have their skins cracked before going into the dehydrator to help them release moisture. You can do this by dropping them into boiling water, removing them quickly, then putting them into ice water. This is like blanching, another method used to prepare certain foods either for freezing or dehydration.
Methods for Dehydrating Fruits and Vegetables
Now that you’ve prepared your fruits and vegetables, there are several methods for dehydrating them. Some work better than others.
Drying Fruit and Veg with an Electric Dehydrator
Electric dehydrators are available to buy. Dehydrators differ in design, thus drying times and methods may differ slightly between models. They do, however, come with instructions and recipes for drying a variety of foods. You can research different models to determine the right dehydrator to meet your needs.
Sun Dried Fruits and Vegetables
You can also air-dry or sun-dry your fruits and vegetables outdoors, but that doesn’t work well in humid climates. To successfully dry fruit in the sun the temperature needs to be at least 85 degrees F with humidity no higher than 60%.
Air-drying fruits and vegetables indoors is not practical. Chances are your thermostat is set to maintain a temperature that’s too low to dry fruits and vegetables before they go bad.
Oven Dried Fruits and Vegetables
If you’re just getting started and want to try before you buy, you can dehydrate fruits and vegetables using your oven. Here are directions for how to dehydrate in your oven:
1. To get started, set the oven temperature to 140 – 150 degrees Fahrenheit (60 -65 Celsius).
2. Slice your fruits or vegetables and pretreat the fruit slices.
3. Place prepared fruits and vegetables on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Place the sheet in the oven. Leave the oven door open two to three inches to allow moisture to escape.
4. Every half-hour, move the slices around a bit to ensure even drying.
5. How long it will take to dry your food depends on how thick and juicy the pieces are. Start checking for dryness after about three hours. If it’s squishy, leave it a while longer and check periodically. Unless you’re making chips, don’t leave your fruits and vegetables in the oven long enough for them to become hard.
6. Take them out when they’re dry and chewy, let them cool and store them using one of the methods described below.
How Long do Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables Last?
Generally, dehydrated fruit will last for up to one year if stored in a cool dry place. Vegetables typically last for about six months when stored under the same conditions. The shelf life of your dehydrated fruits and vegetables will vary depending on the storage method you use.
What are the Best Ways to Store Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables?
Some prefer to store their dehydrated fruits and vegetables in mason jars with the lids screwed down tight. This allows you to watch for signs of condensation inside the jar, which indicates that your dried food isn’t dry enough. Using jars works especially well if you plan to frequently snack on your dried food and long shelf life isn’t a major concern.
Vacuum sealing is a great method for storing your dehydrated fruit and veggies. You can get a basic vacuum sealer for less than $50. Vacuum sealed bags take up less room than canning jars and are easy to pack for camping and hiking trips. Vacuum sealing also minimizes exposure to moisture and oxygen.
Including an oxygen absorber packet in either your bag or your jar will also help preserve your dehydrated fruits and veggies for the long term.
Enjoy Nutritious Dried Fruits and Vegetables
Dehydration is a great option for the long-term storage of fruits and vegetables. It’s easy, requires less space than canning and you can get started without any investment. Use your oven to give dehydration a try. If you enjoy the final product, you can get an efficient electric dehydrator for a minimal investment. You can even find tasty, dehydrated fruit recipes online.
Be sure to check out our Preserving Your Summer Harvest article to learn more about food preservation and storage.