Our home freeze dryer finally arrived a couple of weeks ago but we’ve been so busy working on the greenhouse (no, it’s not done yet!) that we haven’t had time to get it set up. In the meantime we’ve been harvesting a ton of tomatoes, cayenne and, of course, herbs.
Last weekend Kim, Linde and I pulled in a bunch of hops strobiles and they are happily drying. The elderberries we collected are not drying; instead, I decided to make a syrup and tincture, so they’re sitting on the counter getting more and more purple by the day.
Back to the dehydrating. I know we are an herb school, but we also care about eating good food, because apart from that, you simply can’t get healthy. A dehydrator really proves to be valuable when looking for ways beyond freezing to preserve fruits and vegetables.
Why not freeze?
Honestly, our freezers are full of meat, (and I’m not complaining about that!) but that means limited space for other things such as fruits and vegetables. I had to break out our second dehydrator because our Excalibur just wasn’t keeping up with everything we were drying!
Benefits of dehydrating
Anything you dehydrate can be used in recipes, eaten straight up or blended into a powder and sprinkled on yogurt, ice cream, salads – you name it.
Drying herbs is one of the most popular ways to preserve them, and as long as you don’t set your dehydrator too high, it preserves the constituents in herbs and the nutrients in food very well.
This time of year, I’m finishing up the collection of my calendula flowers and they have been very generous. Fortunately, we have a warm and sunny week coming up next week, so I imagine they may have another round of blooms left in them.
- saves on storage space
- preserves nutrition
- provides ingredients for quick, nutritious meals or snacks
What have we been drying?
- eggs – our hens are laying great right now but that does slow down in the winter.
- homemade tomato sauce
- cooked noodles
- chamomile flowers
- lacto-fermented onion, garlic, cayenne, ginger mix (you have to keep this at a low temperature in order to preserve the live enzymes)
With the arrival of fall, I’m seeing our kale and dandelion come back to life (thank you cooler, moister weather!) so we’ll be adding greens to the menu above. You can choose to keep these greens in small pieces to add to soups/stews or blend them into powder to sprinkle on almost anything. I’ll probably do both.
I’m also going to try experimenting with cooking and dehydrating meat and oatmeal. Something I made a few years ago that was delicious and very popular at our house was yogurt bites. Again, keep the temp low so you don’t kill the live cultures, and don’t add sweetener. You can blend plain Greek yogurt with banana or other fruit to make it more tasty. Don’t use regular yogurt. It’s runny, takes too long to dehydrate and doesn’t hold together in a nice lump very well.
Do you preserve by dehydrating? What are your favorite foods to work with?