Simple ways to preserve vegetables through drying

Drying is one of the world's oldest methods for food preservation. This technique applies to vegetable as well — by removing moisture from your produce, you'll prevent decay and spoilage. Here's what you need to know about drying vegetables.

Simple ways to preserve vegetables through drying

Pros and cons

  • Vegetables that have been dried are convenient to use and have a long shelf life.
  • Drying is also an easy and economical alternative to using a freezer.
  • This technique dramatically reduces bulk, making storage easier; at the same time flavour is concentrated.
  • Admiteddly, there is some loss of loss of vitamins, and after rehydration the vegetables do not have the fresh appearance of those preserved by freezing.
  • If over-ripe produce is used for drying, it will lack flavour and texture when it is reconstituted.

What not to dry

While most vegetables are suitable for drying, you'll want to avoid the following:

  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce
  • Squash
  • Zucchini

Before you dry

Blanching is recommended for most vegetables. This stops the enzyme action and helps to destroy any microorganisms that could spoil your dried produce.

  • To blanch, immerse produce in boiling water for one to two minutes.
  • Use your largest pot and add vegetables pieces a few at a time so that the water will quickly return to the boil.
  • After blanching, cool rapidly by plunging vegetables into chilled water for the same length of time they were in boiling water. Drain well.
  • For produce to be dried, peel or nick skins to aid evaporation.
  • Exceptions: Onions, garlic, leeks and mushrooms should all be dried without blanching.

Choose your method

No matter how you choose to dry your veggies, make sure you've cut them into thin, even slices so they dry at the same rate. Also be sure to arrange your vegtables on drying trays in single layers. Here are two of the most common ways to dry your veggies.

  • Using a dehydrator:  Electric dehydrators for home use are widely available on the market. The best ones have thermostat-controlled settings and fans that continuously blow air over your food. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying times.
  • Oven drying: A gas or electric oven also works fine for drying vegetables. You'll want to keep your oven at a consistent 60°C (140°F), even if that means propping open the oven door slightly.
  • Extra tip: Any thoroughly dried vegetable can be ground to powder in a food processor then stored in an airtight container. Blend powder with herbs and add to boiling water for instant vegetable soup, use to enhance the flavour of stews and casseroles, or sprinkle as a seasoning on salads.

Keep these tips in mind and choose a drying method that works. Your preserved vegetables will taste great and last longer!

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