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7/23/2015

No relation to the tropical, banana-like plant with the same common name, plantain is a common weed with edible leaves and seeds. It is also one of the best herbal remedies for scrapes, bug bites, and bee stings.

Where to Find Plantain

If you have a sunny driveway, you probably have some plantain growing along it. Plantago (plantain’s scientific name) loves sunny places with disturbed soils and is common in lawns, parks, and gardens.

Identifying Plantain

All of the plantains have in common that their leaves grow in a low rosette, and that the leaves have prominent, stretchy, parallel veins. If you pull off one of the leaves from the plant you’ll often see those veins sticking out of the stalk like threads (think celery). The leaves have smooth edges or a few soft teeth.

Plantago major (common plantain) has wide, oval leaves. P. rugelii (Rugel’s plantain) leaves are the same shape as common plantain’s, but with red or purplish coloration on the leaf stalks. P. lanceolata (narrow-leaved or English plantain) has narrow leaves that can grow anywhere from a few inches to a foot long, but are almost never more than an inch wide.

All three species have flowers and seed heads that emerge from the center of the leaf rosette on leafless stalks. Plantago lanceolata has 1- to 2-inch seed heads with tiny white flowers. The seed heads of both P. major and P. rugelii. cover most of their stalks and start out with green, scale-like seeds that eventually turn black or brown.

Harvesting Plantain

Plantain is an invasive plant and you do not have to worry about over-harvesting it. Gather the leaves spring through fall.

Harvest the seeds after they’ve turned brown or black. I don’t bother trying to winnow the chaff from the tiny seeds - just think of it as extra fiber.     

What to Do with Plantain

Use the smaller leaves raw in salads. Use the larger leaves to make chips. You can substitute plantain leaves for kale in any kale chip recipe: those stringy veins actually become an asset, adding extra crunch to the chips once they’re dried.

Plantain

Plantain Chips

Add the seeds to crackers, breads, muffins, etc.

Plantain leaves are anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving. They are an herbal remedy that works wonders on mosquito bites, bee stings, and minor cuts and scrapes. The simplest way to use them is to crush up a leaf and rub it on the bite or scrape. You can also turn the leaves into an herbal ointment. But by far the most effective way to use plantain (if you aren’t grossed out by it) is to make a spit poultice. Chew one of the leaves for a moment and then applying the wad of chewed up leaf.

Leda Meredith is the author of Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her food adventures at Leda's Urban Homestead. Her latest book is Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More.

References:

The traditional uses, chemical constituents and biological activities of Plantago major L. A review, Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, University of Oslo, Norway, accessed July 2, 2015.

Health Benefits of Plantain Leaf, Global Healing Center, accessed July 2, 2015.

Photos by Leda Meredith

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



7/23/2015

Community Intelligence 

The local food movement – whether centered in a CSA, a co-op or a farmers market – is no fad or whim, but is driven by acutely real economic, environmental and health concerns. For a host of compelling reasons, there is a growing understanding that good food and a clean, non-toxic environment are foundational, and must be in a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship.  

Because CSA possesses so many inherently beneficial dimensions in a time of troubling circumstances, I continue to regard CSA as a way of building a clean, stable agrarian foundation for the fast emerging high-tech digital-wave culture. The digital culture can in reciprocity connect, network and sustain the agrarian initiatives which give it roots. In this regard the element of community is just as important as the practical and economic arrangements that take place in a CSA.

The dynamic of farmers and consumers in free will association via community farms creates the potential for the kind of phenomenon that philosopher Rudolf Steiner termed “social intelligence.” In the particular case of CSA, that construct naturally extends to include economic and environmental intelligence as well.

Rather than an agriculture supported by government subsidies, private profits, or martyrs to the cause, CSA pioneers envisioned organizational forms that provide direct, free will support for farm and farmers from the people who share in the harvest they have made possible. Much more needs to happen on that front now.

That clean, sustainable farms flourish must be the concern of everyone, not just the human beings working as farmers. The core CSA idea is not a marketing scheme, but for the community to support the whole farm, not just to be occasional consumers buying boxes of carrots, lettuce, strawberries and squash. When CSA shareholders support the whole farm, the farm is in better position to reciprocate with support for the community.

The community supports the farm out of intelligent recognition of what is happening in our world and out of free will choices to associate; the farm supports the community out of the bounty of the land.

Writing in the journal Biodynamics, Jeff Poppen once observed that CSA has its roots in the recognition of the fundamental difference between growing something and selling something. "When a group of people cover the farm’s annual budget, as in CSA,” Poppen wrote, “the farmer is able to put his or her attention into developing the farm’s unique possibilities..."

The core ideas of CSA – the sparks that have defined it and made it so immediately understandable and appealing for people – are about supporting a whole farm, and having the whole farm support and nourish the web of people who support it. Ultimately, this is what makes a CSA a CSA.

By supporting the whole farm rather than just buying some food the farm has produced, shareholders are more fully invested and involved. They come to know the full scope of what their investment and participation are accomplishing.

Photo by curiouslee, Creative Commons


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



7/22/2015

 

Fermentation is wonderful way to experience and enhance the benefits of foraged foods—let me explain. Truly wildcrafted greens or roots from forest, field, and stream often yield small portions of nutrient dense foodstuffs. Some people believe the untamed nature of these resilient plants create a more vital food. Fermentation is not only an age-old method of storing a bounty, but in the case of foraging is also a way to “stretch” the essence and vitality of your favorite wild greens, roots, or shoots. Small doses of wild vegetables will enrich an entire batch of sauerkraut.

Finding wild edibles definitely strikes deep at our core—after all, our species foraged, as in hunting and gathering, most of its existence.  I like to think that a relationship with our food is nourishing on a whole different level than the act of simply putting something in our mouths. Just as our gardens or connections with our local farmers provide connectivity to place, so does picking a handful of miner’s lettuce at the base of a cedar tree. Collecting wild foods forces us out of our routines not only when we tramp through the wild spaces but also when we put that food on our plates. As soon as we ask the question what is there to eat, we must pay attention and look deeper—a “weedy” vacant lot can suddenly appear instead as a succulent crop of Lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium album).

Foraging can’t, and shouldn’t, replace or be the sole source of any part our diet. This planet of ours is too populated to sustainably serve up found food all around—think overgrazing.  Practically speaking (and this is the big thing on an individual level) is that our lives are not arranged to spend most of our waking hours procuring calories. Instead, foraging is an amazing way to punctuate our plates with beauty, unique flavors, and enriched nutrients all while cultivating our connectivity. And fermentation is an ideal way to capture each of these benefits.

In the following universal recipe you can enliven kraut by adding a “dose” of foraged vegetables.

Kraut Base for foraged greens

Yield about a half-gallon

This recipe starts with a trip outdoors. (See the list below the recipe for some common edible “weeds”.) Following a few simple guidelines for foraging foods will ensure these gifts from nature are safe for you to eat and will maintain the patch so the plants will be there year after year.

• use three different characteristics to identify the plant
• if you are unsure don’t pick it
• pick only what you need
• collect only where plants are abundant
• leave no trace
• be mindful of how those plants reproduce so that you can make sure that you help scatter seeds, or leave sufficient roots, bulbs, or rhizome as to not deplete the source.
• enjoy

Foraged-Greens Sauerkraut

Ingredients

• 1–2 heads (3-1/2 pounds) cabbage, shredded
• 1–1-1/2 tablespoons salt
• about 2 cups foraged greens, chopped and lightly packed
• 1 sweet onion (or a bundle of spring onions with the greens), sliced thinly
• 6 cloves garlic, minced
• Juice and zest of one lemon

Directions

1. To prepare the cabbage, remove the coarse outer leaves. Rinse a few of the unblemished ones and set them aside. Rinse the rest of the cabbage in cold water.

2. With a stainless-steel knife, quarter and core the cabbage. Thinly slice with the knife or a mandoline, and then transfer the cabbage to a large bowl.

3. Finely chop foraged leaves and add them to the cabbage. Add the sliced onions and garlic.

5. Grate the zest from the lemon, then add the lemon juice and the zest to cabbage.

6. Add half the salt and, with your hands, massage it into the leaves, then taste. You should be able to taste the salt without it being overwhelming; add more salt if necessary. The cabbage mixture will soon look wet and limp, and liquid will begin to pool. If you’ve put in a good effort and don’t see much brine in the bowl, let it stand, covered, for 45 minutes, then massage again.

7. Transfer the cabbage mixture, a few handfuls at a time, to a jar or a crock. Press down on each portion with your fist or a tamper to remove air pockets. You should see some brine on top of the cabbage when you press.

8. When the vessel is packed, leave 4 inches of headspace for a crock, 2 to 3 inches for a jar. Top the cabbage with one or two of the reserved outer leaves. Then, for a crock, top the leaves with a plate that fits the opening of the container and covers as much of the vegetables as possible then weight down with a sealed water-filled jar. For a jar, use a second smaller sealed water-filled jar, or a water-filled ziplock bag as a follower-weight combination. Then cover it all with a kitchen towel or muslin. Set aside on a plate (to catch any overflowing brine) to ferment, somewhere nearby and out of direct sunlight, in a cool spot for 7 to 14 days.

9. Check daily to make sure the vegetables are submerged, pressing down as needed to bring keep the brine throughout the submerged vegetables.

10. Using a utensil, you can start to test the kraut on day 4 or 5. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s pleasingly sour, pickle-y tasting without the strong acidity of vinegar. The cabbage will have softened yet retain some crunch. It will also look somewhat translucent similar to the color of cooked cabbage and the foraged leaves will be a very dark green.

This kraut will keep, refrigerated, for 12 months.

Getting started: A few common foraged N. American wild edibles for use in fermentation

Roots

These are best harvested in winter months when they are sweeter.

• Dandelion
• Chicory
• Yellow Dock
• Burdock

Leaves

Leaves can be harvested during the growing season.  Most are better when younger as they are tender and have better flavor.

• Amaranth
• Dandelion
• Yellow Dock
• Lamb’s quarters
• Mustard
• Purslane
• Nettles
• Red Clover
• Watercress
• Plantain (Plantago)

Kirsten K. Shockey is a post-modern homesteader who lives in the mountains of Southern Oregon. She writes about sauerkraut and life—but not necessarily in that order. She’s written a complete book of Fermented Vegetables and maintains the website Fermentista’s Kitchen.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



7/22/2015

 

My very favorite thing to can is jam. Not quick freezer jam. Not “in-a-hurry” pectin-added jam. I prefer to make old-fashioned, long cooking, no-pectin-added jam. Every year I make cases of apricot jam, plum jam, peach jam, and this family favorite, Blueberry-Raspberry Jam. Although Blueberry Jam is good, and Raspberry Jam is even better, the combination is best of all. Here I use equal amounts of both berries, but you could vary the ratio. The important thing is to keep to the overall measurements, in other words, 9 cups of berries.

This particular recipe is adapted from one found in the Ball Blue Book® where they suggest any combination of several different kinds of berries including blackberries, gooseberries or loganberries.I have used this basic recipe with strawberries and blackberries for a Wild Berry Jam concoction, and even Raspberry-Apricot Jam. You can also find more inspiration with Kevin West’s Universal Jam Recipe.

Home Canning Safety Guidelines

Before starting any canning project, it’s always a good idea to brush up on home canning safety tips. Lessons learned at Grandma’s knee might no longer be considered safe. Mother Earth News has published many canning articles that help keep us up-to-date, including the very helpful Home Canning Guide.

How to Check for Jam Gel

When making pectin-added jams the process is straight forward; follow the directions, add the pectin, let boil for a specific amount of time, and voila, the jam is set. No-pectin-added jams require a bit more magic, in the form of longer cooking, before they reach the gelling point.

Determining just where that point is can be frustrating. It took me years to figure out when the jam had set. It must be a common experience, because the number one search term that sends people to my website is how to fix overcooked jam.

There are three common ways to determine jam gel; the spoon sheeting method, the glass plate method, and the temperature method.

I like to use the plate method to check for gelling. Drip a little bit of the cooking jam onto a glass plate, and put the plate in the fridge for a minute. If it is set the way you prefer, remove the jam from the heat. Note: Most directions tell you to draw a line through the jam on the plate. If it stays separated it is set. However, I prefer my jam on the softer side, so I look more for texture than whether or not the jam stays separated.

Many recipes tell you to use the spoon-sheeting method to check the gelling point. This method works great, but it can be difficult to determine exactly what you are looking for if you are new to canning. In the spoon-sheeting method you watch to see if the jam drips off the spoon or if it sheets of the spoon. When it sheets, the jam is set.

The temperature method is easiest of all. Here you use a candy or digital thermometer to determine gel. The jam is set when eight degrees above the boiling point of water, which is usually 220 degrees for those of us below 1,000 feet in elevation.

Blueberry Raspberry Jam Recipe

Ingredients

• 4-1/2 cups fresh or frozen raspberries
• 4-1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
• 6 cups sugar

Directions

1. Combine sugar and berries in a large saucepot or Dutch oven.

2. Don’t forget to rub butter along the inner lip of the pot so the jam doesn’t boil over!

3. Bring the berry/sugar mix to a boil over medium heat, occasionally stirring until the sugar dissolves. Once the mixture comes to a boil, turn the heat up just a little so that it rapidly reaches the jellying point. I like to stir constantly to this point so that I don’t end up with a lot of foam that needs to be skimmed off.

4. Pour into clean jars, wipe the jar lip with a damp paper towel, and cover with the two-part jar lids. The jam is a beautiful magenta color, quite different from either raspberry or blueberry jam.

5. Process in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. You can find my step-by-step Water Bath Tutorial on my website.

Yield: 7 half-pints

What kind of berry jam have you made this year? What is your favorite combination?

Renee Pottle is an author, Family and Consumer Scientist, and Master Food Preserver. She writes about canning, baking, and urban homesteading at SeedtoPantry.com


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



7/21/2015

 

If you grow mint, you know all too well that you don’t grow it, it grows you. I am always searching for recipes that make the most of the plant I seem to have the most of. Yes, there’s mint tea (see my earlier blog). Yes, it’s a happy garnish in sweet summer lemonade and adult beverages. Yes, it makes a naturally fragrant and beautiful bouquet on your picnic table. Yes, a sprig or two can be arranged artfully on a plate of ice cream topped with chocolate-mint sauce. But what else?

My favorite fun use of the chewing-gum herb is making a batch of mint jelly. If you are new to home canning, this is a great recipe to get you started. It’s easy; has just a few ingredients; and, if you avoid the one big mistake I’ll warn you about, should be pretty simple when it comes to clean up.

Get Ready To Can

This particular recipe comes from my time-tested Ball Blue Book of Preserving. It’s sticky, full of asterisks, notes and dog-eared pages, so you know it’s my favorite. The Mint Jelly recipe is pretty straightforward. Just a couple words of advice before you run out to your garden and start clipping mint:

1. Be sure to read the entire recipe so there are no surprises.
2. Have half-pint or quarter-pint glass jelly jars, lids and screw tops ready to go.
3. Use a pot that is at least twice as big as you think you’ll need. (This is the mistake I made that I said I’d warn you about.) When jelly gets to the gel stage, it notoriously foams and bubbles up. The first time I experienced this, I screamed. It was like green lava from a giant kitchen volcano. It leapt over the sides of the pot, onto the stove and down to the floor. Save yourself a giant, sticky clean-up and use a pot that looks way too big. I promise it will be just right.

Ingredients

• 1 cup firmly packed mint leaves
• 1 cup boiling water
• 4 cups apple juice
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 3 cups sugar
• 1-2 drops green food coloring
• 5 half-pint jars, lids and rims

Directions

1. Bring a basket or bowl out to your garden and snip a few dozen sprigs of mint with a sharp scissors or garden clippers. Give them a quick wash, immersing in water to remove any dirt or bugs.

2. Strip the mint leaves off the stems. Discard stems, unless you can think of a use for them.

3. Put the leaves into a Pyrex® or other heatproof container, pressed down to measure one cup.

4. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil and pour over the mint leaves. Inhale deeply and say, awwww. Allow the mint to infuse for 60-90 minutes.

5. Here’s a trick to keep your jelly clear and sparkling: use a coffee filter fitted to a cup or bowl and pour the infused water through the filter.

6. Press the leaves to make ½ cup mint extract. Toss the filter and mint leaves.

7. Fill your boiling-water canner with water deep enough that there will be at least two inches above your filled jars. Put this onto boil first thing. Wash jars, lids and rims in hot soapy water or in the dishwasher. Put only the jars into the boiling-water canner. There is no reason you can’t use the same water to both sterilize the jars before you fill them AND process the jars after they are filled. (Later on, when the water cools, it’s perfect for watering -- maybe give your mint an extra drink as a thank you.)

8. Put the lids (if you are new to canning, these are the round metal pieces with the red-rubber edges) and the rims (the screw-tops) in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. If you want to use one of those handy green plastic filler-funnels, I dunk that in boiling water, too. Basically, anything that’s going to come near the product, I boil the bejeebers out of. My canning utensils could probably be used for surgery.

9. Enough prep. Now it’s time to make your mint jelly. Combine the mint extract, apple and lemon juices in a large pot. Stir to dissolve the sugar into the mixture, and bring to a boil. This will take much longer than you expect because you are watching the kettle, so to speak. When it does come to a boil, just keep stirring and watching as it reaches a solid, rolling boil.

10. Cook to the “gel point”, add one or two drops green food coloring, and remove from the heat. Use a slotted stainless spoon (that you have also dunked in boiling water) to remove the icky foam residue.

Now You’re Canning

Hooray. Now you are ready to can. Remove the hot jars from the canner and put them on two layers of paper towels on the counter next to the jelly pot. Put the canning funnel in one of the jars. I use a plastic, one-cup measuring cup with a handle to dip into the jelly and pour gently into the jar. Fill and leave ¼” headspace. Pick up one of the lids, dry it top and bottom with a clean towel, and thoroughly wipe the rim of the jar. Position the lid on the jar and screw on one of the rims, firmly but not too firmly.

Follow the same steps for all four half-pint jars. You may have a little mixture left. Pour that into the remaining jar. Put on the lid and rim and chill in the refrigerator. It will easily keep a month, but you will eat it up long before then.

Gently lower the other four half-pints into your boiling-water canner and bring to a boil. Here, altitude matters. If you are in a city at sea-level up to 1,000 feet, the processing instructions are for you. In this case, boil your jars of mint jelly for 10 minutes. Check online with your local Extension Service or in any reputable canning book to see how much time you should process your jelly. A general rule of thumb is to add a minute processing time for every 1,000 feet of altitude, but better to be safe and double-check with the wise guys.

So Much Excitement

Now the exciting part of canning. When the processing time is up, lift your jars out of the canner. Be sure to put a nice, thick towel down on your counter and place the jars one at a time onto the towel. I’ve heard horror stories of jars cracking when they hit a cold counter. I’ve never had it happen, but it’s easy enough to lay down a towel to appease the canning gods. Let the jars sit as you go about cleaning up the kitchen. In a few minutes you’ll start to hear “Ping, Ping, Ping, Ping”, music that announces your jars are officially sealed.

What does mint jelly go with? I don’t eat lamb or veal but I’m told mint jelly is the perfect counterpoint to their rich-savory-salty flavors. I enjoy the refreshing taste of mint jelly served with a quinoa salad, pork entree, or chicken dish. It’s also a glittering emerald palate cleanser between a salad and main course.

You now have four jars of delicious Mint Jelly to use, to give away as special gifts, or to write a blog about… You can read more about my writing and published features … or in archived blogs of MOTHER EARTH NEWS.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



7/21/2015

There are two methods of canning: in a boiling water bath or in a pressure canner. Knowing the difference between the two methods is absolutely essential if you want to preserve food safely in sealed jars at room temperature. Boiling water bath canning is the simpler of the two methods. It requires minimal equipment – basically just a large, deep pot and canning jars and lids. The most important thing to know about canning in a boiling water bath is that this method is only safe with high acid foods.

What are high acid foods? Fruits, anything pickled with a brine that is mostly vinegar (this includes chutneys); fruit-based sweet preserves such as jams and jellies; and tomatoes with a little added acidity. Jars filled with any of those foods can be safely processed in a boiling water bath because they are acidic (4.0 on the pH scale or lower). All other foods including un-pickled vegetables, soup stocks, and meats must be processed in a pressure canner. This is because although the heat processing in the boiling water bath does contribute to the safe preservation of the food, it does not by itself guarantee the contents will be safe to eat.

The takeaway here is that with a boiling water bath it is the acidity of each jar's contents, even more than the heat of the processing, that safely preserves the food.

 

Even though pressure canning also involves processing canning jars filled with food in hot water, it is a very different food preservation method from boiling water bath canning. Pressure canning enables you to can low acid foods that could be dangerous if they were canned in a boiling water bath (seriously dangerous–think botulism). It also requires a pressure canner, which is a very specialized piece of gear (and not the same as a pressure cooker). If you want to store more alkaline foods such as soup stocks, un-pickled vegetables, or meat in sealed jars at room temperature, you must process them in a pressure canner. Here's why: Although Clostridium botulinum and the toxin it produces is are killed at the temperature of boiling water, its spores can survive those temperatures. And guess what kind of environment they need in order to hatch? Someplace with moisture and without oxygen–exactly the environment they get within sealed canning jars. A pressure canner is capable of heating the food inside the jars to hotter than the temperature of boiling water, hot enough to kill off even the spores of botulism. That is why it is essential to use a pressure canner for low-acid foods.

Both boiling water bath canning and pressure canning create a vacuum seal that prevents molds from entering the jars. But as with store-bought canned foods, once the jars are opened they must be stored in the refrigerator.

Leda Meredith is the author of  Preserving Everything: Can, Culture, Pickle, Freeze, Ferment, Dehydrate, Salt, Smoke...and More and Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and follow her food adventures at Leda's Urban Homestead.

References:

General Canning Information for Safety’s Sake, National Center for Home Food Preservation, accessed July 19, 2015. 

Home Canning and Botulism, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed July 19, 2015.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



7/21/2015

Excalibur Food Dehydrator

Drying Food for Emergency Preparedness

I first became interested in food dehydrators about five years ago quite by accident. I never in a hundred years thought my kitchen cupboard would house one of those space-craft-looking contraptions. I'd shake my head and wonder what all the fuss was about — until I joined forces with those who dehydrate food on a regular basis.

This turnaround came about by realizing I did not have (enough) backup food for any emergency situation that may arise. You see, our family lived through two back-to-back hurricanes in 2004 and we quickly found out how unprepared we were.

As fresh food rotted and the frozen food thawed, a need to have some (any!) emergency food on hand became readily apparent as we sat through more than a few weeks of trying to keep calm, cool and collected — without the household power that we all take for granted.

What is an Electric Food Dehydrator?

Electric food dehydrators are simply made of a food-grade plastic with shelves or trays, a top- or rear-mounted heating element and an air-circulating fan. To be able to dehydrate food safely, it's simply a case of removing the water from the food until it's dry enough to vacuum seal and store.

The dehydrator must be set at the right temperature. (In future posts, I'll cover what temperatures to use for fruits, vegetables, and cooked meats). If you use too high a heat, you'll end up with case-hardening. This means the fruit or vegetable ends up with a tough outer crust and a still-moist inner — which is a no-no and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. We don't want food spoilage in your kitchen!

Just about all electric food dehydrators on the market today are powered by electricity, though there are some solar food dehydrators — that's good to know — but they can be more expensive (believe it or not) than electric-powered machines! Click here for a list of solar food dehydrators you can build yourself.

The Best Food Dehydrators Are...

Nesco Food Dehydrator With Tray

Dehydrators come in a variety of shapes and sizes: round or square (and rectangular), and contain pull-out "shelves" whereupon you place your food. The other type, namely the round dehydrators, have their trays stacked one on top of the other. I happen to have one of each variety and I have found different uses for each of them during my food dehydrating journey.

I'm often asked which are the best electric food dehydrators and my answer is always this: Think about what you want to dehydrate, how much, and how often. If you have a small family, then opt for a 4-tray model. Larger families of four to eight persons might decide upon a 9-tray dehydrator. For those who have gardens that produce generous amounts of fruits and vegetables (lucky you!), go for a 9-tray model.

The two dehydrator brands I use are Nesco™ and Excalibur™. When I was making my purchasing decision, I hunted around on sites like Amazon and read a ton of the product reviews. In the end, I selected a 5-tray round Nesco Snackmaster™ and a 4-tray "starter" Excalibur™ dehydrator.

In subsequent posts, I'll go over the pros and cons of both the Nesco™ and Excalibur™ dehydrators to help you make an educated buying decision.

I'm looking forward to telling you more about food dehydrating, and sharing tips and tricks on safe food preparation prior to dehydrating your harvest. Also, you'll learn all about storing your dehydrated food safely for long-term food storage. Please join me here again at MOTHER EARTH NEWS!

Since December of 2010, Susan Gast has operated Easy Food Dehydrating, a website dedicated to dehydrating fresh fruits and vegetables, and cooked meats. Susan teaches you how to safely store your goodies toofor safe long-term food storage. Keep your food pantry fullwhatever the reason or season!


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.












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