Aah, the joys of spring. What's not to love? The temps become more comfortable and after a long, cold winter it's finally time to get back into the garden! Some veggies, such as spinach, really prefer to be planted when there's still a chill in the air and don't tolerate the higher temps of a typical Northeast Texas summer. So, my spinach was planted earlier in the season and I'm harvesting it often these days to enjoy raw in salads or steamed as a veggie side with our supper.
It seems spinach is almost a feast-or-famine kind of vegetable — it's gloriously prolific when it grows, then BOOM! Gone for the season. So, I'm harvesting as much spinach as I can by cutting the leaves to the bottom inch or so of the plant which allows the spinach plant to regrow it's green leafy goodness for yet another harvest.
But fresh spinach is so perishable and we can only eat so much fresh spinach. I wanted to preserve this spring goodness to enjoy later in the year, so I decided to dehydrate it.
My Excalibur Dehydrator book gave the instructions for my area & humidity level here in Northeast Texas: dehydrate at 125 degrees Fahrenheit for 5 hours. (Your time may very based on the humidity level where you live.) I harvested those fresh spinach leaves early in the morning, washed them thoroughly and laid them out on a kitchen towel to air dry a bit.
Some people cut off the stems but all the stems on my spinach leaves were pretty small and tender so I didn't bother pulling them off. I layered the washed leaves on the screen of my Excalibur dehydrator, spreading them out quickly & evenly. Some of my spinach leaves were still touching a bit but I didn't worry too much about that since I know the leaves will shrink back anyway as they dry.
Finally I set the dial to 125 degrees and made note of the time.
After about 2 hours in the dehydrator I rotated the trays so all of the trays would dehydrate evenly. After 5 hours in the dehydrator the spinach leaves were dry and very fragile — this is what they looked like.
Even though the dehydrator was now turned off, I left those dried leaves spread out on the trays overnight just to make sure all moisture was gone. Moisture spells disaster for your dehydrated food so you want to make sure your produce is thoroughly dry before you place it into those storage jars.
The next morning, I transferred the dehydrated spinach carefully into my glass canning jars, the leaves were very fragile so I didn't pack them too tightly to avoid crushing the leaves. Finally, I sealed the jar tightly, added a quick label and placed the jar on my pantry shelf.
When I wanted to rehydrate my spinach, here's what I did: You can use a small casserole dish with a lid since casserole dishes are made to withstand heat, but since there are only two of us here I just used an oversized soup mug.
I carefully put a couple of handfuls of dehydrated spinach into the mug and poured boiling water over the leaves — just enough to cover. I used a large spoon to gently turn the leaves a few times to make sure they all had a chance to make contact with the hot water and covered the mug with a couple of heavy hot pads and let it begin rehydrating the spinach.
After about 5 minutes I removed the cover and gently stirred the spinach leaves again to get any floating leaves down into the hot water. Then, I recovered the mug and let the spinach fully rehydrate for about 45 minutes.
After that time, I removed the lid and seasoned the spinach with a bit of salt and pepper, adding just the tiniest amount of bacon grease for that down-home flavor I remember and loved as a child. Delicious!
The fully-dehydrated spinach sealed tightly in a glass canning jar will probably stay fresh for several months, but if you want longer storage you might want to consider additional steps such as vacuum sealing or oxygen absorbers.
If you're going to consume the contents relatively quickly I don't think there's any need, I never bothered with either of those methods and the spinach is always delicious! Bon Appétit
Tammy Taylor lives and works on a NE Texas ranch and writes about home cooking, gardening, food preservation, MIY, DIY and living as gently as possible on this big blue planet we call home. You can visit her Homestead Blog – or follow her on Facebook or Pinterest. Find all of Tammy's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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