Save Money By Drying Fruits and Vegetables at Home

When it comes to preserving fresh edibles economically and conveniently, it's hard to beat the centuries-old technique of drying fruits and vegetables at home!

| July/August 1977

Drying fruits and vegetables at home saves you money and preserves your yearly crops.

How to Dry Fruits and Vegetables at Home

Dehydration as a method of food preservation has been around a long time. Primitive man dried victuals by the heat of the sun or with the aid of fire, then ground the dehydrated stores into a long-lasting powder or ate them "as is". Now, thousands of years later, dehydration is still one of the most widely used methods of food preservation in the world . . . for some mighty good reasons.

  1. Drying preserves the vitamin, mineral, protein, and fiber content of foods . . . more so than preservation techniques that expose the viands to great changes in temperature.
  2. Dehydrated foodstuffs are actually more flavorful — in most cases — than the original, undried food. (Frozen and canned edibles, on the other hand, are — if anything — less tasty than their fresh or dried equivalents.)
  3. It costs little or nothing to dry foods, whereas freezing and canning both require a potentially large initial investment in equipment.
  4. Dried goods can be stored in a smaller space than either frozen, canned, or fresh foods. (Twenty pounds of tomatoes, for instance, will — when canned — fill eleven one-quart jars. The same quantity of tomatoes dried weighs a little more than a pound and occupies a single No. 10 can.)
  5. Dried foods — when kept dry — remain edible virtually forever.

If these aren't powerful enough reasons for you to begin thinking about drying your own foods at home, consider this: By buying fruits and vegetables in bulk when they're in season (and thus lowest in price) — then dehydrating them for later use — you can enjoy your favorite eats year round, in season or out, for just a fraction of what you'd pay on a buy-as-you-eat basis. If nothing else, food drying is a great way to reconstitute your shrinking food dollar!

How to Get Started Drying Food

If you want to dehydrate foods quickly (and you don't mind warming up the kitchen), you can dry your fruits and vegetables in the oven. This method, however, has the disadvantage that it usually causes a greater change in the color, flavor, and vitamin content of foods than does open-air drying.

A better — though more time-consuming — way to dehydrate foods is to use a cabinet-type food dryer, or simply rely on Ole Sol to do the job. Sundrying requires very little in the way of equipment: just a couple of tables (or other flat surfaces) that can be set up outside, some cookie sheets, aluminum foil, or butcher paper on which to dry the edibles, and a protective netting (cheesecloth, for instance) to keep insects off the food.

There's nothing complicated about preparing victuals for drying. The key things to remember are:

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