I have been preserving our harvest for many years now, but dehydrating was one of the last skills I added to my repertoire. Even though this has been my path, there are plenty of reasons to choose dehydrating earlier in your journey.
It is true that buying a dehydrator can be a sizable investment. I waited for a sale to buy my unit—I knew I wanted an Excalibur. However, you can use a cheaper countertop brand, or can even use other resources such as the sun or an oven set on low.
A few years ago we had roommates who used their own dehydrator throughout each season. Seeing the ease and convenience helped convince me to make the leap.
Although my dehydrator is in use throughout the harvest season, I continue to practice other preserving methods as well. They all have a place!
Reasons to Choose Dehydrating
Packable and Lightweight Snacks
When considering the reasons to choose dehydrating, the sheer convenience of the finished product is hard to beat. Being able to condense the nutrition and calories into a lightweight and transportable form means dehydrating is particularly helpful for hikers and campers.
Dehydrating is also fantastic for families. All our kids love dehydrated fruit or fruit leathers. We make all our raisins every year. Making your own jerky, veggie chips, or even yogurt drops can also be fun ways to provide homegrown snacks for your pantry.
Dehydration Maximizes Space
Because the process of dehydrating removes all the water from the food, the finished product is particularly compact. You can fit many pounds of tomatoes or zucchini into just a few mason jars.
If you’re limited in pantry or cold-room storage, this benefit can’t be overstated. You can keep just a few jars within easy reach to add veggie or flavor boosts to a very wide variety of meals.
Super Easy to Process
Dehydrating is a great way to get kids involved in preserving food. There aren’t any hot jars or pressurized cookers. My kids have been involved in a number of dehydrating projects already this year, which makes it even more exciting for them to eat food they’ve participated in.
Even if you don’t have kids, the ease of putting food on trays and straight into the dehydrator makes it accessible for anyone. The processing times and temperatures are pretty flexible, and easy to follow.
My mom dries countless pounds of produce every year, and she does it all in her homemade solar dehydrator.
I know many people like to use a cheap air dryer like this for their herbs and greens. I’ve also done these lighter harvests on cookie sheets in the hot sun. You can place them in the windshield of a car to speed things along.
Building a solar dehydrator will be the way to go if you want to use the sun to dry different crops. you’ll still be dependent on the weather, but plenty of people rely on these with good results. We bought this book when we were planning to build our own solar dryer. Since that time I’ve bought my Excalibur, which is functioning well for us.
Creating Powdered Foods
I may have saved the best for last! I love making powders with my dehydrated produce. Every year I make super greens, which we sprinkle on eggs, pasta, and all manner of other dishes to provide a boost of nutrition.
I’ve also made powdered dandelion root, powdered spices, and powdered apple peels. I simply whiz up the dehydrated goods in my blender.
Check out The Health Benefits of Dehydrated Food if you’d like to learn more about the nutrition profile of dried food.
Check out these highly rated books if you’re looking for something more in your dehydrating journey. As far as dehydrators, I use and can recommend the Excalibur.