Visiting my grandparent’s house brings me such fond memories. One of those memories, of all things, is eating the delicious dried fruit grandma made! She filled hundreds of ziplock bags with dried plums, pears, peaches, and apples, all picked from the orchards around her house. She also dried bananas and it was all a treat I looked forward to every visit.
Believe it or not, my grandma constructed her own dehydrator 30+ years ago! She built a wood box with shelves; added screens and an electric fan to the back of the box. I still remember that box always sitting on a table on her back patio as the fan slowly dried out the fruit. Wouldn’t she be astonished by the fancy dehydrators of today?! They work so much faster and have all the bells and whistles necessary to create a perfect piece of dried food.
What are some benefits of dehydrating fruits and vegetables?
Preservation and Storage
Drying is one of the oldest methods of preserving food. It removes enough moisture to prevent decay and spoilage. Using a dehydrator is a great way to enjoy eating produce when it’s technically out of season, and is great alternative to canning or freezing foods.
Dried fruit or vegetables is convenient to pack for anyone “on-the-go” because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it’s not messy or sticky, it’s compact and doesn’t take up a lot of space, it doesn’t weigh much, and it provides quick energy.
When backpacking or camping, brighten your meal by adding dehydrated vegetables.
Speaking of quick energy, dried fruit is very calorically dense. Because the fruit loses water during the drying process, the nutrient, calorie, and sugar content become more concentrated. Some would say this is a negative, but I think that depends on who you ask. If you’re out hiking, biking, skiing, or even sight-seeing, a high calorie dried fruit snack is a great way to refuel.
Nutritiously, the heat from dehydrating does tend to destroy some vitamins in the food, but fortunately dried fruit retains all of its fiber and iron. Fiber is associated with lowering risk of certain cancers such as colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers. Also, a home dehydrator is not nearly as harsh on nutrients compared to the commercial process of drying. Dried fruit contains no fat, cholesterol, or sodium. Another perk of using your own dehydrator—you can ensure no additives or preservatives, and also use organic when desired.
Variety with Vegetables
When dehydrating vegetables, select veggies at peak flavor and eating quality. This usually is just as they reach maturity. Sweet corn and green peas, however, should be slightly immature so they retain their sweet flavor before their sugars change to starch. The options are endless when it comes to dehydrating vegetables. From tomatoes, green beans and kale to bell peppers, peas, and broccoli, the variety is one of the best things about dehydrating.
Here’s a tasty appetizer using dried cranberries.
Goat cheese with pistachios and cranberries
2 Tbsp roasted pistachios, chopped
2 Tbsp dried cranberries, chopped
1 8- to 10-ounce log fresh goat cheese
Crackers or bread, for serving
1. On a large plate, combine the pistachios and cranberries
2. Roll the goat cheese in the fruit-and-nut mixture to coat. Serve with crackers or bread.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Recipe courtesy of Real Simple.