Dehydrating Intro

Several people have asked me about dehydrating in the last week or two, so thought I’d do a little write up about it. Dehydrating is my favorite method of preserving what I grow, so think it’s kind of funny that I haven’t really talked about it here!

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Dehydrating is a bit easier to do than canning because you prep the veggies or fruits and can let it sit in the dehydrator unattended. Because it’s less of a time investment, I did it a lot more when I was working and going to school and time was at a premium. You are also able to do any sized batches, which is great for those of us with smaller gardens who don’t always have enough for canning.

dehydrating vegetables

It is recommended that you blanch most vegetables before dehydrating to” stop enzyme action and enhance destruction of microorganisms”. This chart published by the Colorado Extension gives their recommendations on how long to boil vegetables to blanch. Another option that may be cheaper and easier depending on the time of year, is to start with frozen vegetables which are already blanched.

dehydrated corn

Vegetable Preparation Blanching Time* (mins.) Drying Time (hrs.)
Asparagus Wash thoroughly. Halve large tips. 4-5 6-10
Beans, green Wash. Cut in pieces or strips. 4 8-14
Beets Cook as usual. Cool, peel. Cut into shoestring strips 1/8″ thick. None 10-12
Broccoli Wash. Trim, cut as for serving. Quarter stalks lengthwise. 4 12-15
Brussels sprouts Wash. Cut in half lengthwise through stem. 5-6 12-18
Cabbage Wash. Remove outer leaves, quarter and core. Cut into strips 1/8″ thick. 4 10-12
Carrots, parsnips Use only crisp, tender vegetables. Wash. Cut off roots and tops; peel. Cut in slices or strips 1/8″ thick. 4 6-10
Cauliflower Wash. Trim, cut into small pieces. 4-5 12-15
Celery Trim stalks. Wash stalks and leaves thoroughly. Slice stalks. 4 10-16
Chili peppers, green Wash. To loosen skins, cut slit in skin, then rotate over flame 6-8 minutes or scald in boiling water. Peel and split pods. Remove seeds and stem. (Wear gloves if necessary.) None 12-24
Chili peppers, red Wash thoroughly. Slice or leave whole if small. 4 12-24
Corn, cut Husk, trim. Wash well. Blanch until milk in corn is set. Cut the kernels from the cob. 4-6 6-10
Eggplant Wash, trim, cut into 1/4″ slices. 4 12-14
Horseradish Wash, remove small rootlets and stubs. Peel or scrape roots. Grate. None 6-10
Mushrooms** Scrub. Discard tough, woody stalks. Slice tender stalks 1/4″ thick. Peel large mushrooms, slice. Leave small mushrooms whole. Dip in solution of 1 tsp. citric acid/quart water for 10 minutes. Drain. None 8-12
Okra Wash thoroughly. Cut into 1/2” pieces or split lengthwise. 4 8-10
Onions Wash, remove outer paper skin. Remove tops and root ends, slice 1/8 to 1/4″ thick. 4 6-10
Parsley, other herbs Wash thoroughly. Separate clusters. Discard long or tough stems. 4 4-6
Peas Shell and wash. 4 8-10
Peppers, pimentos Wash, stem. Remove core and seeds. Cut into 1/4 to 1/2″ strips or rings. 4 8-12
Potatoes Wash, peel. Cut into 1/4″ shoestring strips or 1/8″ thick slices. 7 6-10
Spinach, greens
like Kale, Chard, mustard
Trim and wash very thoroughly. Shake or pat dry to remove excess moisture. 4 6-10
Squash, summer or banana Wash, trim, cut into 1/4″ slices. 4 10-16
Squash, winter Wash rind. Cut nto pieces. Remove seeds and cavity pulp. Cut into 1″ wide strips. Peel rind. Cut strips crosswise into pieces about 1/8″ thick. 4 10-16
Tomatoes Steam or dip in boiling water to loosen skins. Chill in cold water. Peel. Slice 1/2″ thick or cut in 3/4″ sections. Dip in solution of 1 tsp. citric acid/quart water for 10 minutes. None 6-24

But honestly, I haven’t really noticed a difference between blanching and not blanching. Fruits that brown should also be treated.  I simply put spray bottle top right on my bottle of lemon juice and spritz them.

dehydrated bananas

Most fruits and vegetables can be dehydrated at about 125 degrees. There are specific instructions and temperatures you can find if you pick up a book about dehydrating (I recommend The Dehydrator Bible) or google “how to dehydrate _____”. But not all dehydrators have a temperature adjustment and they still manage.

dehydrated peas

I dehydrate everything until crisp to maximize storage. The food should be hard and plink when you drop it on the counter. It takes me much longer than estimates the extension gives, so don’t worry too much about that. You aren’t going to over-dry anything if you don’t take it out immediately either. When I had a busy schedule I checked my dehydrator once in the morning and once in the evening.

dehydrated mushrooms

Once done let your dehydrated vegges cool and store in air tight containers.  Old food jars work great for this.  You can easily store them a year or so this way.  Many of mine have been in jars longer though.

dehydrated celery

Many of the recipes I’ve posted, I’ve tried with fresh veggies in the summer and dehydrated veggies in the winter. Vegetables rehydrate well just by soaking them an hour of so before cooking with them. You can speed up that process (or help along veggies that are tougher like my carrots tend to be) by simmering them on the stove for a bit. When making soup, I just throw them in dry and add extra cooking time.

dehydrated broccoli

On average, vegetables will rehydrate to twice their dehydrated size.  So if a recipe calls for a cup of fresh carrots, you can substitute about a half cup dehydrated carrots.

dehydrated strawberries

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74 Comments Add yours

  1. Cyndi Thomas says:

    I Love this!! Thanks for the info!!!!

  2. Nihal says:

    I guess this is much safer than canning.

  3. Julia Swancy says:

    Thanks for this one! I’ve been debating getting a dehydrator and now I’m thinking I really should shop for one. What kind do you use?

    1. viggie says:

      I was able to get an Excalibur off of an old friend who didn’t use theirs 🙂 But I did start out with the relatively inexpensive Nescos you can find in the store. They will work just find. They just have less drying space and I found the trays hard to clean.

      1. Cassie says:

        The Nesco trays can be washed in the dishwasher, though, if your dishwasher is big enough. Nesco also has a newer square model that I find to be more space efficient than their round models. We have apple trees and use our dehydrators a lot with the intention of storing dried apples for the winter, but everybody eats them all up as soon as I dry them!

        1. Tammie says:

          This is such helpful information. I just used my Nesco for the first time, received it for Christmas last year. Tried apples, delicious. Need to do much more as these didn’t last long in the freezer! I am looking forward to trying many other foods. I didn’t think it would keep in food jars. Thanks for t
          he tips!

  4. I love the idea of preserving local and vintage foods. We need a model of entrepreneurship to allow people to make a sustainable living in this craft.

  5. Leila says:

    I think this would make a good article on Backwoods Home Magazine. They would pay you from $25 to $40 for it. I love the information. Thank you. Is it in print?

  6. Nancy Davis says:

    Wow! Is that a picture of all you dried? Thanks for the information chart! Nancy

    1. viggie says:

      Yes, this is what my cabinets look like 😀

      1. Ally says:

        Thanks for the tip with the spray bottle and lemon juice. Seems you wouldn’t waste it that way. Do you have a list of things, for example that you have dried successfully, and maybe some things that didn’t work so well? I found that I overdried my citrus when I tried for example, and they weren’t good for me to eat as dried fruit, but looked pretty in a vase…. 🙂

        1. viggie says:

          The only thing that didn’t work for me was potatoes. They came out discolored and would not rehydrate properly. But frozen potatoes and hash browns worked just fine for me. I’ve simply started canning the potatoes I grow instead because I didn’t want to run another batch. But I do know people who dehydrate them successfully.

          1. Janet says:

            If you use fresh potatoes you have to steam them until they get very gummy then rinse them and then dehydrate them. Then they will not turn black.

  7. Mary says:

    I don’t know much about dehydrating foods 😦 Do the jars have to be vacuumed sealed or do you just put the foods in the jars and leave it till you need it? How can you tell if the food has gone bad? I had a Nesco awhile back and didn’t like it very well. Like you mentioned, it was very hard to clean.

    1. viggie says:

      I just put them in the jars. From what I’ve read vacuum sealing doesn’t do much good, it just makes the jars too hard to open! I’ve found some containers that weren’t closed properly where the food got pliable again which I didn’t eat, but otherwise I’ve never had anything go bad on me.

  8. Mary says:

    Thank you!! Now I just need to find a decent dehydrator.

    1. Dede Brinkmann says:

      Can I dehydrate in the oven opposed to a dehydrater

      1. viggie says:

        I know some people do, but I can’t suggest doing it. Normal ovens don’t have a low enough temperature setting, and they would have to be left open the whole time to allow moisture to escape.

  9. jim says:

    I am just glad to see that yours looks like ours do once they are done. We kept foolishly thinking that it would turn out like what you see/get in the stores. definetly a big difference.

  10. Fiona says:

    Great no nonsense article – thanks

  11. milo says:

    dehydrators are amazing! good post! we dehydrate a lot of foods where i work to make certain dishes. you can also put fruits in simple syrup and dehydrate them, gives them a candy texture without the overkill of sweetness.

  12. Abby Normal says:

    The shelf life of dehydrated foods is way longer than that of canning. Add oxygen packets to remove unwanted air & you can keep items for several years!

    1. deb says:

      where do you purchase oxygen packets Abby.

      1. viggie says:

        The LDS have great prices on the things they carry. I think their oxygen absorbers are the cheapest I’ve seen. http://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product3_715839595_10557_21003_-1__195877

  13. Jodi says:

    Just put some blueberries in the dehydrator.
    Looking for dehydrator recipes. I would like to prepare soups, so that all I need to do is add water. Any ideas?

    1. viggie says:

      I’ve prepared many of my favorite recipes this way. Just use bullion in them in place of broth, powdered dairy if necessary, and freeze dried meats or TVP. You can also check out books like the “Gifts in a Jar” series or “Dinner is in the Jar” that have recipes for you.

    2. Anna Gartin says:

      Ball Canning Book has a special section on dehydrating foods, I refer to it often.

  14. Hannah says:

    What do the veggies taste like, when rehydrated? Do they hold the same texture?

  15. jessica says:

    Thanks for sharing! Honestly dehydrating half thus stuff never even occurred to me but I love that I can preserve food without taking up even more freezer space! I do wonder if/how much of the nutrients are lost when you dehydrate them? Any info on this?

    1. viggie says:

      The higher the temperature used to preserve, the more you will lose. So dehydrating will be better than canning in this respect.

      1. jessica says:

        Oh! Didn’t know that! Thanks for the info 🙂

  16. Shirley says:

    I have the same dehydrater as yours and love mine , I use mine for meat mostly ! I never blanch any veggies first , I love kale in my shakes ! Would dehydrating kale for my shakes work or is it best just to freeze it ? Don’t you have to leave some dehydrated foods sit in water or boil them first ?

    1. viggie says:

      I just throw the dehydrated kale in the blender and let it soak in whatever liquid the smoothie uses. I’m actually really big on smoothies and do exactly that in winter 🙂

  17. Lacey says:

    My garden was pretty much a bust this year, but we have a couple of fairly nice farmer’s markets around, so maybe I need to make a visit and break out the old dehydrator. Great information.

  18. Peter Goslett says:

    We bought a dehydrator to make jerky chicken snacks for our dog. He has EPI, and we don’t trust store-bought jerky treats [China?, anyone] I’m looking for what else to use the dehydrator for, and got lots of info from this article. Thanks a lot. We bought our dehydrator through Heartland America catalog for about $30.00

  19. Shelly says:

    Very useful article, thank you.

  20. Andi Flitton says:

    Thank you for the info here, and the other posts. I have a dehydrator that I haven’t used in years-time to get it back out, I think. I dehydrated apples and pears successfully and loved eating them as snacks later.

  21. Angie says:

    I loved your article, it is very useful!! Thanks so much for taking the time to post such helpful information on Dehydrating 🙂

  22. lacey dawn says:

    Is it ok to store your dehydrated food in ziplock bags?

  23. twila says:

    Have you ever dehydrated cucumbers??

  24. Reblogged this on practicesustainability and commented:
    Another excellent, informative post from Viggie’s Veggies- This is all the info you will need to start Dehydrating from home.

  25. Mike Hamilton says:

    Dehydrators are relatively simple to make. I made one 18″ x 18″ about 36″ high. It had an upside-down pyramid/funnel at the bottom and I mounted a common hair blow-dryer in the bottom I got for a few bucks at a yard sale or second-hand store. It had 9 shelf racks made from lightweight angle I riveted to the insides. For shelves, I used the nylon egg-crate light diffusers from drop-in ceilings. They come in 2′ x 4′ sizes, and I cut them to fit through the door in front. You could also use a light bulb for the heat source in the bottom and it will create the updraft to carry moisture away. Mine would dry meat or fruit in as little 5-10 hours when sliced 1/4-3/8″ thick. Make sure you leave a hole in top for an exit vent, as well as another hold in bottom for intake/updraft. Cheesecloth or old pantyhose can cover these holes if you don’t have bug screen.

    You can also make one of these by simply making a display-like case with plexiglass lid. Put air vent holes in each end and tilt it up at an angle with one vented end several inches higher than the other and, when left in the sun, solar heat will do the job for you. I’ve even put stuff on a cardboard sheet on my dashboard with the windows up and it was dried in a few hours. Experiment. Go nuts. Now go dry something!

    1. julie d. says:

      Thank you for this info!! I wish you had photos too! ;o) I searched everywhere for “how to make your own” dehydrator and finally came across your blog/post! I saw another one on this site somewhere that a man made for outside use, that was about 4 ft tall, using plywood, 3 light bulbs and a small fan….but I could not find it again! So, Thank you so much! And above all else, Thanks to the person responsible for this Blog/site!! Julie

    2. julie d. says:

      One more question…”you used an upside down pyramid/funnel in the bottom” What was this and what is the purpose for it? If you will, please reply. Thank you…….. Julie D

      1. Michael P. Hamilton says:

        The upside-down funnel/pyramid was just a four-sided funnel I made that hung under the box upside-down. There was a hole in the bottom in which I stuck the dryer, and air flowed up through the dryer and into the main compartment. This also kept air from escaping out around the bottom instead of rising up through the main compartment. The egg-crate diffuser/shelves caused the air to spread out evenly while coming up through the dryer. A light bulb could sit in the bottom and generate the heat and updraft needed for drying, but I chose the hair dryer. The hole in the bottom was just big enough to fit the dryer in without falling through. You don’t need a funnel-shaped bottom. You can use a common box-shaped bottom instead just as easily. Just don’t use something that will melt or burn.

        1. julie d. says:

          Thank you for responding to my question! I understand now………
          Julie

          1. Mike Hamilton says:

            Nuts. I accidently left my reply to Joana below. Also, sorry it took me so long to follow up with you. I hope you enjoy….
            Mike

  26. Carol Cannon says:

    I need to tell you this….. I LOVE THIS SITE!!!!! I look forward to each days FB post. I copy and save, I share, I investigate, I laugh and I ask myself….. Why did I have to wait until I was 61 years old to find out all this AWESOME information. Thank you so much for making my life a little happier and giving me some important information… I guess it is true…. You Are Never to Old to Learn… Now, I’m off to see if I can find me a good used dehydrator on e-bay… {:0)

  27. Joanna says:

    How can I get a printable version of this? It’s great!

    1. Mike Hamilton says:

      By the way, Joanna….although I used thin sheet metal like that used for heating ductwork, there’s no reason why you can’t use aluminum, wood, glass, plexiglass or something else, as long as it can stand the weight and heat (about 100-140deg F). Same goes for whatever you use for trays and the shelf brackets that support them. Now go make something different and have some fun with it!
      Mike

  28. Staci says:

    My grandmother used large sheets of tin with white sheets over them out in the sun to dehydrate. There’s nothing fancy about a homemade dehydrator. 🙂

    1. Anna Gartin says:

      White Sheets? As in bed sheets? Were they really thin, almost sheer? I’m trying to picture how they dehydrated with a sheet over them. I see why she would do that to keep the bugs out, I’d love to try this method next summer. I use to work with a lady who put cookie sheets on the roof of her car to dehydrate but didn’t get all thedetails as to how she protected it from flying pest. We all need to learn how to do it without electricty as there may come a day when we might have either limited electric use or no electric use at all.

  29. Rachel Maris says:

    It seems to me that the food/herbs that I have dehydrated in the sun/outside vs. using a dehydrator are 1) more vibrant in color, 2) they seem to hold more of their fragrance. The dehydrator seems to take some of the taste away. Is it just me, or is this really the case?

  30. Wendy says:

    I have dehydrated 10 pounds of potatoes this weekend.

  31. Linda says:

    My Great Aunt used to dehydrate apples for us all the time on her furnace grates in her old house…ever so good. Have a maybe weird question if you’ll still check this, seeing as most comments and replies are from last year. I am wondering if i cna use my smoker to dehydrate, without using the wood chips of course!

    1. viggie says:

      Hmmm I don’t know anything about smokers so I don’t have an answer to that one.

  32. Donna says:

    I want to buy a dehydrator. I tried to pin this but it wouldn’t let me.

  33. Jen says:

    Just added this post to my favorites so I can find it again in the summer, thank you so much for sharing.

  34. LindaG says:

    Thank you so much for this great information!

  35. Kim says:

    I bought a dehydrater and everytime I walk into the room I have it in…..I stare at it…think about it….get a little nervous about doing it….now I read this and I feel like I’m missing out on some great snacks and ideas……..thank you soooooo very much lolll

  36. Lori baumgartner says:

    Wow.am i ever glad i came here.i just got my dehydator and i ordered the book.can you use canned veggies and fruit instead of frozen ones?im new at this

    1. viggie says:

      I’ve done some canned fruit. But I’ve only personally tried frozen veggies.

  37. Grandee says:

    I’m curious does your Broccoli have a strong scent after it’s dried. When I reopen a package it’s somewhat over whelming is that normal?

  38. Mary says:

    I dehydrated mixed veggies one time and when I went to cook them they were good except for the lima beans which were still hard. Any suggestions about rehydrating dehydrated foods? Thank you.

    1. viggie says:

      Mixed is a little harder. I’ve found some things do take longer to rehydrate and cook…I know my carrots do so I learned to get those in the pot first when I was making soup and then proceeded with the rest of the recipe normally once those were cooked. You can also soak troublemakers ahead of time to soften them…or simmer them a few minutes separately first and then use them in your recipe.

  39. Janice M says:

    I have just started using my dehydrator and I am finding a few challenges. First, I have come to the conclusion that I need to buy one with adjustable heat controls. I find I am buring things before that fully dehydrate…grrrrr. Second, and here is my question, how do I keep my dehydrated items from sticking to the trays. I made banana chips and I could hardly get them off the trays – they were stuck HARD. Help please.

  40. Jody says:

    I would love
    to know more about these homemade dehydraters. Anyone have a good resourse that has pictures or diagrams?? do some small painted projects and have used a cardboard box and a hair dryer to make a small paint project dryer. I would asume this is the same kind of concept, how big do the vents or holes to let out moisture have to be? and do you put those vent holes on top since warm air rises??
    Thanks,
    Jody

  41. Jody says:

    How much does this affect your electric bill?
    That is if you don’t do the solar method.
    Jody

  42. Reblogged this on Mine Kinder Garden and commented:
    Wow! I need to try this!

  43. Luciana Seymour says:

    Great ! Now all I need is a dehydrator. 🙂

  44. Veroncia says:

    I find it interesting about storing in a jar only. I always assumed that is how I would store things (currently nothing lasts long enough to store). However whilst searching the dreaded internet there was all the vacuum pack with an oxygen absorber then put in Mylar bags and then in opaque containers. Hardly seems worth it – it would cost me more in packing. We live in a very humid place in summer so would it still be ok to jar them – should I put an oxygen absorber in with the contents? How long would I have to use the produce – 12 months?

    1. viggie says:

      I’m right along Lake Michigan, so humidity is a factor here too…but with airtight jars it isn’t an issue in storage. For short term 1-2 years, the jars are just fine. I do store some things all packed up like that, but that’s more like 30 year storage.

  45. ron8072 says:

    Just bought a dehydrator last weekend. Timely info. You must have channeled me!

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