While our ancestors weren’t lucky enough to have handy dehydrator machines in their kitchens, the method of drying and dehydrating food has been around for thousands of years. Some studies even date the idea back to prehistoric times.
What are the benefits?
Taste. Removing water from fruits and vegetables naturally concentrates and enhances their flavor. Dehydration makes fruits and vegetables more like treats than healthy whole foods—a great way to teach kids (and adults) to eat healthy.
Save. Like our ancestors, we can use dehydration as a form of storage. Extracting moisture from food limits the amount of mold, yeast, and bacteria that can affect the food – as most pesky bacteria like to eat fresh, water-filled foods. In addition, by dehydrating food yourself, you can eliminate the need for artificial preservatives often found in dehydrated foods in stores. You can also prepare food for a later date by adding water or adding it to soup, sauce or stew – you will have a ripe mango even in the depths of winter.
Saving. Thanks to the excellent preservative properties of dehydration, you will be able to minimize the amount of food waste. It is especially popular during harvest season. It will also help cut down on your spending on snacks that can be easily made with leftover fruits and vegetables.
Is the nutritional value reduced?
When foods are dehydrated using a small kitchen dehydrator, the heat can sometimes reduce the nutritional value of certain fruits and vegetables. For example, vitamin C is found in some fruits and vegetables to a certain extent, but it is also sensitive to heat, water, and even air, so cooking can often reduce the vitamin C content of food. Vitamin A is also sensitive to light and heat. However, since the heat in a dehydrator is very weak, some researchers have concluded that the loss of nutritional value can be as little as 5%, making it almost as healthy as fresh produce.
Fruit chips. You can even use overripe fruit for this method. Puree with fruit (sweeten if desired), then pour the mixture onto a dehydrator tray and use a spatula to spread it out in a thin layer. Then simply turn on the dehydrator and let the mixture dry for at least six hours.
Vegetable chips. Make vegetable chips by placing thin slices of vegetables (try zucchini!) in a bowl with a little oil and seasoning. Then put them in a dehydrator and let them dry for about eight hours.
Berry blanks. The harvest of berries is too short and we often do not have time to enjoy them. Try harvesting ripe in-season berries ahead of time with a dehydrator. Then you can use them to make desserts or breakfasts.