If you suddenly find yourself with a bounty of fresh tomatoes or wanting to consume as many stone fruits as the month of August will allow, dehydrating and storing for later is an awesome way to save the summer.
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One way to do it.
Dedicated food dehydrators may be worth investing in if you have the cabinet space and plan on regularly drying a lot of food, but all you really need is a little patience and a low-temperature oven to remove as much water content from fresh produce as possible. Oven drying fruit and veggies is an easy way to preserve peak-season produce at the height of its flavor without investing in any new gadgets.
The Best Fruits and Vegetables for Dehydrating
Well-washed fruit such as halved strawberries, sliced apples, pears, bananas, apricots (and other stone fruits including peaches) are great for dehydrating. You can dehydrate mangoes, pineapple, tomatoes, and citrus too. Smaller berries can be left whole. Be sure to give the fruit a bath in a citric-acid solution (or lemon juice and water) to preserve flavor and color.
Vegetables can be great to save as well; some veggies like carrots and broccoli need a quick blanch in boiling water to clean off any bacteria and preserve colors.
In any case, make sure each piece is cut into the same shape to ensure even dehydration (aim for roughly 1/4 inch thick slices or strips).
How to Dehydrate Using Your Oven
1. Set a cooling rack on a baking sheet. The idea is that the cooling rack will promote dehydration and prevent liquid from pooling on a flat surface, but you can also simply line the baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
2. Arrange your prepared fruits or vegetables on the rack in a single layer. They can be fairly close together, but should not be overlapping.
3. Set your oven to its lowest temperature (180°F or lower) and place the baking sheet on the middle rack.
4. Leave oven slightly open and ‘bake’ for a minimum of one hour, depending on the thickness of what you’re trying to dehydrate. Some fruits and vegetables will need more time, so check after every half hour or so.
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The only tool you need besides your oven.
Properly dehydrated fruits will be slightly pliable, but not sticky to the touch. Veggies will be crisp. Also worth noting: You can make your own beef jerky in the oven following much the same steps.
There are some things you can dehydrate in the microwave, like fresh herbs or potatoes (apple chips can be made in the same manner):
Sun drying is a fun option for some items like tomatoes, although the results are far less reliable (drying herbs this way is the least risky).
You can also dehydrate certain foods in your toaster oven.
How to Store Dehydrated Food
Once you’ve removed all of the moisture from your foods, it is best to store them in an airtight container or a plastic bag with most of the air removed before sealing. They should be kept in a cool, dark space to keep as fresh as possible.
What types of fruits and vegetables are you looking to dehydrate this summer? Check out the recipes below for inspiration and get started dehydrating your favorite foods.
Slices or chunks of dehydrated pineapple make a great naturally sweet snack with a pleasant chew. You can remove the cores, but if you leave them in, they look even more like edible flowers. Get the Oven Dried Pineapple recipe.
Homemade fruit leathers are one of the best ways to sneak fresh produce into your child’s diet. It looks and tastes like the store bought snack, but has no extra sugar or preservatives to worry about. The process is a bit more involved—make a purée, spread it onto clean parchment paper, dry, and cut into strips with the paper for easy storage—but the principle is still the same. Get the Fruit Leather recipe.
Forget buying a bag of these crunchy peas every week, they are super easy to make at home. Sprinkle with your favorite spice blends for an extra kick or a sweet and salty spin if that’s what you’re into. Get the Snap Pea Chips recipe. (Crispy green beans are equally delicious.)
Combine all of your favorite dehydrated vegetables (think oven dried corn, peas, carrots, and mushrooms) with instant rice noodles or soba and basic seasonings for an ideal DIY soup for camping and beyond. For the tomato powder, you can simply blitz oven-dried tomatoes in a spice grinder. Get the Backpacking Revamped Ramen recipe.
Take advantage of the season and consume all of the tomatoes you can get your hands on. Slices of beefsteak or roma tomatoes make great chips while halved cherry tomatoes rehydrate beautifully in olive oil or soups and stews. If you canned tomato sauce, you can even dehydrate the leftover skins for a crispy snack! Make any of these in the oven, or try this Tomato Chips recipe in the microwave.
Any subscriber to a vegetable delivery box can find themselves with a plethora of summer squashes. Make the most out of your bushel by dehydrating zucchini and yellow squash chips and tossing with your favorite seasonings. Get the Dill Pickle Zucchini Chips recipe.
Vegans rejoice—eggplant bacon is here to save your BLTs. Dehydrate thin slices of eggplant brushed with spices and oil for an umami bomb, ready from the oven in less than 30 minutes. Get the Eggplant Bacon recipe.
When summer starts to tip into fall and you have an orchard haul to deal with, one of the heroes of the oven dehydrator game is classic apple chips! Go on and slice the whole apple and you won’t even notice the core while snacking. Get the Cinnamon Sugar Apple Chips recipe.
Rachel Johnson wrote the original version of this story in 2017. It has been updated with additional images, links, and text.
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