by Rose Lee Cabalerro
Dehydrating provides us with a connection between the worlds of cooked and raw foods. It is a method of preservation that helps retain food enzymes and nutrients. The process removes enough water to prevent growth of bacteria, yeast and mold.
In order for fruits to dehydrate properly, you must perforate the skin to allow the moisture to escape. This is accomplished by slicing, halfing, or pitting. It's a good idea to dry your own fruits because many commercial growers use chemicals or coat them with sulfur dioxide, sodium bisulfate and/or refined sugar. Needless to say, these additives retard spoilage, however they do not enhance your health. Remember always dehydrate at or below 105 degrees to help preserve enzymes and nutrients. Once your fruit is dried, be sure to cool it completely before packaging. Keep these foods in airtight glass or plastic containers in the coolest, darkest, driest place you can find. For maximum long-term safekeeping, vacuum sealing is the best procedure with a storage temperature of 60 degrees or below. Dried fruit is adversly affected by light, air, moisture as are all dehydrated foods. Properly stored, they have a shelf life of 6 to 12 months depending on the quality of preparation and products.
Now let's talk about vegetables and how they can be dehydrated. The quality of your fresh vegewill determine the taste and texture of the finished product. Be sure to wash them well and remove any inedible parts. Cut the vegetables uniformly and fill the dehydrator. Do not disturb the drying process by adding more vegetables at a later time. Dried vegetables deteriorate at a much faster rate than dried fruits because their increased enzyme activity is not buffered by the higher concentration of sugar and acid found in dried fruits. Therefore, the longer dried vegetables are stored, the less flavor, color, texture and nutriend content remain. It is best to try and use your supply of dehydrated vegetables within a six month peroid.