CORVALLIS, Ore. – Wrinkled and colorful, dehydrated foods are a fun, fairly simple and safe companion to canning and freezing. Garden produce dries down and becomes a lunch-bag treat, lightweight fare for backpacks and a tasty addition to muffins.
A publication produced by the Extension Services of the University of Idaho, Oregon State University and Washington State University gives details on how to make them.
"Drying Fruits and Vegetables" (PNW 397) can be purchased for $2.50, plus shipping and handling, by calling the toll-free OSU Extension publications order line at 800-561-6719. It also is available online.
Drying kills microorganisms and enzymes that spoil fruits and vegetables simply because it deprives them of what they need to survive – water.
"Recent research, however, reveals that if harmful bacteria are present on fruits and vegetables before drying, the pathogens can survive the drying process," said Carolyn Raab, OSU Extension foods and nutrition specialist. "The publication explains that pretreatment methods such as ascorbic acid or citric acid dips can more thoroughly destroy harmful bacteria during drying.
"This is important if the foods will be eaten by children, pregnant women, the immune-compromised or the elderly," Raab added.
Dehydrators are the most popular drying method because they produce the best-quality dried food. A favored alternative – oven drying – results in a safe, generally tasty product, but one that is more brittle and usually darker and less favorable than food dried in a dehydrator. It often takes two to three times longer than a dehydrator.
The research-based publication also describes how to select and prepare foods for drying, packaging, storage and making fruit leathers. Recipes illustrate how to use dried foods in vegetable soup, quick breads, berry cobbler and rice pudding.