Food dehydration has been around for centuries as a method of preservation. Not only does food last longer but it remains fresh for quite a while. I am still catching the ‘hang’ of how to use a dehydrator. There is so much to try out. A dehydrator is so versatile that eventually you can substitute cooking and baking with dehydrating. The key to successful food dehydration is the application of a constant temperature and adequate air flow. Too high a temperature can cause hardened foods: food that is hard and dry on the outside but moist, and therefore vulnerable to spoiling, on the inside. Some of the ‘cheaper’ varieties burn the food as there is only one constant heat setting, so its definitely worth spending a bit extra to get a quality dehydrator – one that does have different heat settings such as the gentle Ezidri or Kuto Dehydrators.
If you are tired and bored with the same healthy French or Greek salad day after day, or possibly want something that is crispy and crunchy while still being healthy, or maybe you came across when you’ve seen a raw recipe that you long to make but a dehydrator is required, then now is the perfect time to invest in a dehydrator especially if you are on a raw food diet. However, the dehydrator is also for anyone who wishes to make nutritious, preservative and additive free snacks for the family.
Where to start – Its best to start small with something really easy like drying fruits and making fruit roll-ups.
Slices of fresh fruits and vegetables: Start with some simple classics such as slices of apple, banana, cherries, strawberries, mango, tomatoes, baby marrow, carrot, red bell pepper and so on. Place these on the dehydrator and dry for the amount of time specified in the dehydrator’s manual.
Snack bars and cookies: A great next step is to move on to the crunchy snacks and treats such as crackers, chips flapjacks and cookies, made from simple, easy to find ingredients (usually nuts, dried fruits, maybe some oats or sprouted grains) that you just need to grind together in a food processor or Super blender.
Burgers and loaves: It’s lovely to have the option of something different to bite into sometimes, and a good juicy veggie or nut burger served with a fresh crisp salad and mouth-watering dressing can often be just what the taste buds ordered! Either that or serve the burger wrapped inside a large lettuce leaf or cabbage leaf like a bun, and pile it high with assorted toppings. Try a pizza base made out of flax seeds topped with healthy vegetables.
Flax crackers: Flax (or linseed as it is also known) is a great seed to get started with, extremely good for you (full of Essential Fatty Acid’s) and very cheap and easy to use. You can blend all the ingredients in the Vitamix blender! Then spread these out on a dehydrator, once ready they can last for months in an airtight container – provided they don’t get eaten in the first week…
Breads: You can make raw breads (which can be wheat-free or made from sprouted wheat which is practically allergy-free. These are amazing for sandwiches and taste far superior to any bought ones.
Fresh Preserve: Slice it up and dry it, you can keep it in slices or pulse it through a grinder to get ground ginger), dried orange and lemon slices for homemade air freshener, “sun”-dried cherry tomatoes, dried chilli peppers, all sorts of stuff. It’s also a great way to preserve what you’ve grown in your own garden.
Why a dehydrator is so useful
There is so much more to do with a dehydrator. The trick is to do research and experiment. Know what can be dehydrated well, and how long it takes. Know what is tasty dried!
It does not make sense to waste money on all of those overpriced and sugary pre-packaged foods from the store, when you can do it yourself for a small fraction of the price! With dehydration you can pre-package your own meals with food from your garden or food you have selected yourself from the store. For instance, if you have bananas that are not being eaten fast enough you don’t have to throw them out -you can dehydrate them!
Compared to other storing methods, dehydrating takes a fraction of the space, weighs less, saves money, requires no refrigeration. Dehydration is also more gentle on your foods, than canning or freezing, meaning that less nutrients and vitamins will be lost.
Dehydrators serve many purposes in addition to their nutritional benefits or for food preservation. With a dehydrator you can take the first step into eating healthier and incorporating more ‘raw’ into your diet while keeping the comfort of warm, crunchy foods. And finally, with a dehydrator you can make an important but radical lifestyle change to include more raw food in your diet.
A must have tool for food dehydration – The secret to even drying is an accurate slicer, that gives you accurately even slices with each cut. The only equipment that does an excellent job at this is a Mandoline slicer. If you don’t already have a vegetable mandolin slicer you should get one when you buy your dehydrator -. Unless you have the skills of a great chef or the patience of a saint, carving perfectly regular slices with a knife is close to impossible! A mandolin makes precise slices that will ultimately save hours of your time.
Try this out 🙂
Raw sweet potato chips
- 2-3 sweet potatoes cut very thinly
- 1-2 tsp melted coconut oil per sweet potato
- A generous amount of unrefined sea salt
- Wash, peel and slice sweet potatoes as thinly as possible (using a mandolin makes it much easier).
- Place in a bowl and soak in water for 1 hour, changing the water at the half hour point.
- Place on a towel to dry a bit.
- Drizzle coconut oil on them. Stir and coat evenly.
- Generously season your sweet potatoes with unrefined sea salt.
- Place the sweet potatoes into a dehydrator and dehydrate at 62-68 degrees celsius for about 12 hours.
- Check your potatoes periodically to get your desired crispness.
For more dehydrator recipes http://healthessentials.co.za/category/recipes/dehydrator-recipes/.