There is nothing quite like eating fresh fruit and vegetables when they are at their peak of freshness, but in order to enjoy them throughout the year they must be preserved. There are many ways of preservation such as canning, freezing and drying.
When canning, the food is boiled in a can or jar to kill the bacteria and then sealed. When foods are frozen the cold temperature stops the food from spoiling. Drying foods removes the moisture that bacteria and mold need to grow and is easy to do.
Drying is an excellent way to preserve excess fruits and vegetables. Dried foods are nutritious and delicious, easy to prepare, light in weight and simple to use. Three important parts to drying food successfully are:
- low humidity
- air circulation
There are four ways to dry food:
- Oven drying uses the lowest temperature available on your oven. After washing and drying the fruits and vegetables, place on a baking tray in the oven. Thinner and smaller pieces will dry faster than larger thicker pieces. Convection ovens will dry faster than a conventional oven due to the fan in the convection oven.
- Food dehydrators have an electrical element for heat and a fan and vents to circulate air. Once you have arranged the fruit or vegetables on drying trays in a single layer, dry at 140 degrees F. The length and time will depend on the type of fruit or vegetable and size.
- Air drying works well with herbs. Wash and pat dry. Place in a paper lunch bag and cut holes in the bag and tie shut. Hang in a dry place and check weekly.
- Microwave drying is quick when drying small amounts of herbs and some leafy vegetables but not successful for most items. Microwave no more than 4-5 herbs between 2 paper towels for 2-3 minutes. Check to see if it is dry and brittle. If not, repeat for 30 second intervals until dry.
If it is your first time drying fruits and vegetables, follow a good recipe. The recipe may include blanching vegetables and pretreating most fruits. Once dry, store in a dark, cool place and use containers that keep out insects and moisture.
Preserving fruits and vegetables by drying, canning or freezing helps to ensure the bounty of summer fruits and vegetables throughout the year.