Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Drying fruits, vegetables and herbs for mixes and other uses

When I first started mixing it up, I bought a lot of dried foods at Bulk Barn to make my mixes, which was often expensive. But something about the sun dried tomatoes always smelled funny to me, so I was determined to start making my own. They were a complete success:

I bought a bunch of cheap fresh tomatoes on sale for 88 cents a pound and made a giant batch.

I started experimenting with other foods. Like when mushrooms went on sale.

Or sweet red peppers (can also do the same with green)

I dried a bunch of apple slices when my apples were starting to get a bit shriveled looking in the fridge.

I made banana slices from the girls half eaten and overly brown bananas

I made dried blueberries and strawberries (not photographed) as well.

I also dry a lot of herbs (especially cilantro for salsa mix, because store bought dried cilantro is impossible to come by around here). I always have a surplus of fresh herbs from my garden, or my dads garden, or from bunches bought from the store or received in our farm share.

A lot of people buy food dehydrators to 'save money'. Ovens use a lot of electricity and heat up your house. But 1. I didn't want to spend money on a food dehydrator and 2. I didn't have any more space for ANOTHER small appliance. So...

I went to the dollar store. Bought a package of 100 Watt light bulbs. Put one in my oven. Think 'easy bake oven'. An oven is a small space and light bulbs are hot. This means you can dehydrate any fruits and vegetables you want using just the amount of electricity it takes to use one light bulb. This way you can also leave the oven unattended all day or over night while you dry them, it's just a light bulb.

For most things I just slice and dry them plain- but you can coat things in salt, oil or fruit juice depending on the flavor you want. I toss my tomato slices in sea salt and olive oil before drying.

I learned the hard way that everything sticks to baking sheets, so I use parchment paper or silicone baking mats on them now. Silicone baking mats are amazing, you can dry the thinnest slices of mushroom even without them sticking.

Drying fruits, vegetables and herbs has become such a great way to save money- you can utilize wilted produce, sales, garden surplus or half eaten toddler foods without using up any precious freezer space. Home dried only sit around until you're ready to use them- not in transport and on store shelves too, so they have much more flavor and none of the chemicals (or in some cases allergens).

I plan to try out a lot more this summer- peaches, carrots, apricots... basically anything I want to use up or can buy cheaply. Do you ever dry foods? What do you make and how?


  1. I want to get into drying, but I'm thinking of a setup like Alton Brown's in the Good Eats episode "Withering Bites". He used a ceramic reptile heater and a fan to raise the temperature. Apparently, some of the nutrients in some kinds of foods are light-sensitive, which is why he went that route.

    Part of why I haven't yet is that I can't find a suitable battery-powered fan, and part is because I have next-to-no handy skills, and I'm not sure how to set up a socket/power source for the lamp. lol

  2. Wow that's dedicated! I just wanted to stop throwing food in the garbage!

  3. Hence why I haven't started yet. lol In the meantime, I chop and freeze everything. I have a full-size standing freezer in addition to the little one on my fridge, so I have plenty of freezer space. Makes buying bulk and keeping a selection of meat available so much easier.

  4. How long does it take to dry a pan of fruit or veggies with just a light bulb?

  5. Overnight should generally do it, that way you won't need the oven while they are in there either. Just make sure you warn people that stuff is in there, my husband wrecked a lovely batch of cilantro this week when he was preheating to the oven to make baked potatoes :(