Fruits and vegetables are cheapest when they're in season. Drying them is an inexpensive way to preserve them so you can enjoy them throughout the year . . . to be enjoyed as a snack by themselves or to be used in recipes.
Dried fruits are excellent to add to trail mixes or used in baking.
When I have an over abundance of tomatoes from the garden I like to dehydrate them and pack them in a good quality olive oil. Then you not only have the dry tomatoes to used in cooking but you also have the added benefit of a yummy tomato flavored oil for cooking with.
Although you can certainly dry foods in your oven, a dehydrator is much more energy efficient for this purpose.
Dehydrating fruits and vegetables is extremely easy . . . all you need is time and most of that is waiting for the food to dry out; 8-12 hours of drying time on average
You should start with good quality fresh fruits and vegetables . . . overripe, bruised and otherwise deteriorated produce do not preserve well.
Clean, hull and slice all fruits and vegetables. It’s important to make sure the slices are consistent to make sure that everything dries at the same rate.
Foods that discolor when exposed to air . . . like apples and potatoes . . . can be blanched or treated with citrus juice to preserve color. Harder vegetables should be blanched for about 5 minutes in boiling water to speed up the drying time.
You can add salt, sugar or spices, but I prefer to dry fruits and vegetables without adding extra ingredients to preserve their natural flavors.
Load the dehydrator trays with sliced fruit and vegetable slices; do not to overlap them because this slows the drying time.
Turn your dehydrator on immediately after loading to start the dehydration process. Consult the owner's manual for recommended drying times, but expect the process to take between 8-12 hours on average.
As you reach the end of the drying time, check your fruits and vegetables frequently for dryness.
Dried fruits need to go through an additional conditioning period before they are ready for storage. Place them in loosely packed jars, and shake once a day for 7-10 days to ensure the remaining moisture is evenly distributed between the dried pieces. If condensation appears on the jar, the fruit needs to be returned to the dehydrator for further drying.
Place all dried foods in air-tight containers or freezer bags; and store in a cool, dry and dark location until you are ready to use them.