Monday, May 28, 2012

10 reasons dehydration is a great tool to preserve and store food

MsKymeth uses the 700Watt Nesco Dehydrator.
With Spring well established and Summer fast approaching, farmer's markets and backyard gardens are about to be or already are teeming with fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating organic, seasonal, locally grown foods is one of the best ways to stay healthy, yet it often seems like the season for some of the best produce is far too short. Sure, most basic produce is 'available' year-round, but that's because it's being picked before maturity, then shipped halfway across the planet. By the time it reaches the shelves of your local super-center most of the nutrient value, and most of the taste, is long gone.

So what can a backyard farmer do? There are three basic ways to preserve food for the winter or even for a 'rainy day' - freezing, canning, and dehydrating. There are great benefits to each, but for someone wishing to really boost their preparedness, dehydration is hard to beat.

Ten reasons dehydration is beneficial

1.) Prep time is quick and, in most cases, simple. It only takes a few minutes to slice some apples, onions, peaches, etc. and toss them on the dehydrator. Even dipping the apples in lemon juice beforehand is quick and easy. Dehydrating is a great way to introduce kids and get them involved in food preservation and storage. (Note - some foods should be blanched before dehydration - check for the optimal way to dehydrate each food.)

2.) Dehydrating provides the ability to prepare a great variety of delicious, nutrient-rich meals (especially soups) even when the ingredients are not in season. Additionally, having a variety of foods in your pantry year-round will minimize those last minute trips to the grocery store. This is especially nice when what you would be forced to buy would be a lower-quality, imported item.

3.) Dehydrated foods are absolutely bursting with intense flavors. It's fun to enjoy this different take on flavors of your favorite foods (especially fruits).

4.) As anyone into prepping knows, storage space is like gold. Removing the moisture from food allows much more of it to be stored in a smaller space. It's like money in the bank!

5.) Removing the moisture from food provides a longer shelf life than any other form of food preservation. This is a great bonus for anyone wanting to prepare for the long haul.

6.) From fruits and vegetables to meats and even applesauce, almost anything can be dehydrated. (However, some foods do dehydrate better than others. For example, it's probably better to can green beans.)

7.) Dehydration maintains a much higher percentage of the food's original nutritional value than canning. It preserves the vitamins and minerals that water would wash away.

8.) Have you ever had to throw away the last couple of onions in a bag because they went bad faster than you could use them, or reached into the fridge for that last zucchini only to find it soft and moldy? Dehydration allows you to make the most out of the food you grow and purchase by easily preserving those items before they go bad. Instead of becoming expensive compost, they become an addition to your preps!

9.) Dehydration is inexpensive. Most dehydrators draw very little power and can be run for many hours at very little cost.

10.) Dehydration adds redundancy to your food storage. Freezing is vulnerable to a power outage lasting more than a couple of days. Canning requires equipment and a consistent heat source. Dehydration is the only preservation method that can be accomplished without electricity or equipment. It's been done for centuries and, while using an electric dehydrator certainly makes the job easier, it can be accomplished using very primitive methods.

Sources and links for further research:
http://www.lifeskillsinternational.com
http://www.nourishingdays.com
http://thesurvivalmom.com