By Lee Flynn
Why keep dehydrated food on hand?
There are a lot of good reasons to dehydrate and store foodstuffs, and it is something that everyone can do with a little bit of practice. Dehydrated food takes up less space and weighs less for camping trips. For those who want be prepared for any contingency, dry goods and dehydrated foods are stored along with potable water in case of a food shortage or natural disaster.
How tasty is it?
Space travel brought us freeze-dried food, which lasts longer but is a lot more expensive. The military introduced us to MREs, or “Meals Ready to Eat,” but the flavor and texture left something to be desired. Today, dehydrated food can be as gourmet as you like, with hikers bringing dehydrated lasagna and fish chowder on the trail.
What kind of foods can be dehydrated?
Meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy and even complete meals can be dehydrated and stored for a year or more. Imagine having a year’s worth of healthy food stored for emergencies!
How is food dehydrated?
According to extension services, successful dehydrating of fruits and vegetables depends on heat, air dryness and air circulation. You need to get the food hot enough to dry out without cooking and the air around it must be dry enough to absorb the moisture. Good circulation will draw the moist air away, allowing the food to continue to dehydrate.
That’s why purchasing a good quality food dehydrator is the first thing to do if you’re dehydrating at home. Professional food dehydrators control the temperature and they have fans to blow warm air over the food as it dries.
Dehydrated food can be bought pre-packaged in pouches or cans, including complete meals. The only way to dehydrate food expertly at home is to do some experimenting with temperatures and times. So be prepared to eat a lot of your first efforts!
What’s the best way to store dehydrated food?
Most dehydrated food can be stored for up to a year with the exception of meats, which should be used within two to three months. Dried herbs can last for several years if they are packaged correctly.
Do-it-yourself dehydrated food can be stored in zipped freezer bags with the excess air pushed out before sealing. A lot of pre-packaged essential emergency foods are sealed in mylar bags because they are lightweight, tough and resistant to tearing. Dehydrated food should be stored in a cool, dry area that is not exposed to light, in sealed bins.
Does dehydrated food have the same amount of nutrition as fresh food?
The fiber and calories will be the same but a small amount of vitamins may be lost in drying out food. Amounts of vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, selenium and sodium tend to stay stable. Vegetables will lose most of their vitamin C content when they are blanched. One way to make sure that all of the nutrition of rehydrated foods is consumed is to drink the water that is used to rehydrate them.
How does the taste and texture of dehydrated food compare to fresh food?
Rehydrated foods are almost indistinguishable from their fresh counterparts when used in soups, stews and casseroles. The texture may change but the flavor remains in food that has been properly dehydrated. Here’s a sample recipe for a delicious rehydrated meal:
Greek Unstuffed Peppers (Serves 1)
1/3 cup instant rice
3 T dried bell pepper
2 T dried artichoke hearts
1 T dried zucchini dices
1 t dried parsley
1 packet True Lemon (or more to taste)
½ t vegetable bouillon
½ t dried oregano
¼ t onion flakes
¼ t garlic powder
Add enough hot water to cover. Allow to sit until the rice and vegetables are rehydrated. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil to taste.