"Dehydrating is a really healthy way to preserve foods, make them portable, prevent waste, and enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables year-round," says holistic chef Shelley Alexander. Done correctly, dehydrating removes the moisture from fresh food while concentrating flavor and retaining all the nutrients, natural enzymes, and fiber. If you've never prepared food this way, these are some of Alexander's top tips:
Use a good-quality dehydrator-such as any Excalibur model-that circulates heated air evenly and maintains a consistent temperature. Otherwise, you run the risk of bacteria or mold, and unevenly dehydrated food.
Cut larger fruits and vegetables into ½-1-inch slices (not thinner) and break up kale leaves into pieces after removing the center stem.
For fruits that naturally turn brown, spray slices with lemon juice before dehydrating.
Set temperature at 135-145°F for the first 2-3 hours, then reduce heat to 105-117°F. This will remove moisture quickly and prevent bacteria or mold. However, it won't destroy enzymes because moisture in the food keeps its temperature at least 20 degrees cooler than the air temperature while most of the moisture is being removed at the higher temperature. (Enzymes are believed to start degrading at around 117°F.)
TIME IT RIGHT
Dehydrating times will vary, depending on natural levels of moisture and sugar. Some approximate times:
5-8 hours for apple chips
8-10 hours for kale chips
16-18 hours for banana chips
20-25 hours for tomatoes
Foods should be dry to the touch, not sticky, and crispy in the case of "chips." They can be added to cereals, salads, soups, sauces, or eaten as snacks. For seasoning and recipe tips from Alexander, visit aharmonyhealing.com.