• Pamela Hatheway

Why Dehydrate Foods?

In the last month or so, my dehydrators have been running almost around the clock. It has been harvest time in New Brunswick, and I make a point of buying my food mainly from local sources. I was telling some of my friends at work about my dehydrating habit, and they just couldn’t seem to figure out why I would do such a thing. Apples are going to be available in the grocery store year round, it’s not like they are going to disappear. That’s true. I don’t live in a place that is a food desert. I have a car, and I have money, so why would I dehydrate?

1. Decreased food waste- This morning I was cleaning out my refrigerator, and noticed that the bag of carrots that I bought for Thanksgiving a month ago (I live in Canada, our Thanksgiving is early October) were starting to get a little limp, they just were not going to last long. Now even if I threw out that bag of carrots, how much money would I waste? Maybe a couple of dollars? The thing is a couple of dollars every few days adds up quickly. By dehydrating those carrots, I was able to extend the usefulness for several months or even years.

2. Take advantage of supermarket specials- I shop at local independent grocery stores, who bring in food grown by local farmers. Last week, there were huge bags of button mushrooms that were marked down to far less than half of what they normally are sold for. As a single woman, it wouldn’t make sense for me to buy this huge amount of mushrooms, but I did. I spent ten dollars, and have enough dehydrated mushrooms to add to my food storage that I won’t have to buy mushrooms for at least a year.

3. Adds variety- I could easily fall into a food rut, buying groceries and preparing food for one. I look at my dehydrated food cabinet, and realize that I have all sorts of options to put into my soups, stews, sauces and casseroles. I have onions, peppers, mushrooms, celery, carrots, peas and rutabagas that can be tossed into dishes, when they are rehydrated through cooking you would never know they didn’t come fresh out of my refrigerator. I also have apples, blueberries and cranberries that can be mixed into a muffin or waffle recipe or even cooked in oatmeal with a little cinnamon, when the grandkids come for a sleep-over. Having dried foods on hand gives me so many options for my meals at a very little cost.

4. Gives me a sense of control- Four or five years ago, because of a hurricane, we were out of power for over a week, then there were lock-downs due to covid. Both situations left many people feeling food insecure. I was not one of those people. I knew that I could survive for quite a while on the food that I had stored. Right now, there is much talk about poor global harvests, inflation and supply chain problems. Having lots of food in the larder gives me confidence that whatever comes, my family and I are looked after.

5. Assurance of quality of foods- Buying local is a passion of mine. I really believe that we need to be supporting the local economy. Buying food that is in season is a way to do that. I pick enough strawberries at the local U-pick so I don’t have to buy strawberries for the rest of the year. They are made into jam, frozen for smoothies and dehydrated to add to granola, cereals or desserts. The same thing goes for corn, and tomatoes. This doesn’t mean that I don’t ever buy a fresh tomato for a salad or sandwich in the winter, I do, but I don’t have to.

People ask about the loss of nutritional value in dried foods, and although there is a bit, (5-7% vitamin loss) it is far less than canned food. I buy most of my produce directly from the farmers, usually within hours of it being picked, so it is nutrient dense to begin with.

6. Saves space- I love to open my refrigerator and find empty space. It is easier to maintain, and certainly easier to know what I have, and less food goes to waste. Dried food outlasts frozen and it leaves me freezer space for things that will be used up more quickly.

7. Jars of preserved food are just pretty- I will just admit it, food in jars, is one of my favourite things. It makes me feel prepared, it gives me a sense of control and a sense of pride. What is not to like about shelves of colourful dried fruits, veggies, beans and cereals, all begging to become part of a wholesome nurturing meal.

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