If you’re just joining the party, we’ve been doing a series on kitchen tools that help reduce food waste in homes across Atlanta.  For our next feature, we picked something a bit more uncommon, but keeps the trend of “set it and forget it”. This week, we’re talking about dehydrators!

For our up close look at how to use a dehydrator, we did an interview with Karen A., a customer on the Westside route. Karen introduced herself to us after much success with her bulk order of strawberries, “I ordered a ton of strawberries in April without a plan because I assumed at $5 a pound they must be in season. They were delicious. I chocolate dipped a bunch for the neighbors that were all meeting for porch drinking. Surprised the whole family with Brie/strawberry paninis for Sunday breakfast. And four dehydrated stacks of slices for strawberry ‘chips’. Had enough left over for a smoothie this morning.”

With a proven sense of creativity for how to use her basket ingredients, I was excited to learn from Karen.

What made you buy a dehydrator?

Karen: I had thought about it for a while because we often ended up with a lot of local seasonal fruit that I didn’t want to go to waste. I figured dehydrating them would be a creative way to use up some produce. I was also excited to try new things, like fruit leathers for my kids.

What have you enjoyed making so far?

Karen: I’ve used it mostly for fruits and a few veggies. I’ve made fruit leathers, and dried fruits. I always stock up on local stuff when it’s in season. This year, I got tired of making strawberry jam, so I threw my excess strawberries into the dehydrator. They were amazing. They tasted like the fancy ones you get at gourmet grocery stores. We also like to go fruit picking based on the season, so it’s been great after berry or apple picking. Another time last summer, I got hot peppers in my Fresh Harvest delivery three weeks in a row. It was so many peppers, but I didn’t want to waste them. So I threw them in the dehydrator, after which they filled up a medium sized mason jar. We’ve used them in sauces and marinades and that jar has lasted us almost a whole year. I’m excited for those to come back in season – I’ll probably order extra so I can dehydrate them again.

Do you feel like your dehydrator has helped you cut back on food waste in your kitchen?

Karen: Yeah it’s a big help when I have too much of something, either planned or unexpectedly. And it’s super handy when I want to take advantage of something local. For example this summer we’re traveling a lot. So every delivery we get we’ll stock up on what’s in season and we’ll need to preserve it fairly quickly. My first go-to for preserving is the freezer, but mine gets full pretty quickly. So, my next option is the dehydrator. It’s been a great option. It shrinks everything up, saves room, gives a more intense flavor, and makes for great snacks that won’t melt on the go.

 

How does it work?

Karen: I haven’t been able to find a good cookbook just on dehydrating, but I can find recipes for almost anything on Google. Most fruits will need to be cut up somehow, and then set on a single layer within the 5 trays. Most everything takes 12 – 20 hours. So I’ll put them in the dehydrator in the afternoon, and check it in the morning. Like a slow cooker, it’s really easy to just set it and forget it. It stays in my laundry room, so it’s pretty out of sight.

 

After talking with Karen, I was curious to use a dehydrator myself. Since I had never dehydrating anything, I borrowed a dehydrator from a friend and gave it a shot with the blueberries that are on sale this week. The recipe I read recommended cutting the blueberries in half, and leaving them in the dehydrator for 12 – 20 hours.

The result? This handful (was originally 2 pints) of dried goodness, which I added to my granola breakfast cereal.

dehydrated organic blueberries
Blueberries after 16 hours in the dehydrator

So the first moral of the story: Invest in a dehydrator – an easy way to add some variety to your snacking with the same fruits and veggies you’re already getting in your basket. As usual, we’re not affiliated with any dehydrator brands, so here’s a helpful list of what to look for when buying a dehydrator.  (ALSO – We’re giving two away next week! Check our Instagram for details.)

The second moral of the story: Get you a friend like Karen who will surprise you with strawberry goodness.