This is brought to you by the backpacking chef. The drying times listed below are based on experiences using a Excalibur Food Dehydrator. Dehydrating vegetables can take longer with some dehydrators; in fact, I threw my round stacking dehydrator away because it was so slow. Humidity also affects drying times so your results may differ from mine. Vegetables such as broccoli are done when pieces are brittle and can be snapped in half. Other vegetables having fruit-like qualities such as tomatoes and cucumbers will be pliable (bendable) when done.
1Classic Mixed Vegetables: (corn, carrots, peas, green beans)
One of the big advantages of owning a high capacity food dehydrator is that you can dehydrate surplus vegetables picked in season - from your garden or from a local farmer. If you don’t have any fresh produce on hand, use frozen produce. Classic Mixed Vegetables from Birds-Eye dehydrate well because they are already uniformly cut, saving you prep time in the kitchen. Place the thawed, uncooked vegetables directly on the dehydrator trays in a single layer and dehydrate at 125° for approximately six hours. I break the green beans in half first so they finish dehydrating at the same time as the corn, carrots, and peas. A one pound package weighs approximately three ounces when dry and amounts to just under one cup.
Green peppers are the workhorses of the pepper family, but I invite the yellow, orange, and red cousins to all of my backpacking feasts. Peppers combine well with beef, beans, or shrimp and make themselves at home in pasta, rice, couscous, and grits. I cut fresh peppers into ½” pieces, trimming away the white fleshy part on the inside. Raw peppers retain their color better than cooked peppers, so I don’t bother cooking them before dehydrating. Place cut peppers on dehydrator trays in single layers and dehydrate at 125° for approximately six hours.
My favorite onions for dehydrating are Vidalia Onions from South Georgia because of their sweet and mild flavor. If you can’t find them in your area, try another sweet onion variety. I tried drying whole rings, but I achieved more complete and faster drying times when I diced the onions. Spread out in a single layer on the dehydrator trays and dehydrate at 145° for two hours and reduce to 135° for approximately six hours or until pliable. Onions can smell pretty strong when dehydrating, so you might want to open a window or do as I do and set up the dehydrator on the front porch. (I especially recommend the front porch for dehydrating tuna).
Don’t forget the broccoli when dehydrating vegetables at home. A nutritional power food, broccoli supercharges many of my backpacking meals with extra vitamins, fiber, and minerals. After washing and soaking the broccoli for ten minutes in salt water to remove any contaminants, I rinse and cut the florets into ½” bouquets and the stems into small pieces ½” or smaller. Steam the broccoli for about five minutes to break down the fibrous walls of the stems and to bring out the dark green color. Broccoli dehydrates best when firm, not mushy. Dehydrate at 125° for approximately eight hours. Dehydrated broccoli will be brittle when done.
I prefer baby bella mushrooms for my backpacking recipes. Thoroughly wash all the dirt off in cold water and cut into 1/8 inch slices. Place pieces on the dehydrator tray in a single layer and dehydrate at 125° for six to eight hours until leathery. An eight ounce package will weigh less than an ounce when dry and amount to one cup.
Although it takes time, I cut cherry tomatoes into 1/8 inch slices using a sharp knife and place in a single layer on the dehydrator trays sprinkled with a little salt. Larger tomatoes can be sliced or diced depending on how you like them and how you plan to use them. Dehydrate at 145° for two hours and reduce to 135° for approximately six more hours until pliable. A pint of cherry tomatoes will weigh just over an ounce when dry and amount to about ¾ of a cup.
Cucumber is technically a fruit like tomatoes, but since most people think of it as a vegetable, I’ll include it here on the dehydrating vegetables page. Dried cucumbers are fair for snacking on like a chip or they can be chopped or powdered to use as a seasoning in dips and soups. Because of the thick waxy coating, I peel cucumbers first and then cut into 1/8 inch slices. Arrange in a single layer and sprinkle with a little salt if desired. Dehydrate at 125° for six to eight hours until leathery. Increase temperature to 135° and dry cucumbers for a few more hours if you plan to powder them.
When dehydrating carrots for snacking or for use in dried salads, peel large carrots and cut into 1/8 inch slices. Dehydrating sliced baby carrots will result in very small dried carrot pieces. That’s fine for cooked recipes, but for snacking you’ll want larger pieces you can grab with your fingers. Dehydrate at 125° for approximately six to ten hours or until leathery