Preparation / Directions:
Drying Basics: Select ripe, flavorful produce and wash it well. Remove bruised or damaged areas, then cut the produce into small, uniform pieces about 1/3" thick. Place the pieces on the drying racks.
Pretreating helps retain original color, although most foods don't need pretreating. Some fruits like apples, apricots, bananas, peaches, nectarines and pears darken when they're cut and exposed to air. To pretreat fruit, dip pieces into pineapple, lemon, lime or orange juice. For vegetables, briefly blanch them in boiling water or in a steamer over boiling water. Place the drained, pretreated foods on the drying racks. Stack the racks over the heating element, cover them and set the temperature. Drying times vary depending on the food type, the amount of food, the food's water content, the thickness of the slices, the air humidity and temperature, and the dehydrator's efficiency. Keep records to help you determine future drying times.
Is It Done Yet? Watch the food near the end of the drying time. Don't over-dry it or the food will lose flavor, nutrition and texture. To test if the food is ready, take a piece from the dehydrator, cool it, then feel it with your fingers. If ready, vegetables feel dry and tough or crisp. Fruits feel chewy, pliable and leathery with no moisture pockets. Another test: Tear a piece of food and look for moisture beads along the rip. No moisture? It is dry.
Storing Dried Foods Dried foods require little storage space because they reduce to a third or less of their original bulk. A quart container holds 20 - 25 dried bell peppers or 16 - 20 dried tomatoes.
Before storing, cool all dried foods completely. Then transfer them to airtight, insect-proof glass or plastic containers. Don't mix different dried foods in one container; they may absorb flavor and moisture from each other.
Store dried food in a cool, dark, dry place. Check the dried foods after 24 hours. If moisture beads appear inside the containers, the food is not dry enough; return it to the dehydrator.
Fruits: Apples - (Peeled and sliced) Sweet flavor; tender; slightly chewy. Bananas - Excellent concentrated, sweet flavor. Makes a great "candy". Don't pretreat. Cherries - (Halved, pitted) Chewy, tender, raisin- like rounds. Very good flavor. Took longer to dry than other fruits. Grapes - Became dark brown, moist, plump raisins. Delicious. Took longer to dry than other fruits. Melons - Bright colors; tender; excellent concentrated flavor. Pears - (Pretreated and untreated) Some darkening; peels unattractive. Very sweet and tender. Pineapple slices - (Canned) Excellent sweet flavor. Retains pretty yellow color. Strawberries - Crisp-tender; very sweet; intense strawberry flavor and color. Dried fruits we didn't like - Blueberries, oranges and raspberries.
Vegetables: Carrots - Vivid color; good taste. Celery - Rather homely appearance; good taste. Cucumbers - Taste like a crispy snack without adding seasonings. Mushrooms - (Both domestic and wild) Fragrant; excellent concentrated flavor. Don't pretreat. Onions - Sweet flavor; slightly chewy. Parsnips - White, sweet rounds. Green and red bell peppers - Flavorful and sweet; slightly crunchy; good color. Tomatoes - Intense flavor and aroma; handsome red color; chewy. Zucchini - Robust flavor. Crunchy; tastes like a salty snack without adding seasonings. Dried vegetables we didn't like - Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, po