I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to eat enough vegetables at home, let alone backpacking! I’ve been challenging myself to find more interesting ways to eat vegetables, how to not waste any of the vegetables I buy and experimenting with more ways to dehydrate vegetables! If you backpack (many of these methods can be used for eating at home too), try adding dehydrated vegetables all over the place! We’ll talk about how to dehydrate vegetables as well as how to store them and how to use them.
How do I dehydrate vegetables?
First of all, you’ll need a food dehydrator (I’ve heard that you can also use an oven, but I use my dehydrator quite a bit and it’s well worth owning one if you want to get into making your own backpacking meals or dehydrating vegetables for any reason). For me, these inexpensive trays are a necessity. For basically all vegetables, you’ll want to steam them. I like them not too well cooked so I just blanch them (boil for one minute). If you like them more cooked, then cook them a little longer!
Once they’re cooked, lay them in a single layer on the trays of the dehydrator. My dehydrator is pretty simple, you set the temperature which is written on it (135 degrees for fruits and vegetables, which is pretty much all I use it for) and plug it in! The amount of drying time varies quite a bit depending on the water content and how small the pieces of vegetable are. For example, spinach dries in just a couple of hours while sliced bell peppers take about 10 hours. Generally, I do it in the evening and leave it to dehydrate overnight and it’s pretty much always ready in the morning!
How do I store dehydrated vegetables?
I store them in zip top plastic bags in a box in a cupboard. I have read that to keep them longer it’s a good idea to keep them in the freezer. I usually use mine within a month or so and cupboard storage has been fine for that but if I get a larger amount backed up I’ll start putting them in the freezer. Make sure to keep track of how much volume the vegetable was before you dehydrated it, otherwise it will be hard to figure out the right proportion of dried vegetables to rehydrate! For example, two average sized bell peppers sliced yield what looks like a pretty small amount after dehydrating, so I write on the bag what the original volume was.
What kind of vegetables can I dehydrate?
Almost anything! I have tried and had good luck with a power green mix from Costco (spinach and other solid dark green leafy greens) as well as broccoli, bell peppers, mushrooms and celery. I think pretty much any vegetable would work if you cut it into small enough pieces. It’s important to dehydrate them as plain as possible (bring the spices along to add later) and without fat (which causes dehydrated foods to spoil sooner). This is why I recommend steaming or blanching them instead of stir frying or roasting.
How do I use my dehydrated vegetables when I’m backpacking?
These are my favorite ways to use them (so far! Look for updates in the future after additional experimenting!):
- Grind them into a powder and put the powder in everything! This is great for home use also, not just backpacking. You can bring it along in a jar or baggie and add to whatever meal you’re having! This is especially good for the leafy greens mentioned above, which don’t have much substance once dehydrating but grind up into an awesome powder. This is a great way with mushrooms too (and adds wonderful flavor)
- Add them to a commercially purchased backpacking meal (often they don’t have any, or very few, vegetables). Just pop the dehydrated vegetables from home in the commercial package before you add the water!
- Find your favorite meal and figure out how to dehydrate it like I did with my vegetarian chili which is an amazing backpacking meal! You can experiment on your own too which is how I came up with this recipe. Or you can skip the experimenting and just make mine…you won’t be sorry!
Whichever way you decide to use them, I strongly recommend experimenting with rehydrating at home before you take your dehydrated vegetables out on the trail, especially if you’re trying out a new one.
Happy vegetable eating!
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